As part of my never-ending quest for knowledge, growth and understanding success, I recently read the book The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann which I heard about from one of my unofficial mentors Marie Forleo.
It’s a quick read that I recommend to anyone who wants to be successful – whatever that may mean to you.
Anyway, in the book, there was one concept that was introduced – which was not one of the major themes, but which reaffirmed something I’ve been coming to learn about life and success recently.
In the book, a character explores the idea of “stories” and the comparison between children and adults in how they approach problem-solving (for lack of a better term) and life in general. The character says, “You just make it up.” And that stuck with me.
What I’ve really begun to realize is that life has no rules. It’s cliché, but true, that life is what you make of it – and we all just make it up.
I’ve noticed that the people that are the most ‘successful’ and the most happy, have really figured this out.
These people may have gotten to where they are by following conventional wisdom and common steps, but I’ve realized that success is many things and its definition is fluid and individual. And, because of that, and because of the “chaos” (cough cough, I mean change) that has been going on for the past few (or more) years in the economy and the job market, I’ve come to realize that what used to be true is no longer true and to get where I want to go, I really do have to “make it up.”
There are no rules.
…Why am I saying this?
Well, because, being the young entrepreneur I am, I kind of fell into entrepreneurship as a means to an end and by complete accident (though I do believe now that this is where I’m supposed to be). But, I fell into it because of the state of the job market and a number of other factors relating to finding full time work.
You see, I adopted the mentality that we create our own opportunities.
But it was an accident. Seriously.
I was always a goody-two-shoes, by the book kind of girl. Maybe not in terms of my fashion sense (I was a poster child for Hot Topic in high school, and I have an affinity for dying my hair fun colors), but I followed the “rules” as they were laid out to me: 1. get good grades, 2. do every extra-curricular activity you can, 3. go to college, 4. repeat 1 and 2, 5. do internship(s), 6. graduate …. So far so good… but, the problem came after that…. because number 7 was always “get a good job”. (8. work, forever, 9. retire, 10. die…)
Except… that that didn’t happen. I felt like, “I did everything right, so why can’t I get a job?”
And, you know what I was told: “it’s the economy.”
I was told to not blame myself, that it was not my fault – basically that the problem was outside of me and I couldn’t really do anything about it.
The problem is, that wasn’t super helpful because where does that leave me? Still jobless and questioning.
However, I’m lucky that one of my strengths in life is adaptability and that I learned before that it doesn’t matter what happens TO us, but rather what we make of the situation that counts. Said another way, adapt or perish, and we create our own opportunities…
So, what did I do?
I embraced my skills and found a way.
I found an internship by interacting with someone on Twitter.
Then I found another internship on Craigslist…
Then… after a year or more and even with more work experience, something was still wrong… because I STILL was not getting a job.
Well, I said, “to hell with it.” I still needed to make money, so I took inventory of my skills (again) and took to the networking groups. I made myself a website and poof, the world had it’s newest freelancer.
I had no idea what I was doing, and I had no role models in business, but, I managed to get a few clients, by chance. And I started learning and studying business.
Now, I’m a business person.
What did I learn about success, or how to be successful?
Step 1 to being or becoming successful is to define success on your own terms.
Success, for me, isn’t about having a job. Success isn’t about having a big house, a picket fence, a husband, 2.5 children, and a dog. Success is different for everyone, and for me, it has many definitions. And, it’s not as much about the external things, as much as about having a strong, healthy and resilient mindset to be able to continue achieving.
Step 2 is realizing and embracing that there are no rules anymore and that we not only have the power to create it ourselves, but we must take control and “make it up” ourselves.
To really achieve whatever your version of success is, it’s absolutely essential to realize that, while we don’t have say over what happens to us, we do have say over what actions we take in pursuit of what we want.
Let’s face it. (Pardon my French, but…) Shit’s gonna happen. We’ll face less than ideal circumstances. But it doesn’t matter. Success, to me, is taking responsibility, climbing out of the hole and taking action to improve the situation. And making it up. It’s not necessarily just the achievement of our goals or having what we want, but it’s being strong enough to take the steps and keep trying, and embracing failure as part of the process, but continuing to learn, grow and try again.
I know, what authority do I have to be talking about success, at my age and level of accomplishment? It’s true, I don’t match the “traditional” definition of success, in that I’m pretty young, my business is still young and not yet where I’d like it to be, but when the advice from more experienced individuals I receive is to keep doing what I’m doing, that I’m doing it right, and when I see my approach being validated by bestselling books on business and productivity, I can’t help but feel that I’m successful. That I’m really making something happen. Coming from complete ignorance of business and success, and stereotypical rules, and job market failure, I feel successful because I know that I’m on the right track, and that the challenges I’m facing right now don’t define me, but what I do to overcome them and how I learn and grow from them is what matters and will have more of an effect on how things play out.
…Then, how do we be successful in this economy? Especially if there are no rules?
There aren’t rules because everyone’s definition of success is different, but there are some principles that I’ve learned which are helpful, that are not solely applicable to business, but also if you are an employee.
Firstly, everything that we do must create value. Even having a job is about value creation – as an employee, a person is providing a service to their employee which is valuable to them (i.e. why you get paid to do it). In business, we make money because our service or product adds value to the customers. So.
1. Aim to create/add value.
Secondly, success (I mean… Life) doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If success (defined by achievements) is what you seek, it won’t happen on it’s own, or by yourself. It requires other people. For example, money won’t just appear out of thin air – it requires an employer or customers (or an inheritance, which sort of comes out of thin air… or death of another person). So, it pays to have a strong group of people who believe in you.
2. Aim to have a strong community of supporters and friends.
3. Aim to add value to that strong community.
I know, I still haven’t addressed the title and why this means we all need a professional portrait to be successful.
Well, because what I am essentially describing, about creating our own opportunities and having a strong network, basically means that in order to achieve “success” – or at least build a career that you are proud of and is fulfilling – even as an employee – we have to have a personal brand.
And, in having a personal brand, we have to “market” (or present/promote) ourselves in a similar way to how a company would market itself. That means, having a mission, vision, goals, and taking control of our reputations.
Having a personal brand means managing how you are seen, how you come across to strangers online. It means understanding that you are being seen and that everything you do has an impact on your reputation – so, if you want to be seen as professional, you need to represent yourself as a professional online. That means, using professional images to represent yourself on your social media, on your website/blog, in email (perhaps) – on anything you use to promote yourself.
Said another way, if you want to have a fulfilling career (whether in business or as an employee), you need to stand out from the croud by adding value, having a strong network, standing for something and being able to communicate that, and coming across as professional wherever you are. (By the way, this doesn’t have to mean boring headshots, but can mean creative, high quality, professional images of you being you – not “cell-fies”.)
And, by the way, while we’re on the topic of success and photos… having these photos is not just so you can put them on your own marketing (social media, website, etc.). As an acquaintance of mine, Kim Nicol, recently pointed out, it’s also helpful to have for when others request images of you to publish when you are featured somewhere, which is likely to happen at some point, so you want to be in control of what picture they use and be confident in the photo.
There you have it. So, it’s not quite a “rule” that success = having professional photos, but it’s definitely an essential step in the process.
Well, I hope you found this post interesting and/or helpful, or at least that it inspired some new thoughts for you. Thank you for reading.
If you found anything about this post helpful, please be sure to share it with your friends. And, if you are interested in learning more about having me do your photos, contact me (845-418-2718 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Now – go be awesome!
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