Persistence is a big part of success. Whether you're looking for a new job or trying to change careers, it's easy to find negative advice. The Internet is filled with experts who can give countless (bad) reasons why you will fail. However, if you're doing the right thing and you believe in yourself, success is almost always possible (See The Dip by Seth Godin).
Thomas Jefferson captured this idea in these words: "When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on."
Most of us have had ups and downs in our career, which Winston Churchill summed up in these great words: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is courage to continue that counts."
Persistence might be the greatest strength, and -- as Churchill says -- it takes courage to move forward when we doubt ourselves. However, every success we have had was a time we could have failed. The only way to change is to take a change and move forward with courage. I'm not the biggest fan of Churchill. But, in this case, his words are great advice for anyone who is frustrated with their career or unhappy in their job. Find your "courage to continue."
Albert Schweitzer wrote: "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful."
If you feel unsuccessful in your career, it's time to start thinking about what kind of work would make you happy. Some career coaches recommend finding your "passion." For many job seekers or career changers, that search leads to a dead end. Passion is often hard to define. I recommend that clients focus on discovering their gifts. Think about gifts as skills and knowledge you use on the job that you enjoy. If you want to be happy and successful, find a job that lets you use your gifts.
This weekend I had the pleasure of seeing 42, the new film about Jackie Robinson. I love baseball and have read much about Robinson, the first African American to play in the major leagues. The film also had some interesting things to say about work and career.
1. Listen to the boss
To be successful, Robinson had to follow Branch Rickey’s strategy of not fighting back. In turn, Rickey had to understand Robinson’s situation and keep him motivated in standing against racist taunts and physical abuse. The films also shows two other great examples of bosses in control. Rickey tells Robinson’s first manager to treat his new player as he would white players. He then warns the manager that he will be fired if he doesn’t do so. Later in the film, Phillies manager Ben Chapman rained vulgar slurs at Robinson. His team’s executive orders the racist Chapman to pose for a picture with Robinson. Wanting to keep his job, the bigoted manager posed with Jackie Robinson. Moral of the story: want to keep the job? Listen to the boss – or find a new job with a better boss.
2. Be willing to take risks
Both Rickey and Robinson took great risks in going against the long established color code. Rickey bucked the system. Robinson literally put his life on the line. In the end, their risks changed the game and did much to open the eyes of a country. There is still racism in America, but men like Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey changed the game because they were willing to challenge accept wisdom and customs. To achieve our professional goals, we need to be ready to take risks and face our inner fears.
3. Be willing to change
A few of Robinson’s teammates welcomed him. Most did not. However, the film shows them learning to accept him and, more importantly, respect him. From what I’ve read, the transition wasn’t as fast or smooth as the film depicts. But, as Robinson endured, his teammates accepted him. In many work experiences, accepting change is the first step to being successful.
4. Don’t quit
If I were only given one word to describe Jackie Robinson, it would be strength. He faced hate from all angles. His life was threatened. Still, he did not quit. Robinson knew what kind of treatment he would face, and his determination opened the door for other African American players. It made baseball a better game and America a more equal nation. In the end, Robinson’s fame is as much a matter of his mental strength as it is his great accomplishments on the field. Again, he is a role model for any worker who faces obstacles and still achieves a goal.
I don’t mean to make 42 into a simplistic story. It’s not. I strongly recommend the movie as a great biography and as source of inspiration.
The subject of my 100th post is a man who is nearly 100 years old, the great basketball coach John Wooden. Wooden established records that will never be broken. In 10 of the last 12 years he coached, his UCLA teams won the NCAA title. During one stretch, they won a remarkable 88 games.
In his 80s, long after retiring, Coach Wooden took on a new trade, author. He has written books on his life, coaching, and a very important topic to job seekers and career managers: success.
The website TED features experts from many fields discussing their projects and passions. Wooden is featured in a section on “inspiration” (click here for the video). He often seems a throw back to the 19th century, citing poets who haven’t been taught in schools since he was a child in the 1920s. Even so, behind words that sometimes sound dated, there is a very relevant plan that anyone can use to be successful (or more successful).
In the 1930s, Wooden crafted a one sentence definition of success that he still advocates today: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.”
This sentence is not nearly as simple as it seems. Wooden is not just saying, “Do your best.” We all tell ourselves we have done our best. But how many of us have “peace of mind?” How many of us feel a “self satisfaction” from our work? Wooden offers us a road map through his “pyramid of success.” Here we see how this great man defined and practiced a way of life that not only let him be a great coach, but a great thinker. Wooden wrote his first book in 1997. Over the last 12 years, he has produced 10 books, including this year’s Coach Wooden’s Game Plan for Success. Not bad for someone in his nineties.
For John Wooden, success does not mean always winning. It means preparing to play the right way: having values, practicing skills, and – most importantly – pursing goals with faith and patience.
We as job seekers and career managers can learn much from this man and his passion for success. I’ll close with my favorite saying from Coach Wooden: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”