The million dollar question that many people ask is how can I become successful? There are many types of success, but I will primarily be sharing some advice on career success. A lot of people think success is 100 percent dependent on predetermined factors one is born into beyond one's control--like family background, race, gender, and more. While that is an absolutely valid truth I agree with as a first generation Asian American woman, I also think there are other factors related to personality and worth ethic, that are arguably even more important in determining one’s future. At the very least, it is more worthwhile to focus on areas one can improve upon, instead of dwelling on factors that are hard to change.
At the moment, I am still very far from the success that I envision. I am not in a position to give you foolproof advice, but I can share some things that I have learned and have allowed for me to be where I am now.
The Importance of Listening
The most important thing that you can immediately implement into your life to become a good listener. It requires no diploma, no weight lifting and no extra cost. I understand that we are all egocentric. The world revolves around ourselves and it is human nature to connect everything back to our own experience. But think about it for a moment. What do we get from talking about ourselves besides temporary satisfaction? Instead, when we stop for a moment to listen to someone else, that is where we learn about new perspectives and stories that offer us value for many years to come.
Personally, I find people to be so fascinating! There is nothing more interesting to me than learning about this world, understanding new ways of living, and hearing about stories other than my own. There is a difference between superficially listening and actually engaging in someone else’s story. Studies demonstrate that most of time, we do not actually process what the other person is saying--because we spend more time thinking about what we are going to say as follow-up. So when you stop talking and actually start listening intently, that is when you catch the little things in conversation that tells you more about the person than just random words.
Even if you are not fascinated by other people--your loss I suppose--there is still good reason to become a great listener. Dale Carnegie once said that, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Think about how much you like talking about yourself. That is how much other people like talking about themselves. There is no better way to become likable in someone’s mind than giving them all the attention they want, in a genuine way.
The Value of Networking
Whether we are talking about drug cartels or political corruption, team recruitment or dating, the world runs on who you know and who knows you. The same principle applies to your career. There are so many talented and driven people out there, but most never get past the front door, and without getting past the front door, there will not even be an opportunity to display their talent. What networking does is get you past that first door. Sometimes, a contact can eventually turn into a business partner, a mentor or even a friend--so you truly have nothing to lose.
I think the important thing to keep in mind when it comes to networking is that all relationships should be mutually beneficial. Do not expect people to just help you for no reason. The world does not work that way. So what can we, broke and inexperienced college students, offer? I think a lot of books have been written on this topic, so I encourage you to visit your local library and read shelf to shelf. I am not even kidding; the more books you read the more knowledge you gain, not just about networking, but also about life and the wisdom of successful and unsuccessful people before you.
Personally, I find I have most luck networking in bars and nightclubs. As weird as that sounds, I am 100 percent serious. I have come to find that the worst place to network at is at networking events--nothing more screams “I am desperate” than you showing up with a thick folder of resumes and begging anyone you can get a hold of at a networking hall full of a thousand others like yourself. So instead, my advice is to think of every new person you meet and every event you go to as potential to meet someone interesting. Be genuinely interested in the other person and simply have no other motive than getting to know their story. Only then, will connections come to you naturally. Do not be desperate and do not try to use people.
The Irreplaceability of Hard Work
Napoleon Hill once said that “desire backed by faith” leads to success. Dale Carnegie affirmed this with “flaming enthusiasm, backed by persistence...makes for success”. In grade school, smart kids may have had the lead. You know what I am talking about--it seemed impossible to beat the genius kids and the math wizards no matter how hard we tried. But in the adult world, it does not work like that. Relying on intelligence alone is not enough when your competition are humans driven by the fire of their dreams. That “flaming enthusiasm” combined with a driven to succeed attitude, which translates to hard work, is the formula to success.
You will find that the humble and quiet peers of yours, although not the most intelligent nor the most charismatic, will be the most successful down the road. Why? Because no one knows about the countless hours and hours of hard work, networking, and sacrifices that they silently endured to reach where they are now. Every success story leaves behind a trail of sacrifices. Others only see your smile of success, but will never understand what you gave up to get there, but that is alright. Because to you, nothing is a sacrifice if you willingly gave it up.
Consistent, committed and relentless hard work is what separates the good from the great.
So what are you willing to give up to get what you want? If your passion burns strongly enough that it become your obsession, then nothing can get in your way. Nothing is impossible.
And lastly, more important than anything else, recognize that …
Time is invaluable; do not waste it on people who do not deserve your time. It took me a long time to cut certain people and activities out of my life. The more that you experience, the more that you will realize that you only have so many friends that are worth giving unlimited resources for. The rest are connections and acquaintances--mutually beneficial relations founded on respect and admiration, but with clear cut lines. Learn to draw boundaries and how to say no.
If you have any tips or comments to share with me, please comment below! I am always keen on listening and learning from others :)