A Path to the Top

As a productive and successful person, there’s a good chance your career will accelerate and you’ll have opportunities to take on more responsibility and authority. If that’s the way you want to go, here are some suggestions on useful ways to speed your progress in that direction:

(Note: I’m calling this piece “A Path” instead of “The Path” because there are many more than one. At some point, I’ll cover some of the other paths to the top.)

Few Paths Are Straight

Paths leading upward are rarely smooth and straight. Most of the time, successful people go through a series of false starts, flops, dead ends, and other unavoidable “inflection points” that force them to consider significant strategic and tactical changes.

Don’t look at these as anything other than completely normal.

Each change presents opportunities to re-assess who you are and how you want your work and your life to develop. Cherish them.

Failures Are Golden Opportunities

I’ve written before about failure, and I meant it.

Every time life hands you a lemon, it’s an opportunity to:

  • Change for the better something about yourself and your approach to work and life,
  • Learn something useful about the world, thereby expanding your depth of understanding and your skill-set, and
  • Get more savvy about people, places, and things, upping your preparation to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Adversity Strengthens You

Whether you succeed or fail at a particular task, project, or goal, facing adversity is good for you. It strengthens your resolve, bolsters your willpower, and makes you better able to overcome whatever difficulties and obstacles await you up ahead.

Take Care of Other People

The world is full of people, some of whom will oppose you and some of whom can help you. The more skillfully and positively you can deal with them, the better.

That’s why you should begin to assess situations not just in terms of the factors in play and the forces at work, but also in terms of the people involved. If you make other people a higher priority, you’ll generally improve your level of productivity and success.  

Play the Long Game

Success is a long-term proposition you must initially produce and then maintain. That’s why you’ll do better when you think as far into the “out years” as you can.

That’s also why you’ll come out ahead when you play fair and do what’s right. An honest approach will allow you to simplify your action plans and relationships, carry less baggage, and win more support from other people.

Finally, cultivate patience. Many times, we give in to simple urges and take action before the time is right. You’ll tend to get better results when you give situations enough time to develop so that unwanted possibilities fall away and you see the best path to completion more clearly.

Seek a Great Fit

One of the greatest advantages to knowing “who you are” and “what you want” from your work and your life is how much this information simplifies finding and nestling into a great fit.

Whether you’re thinking about careers, relationships, opportunities, pastimes, or anything else, a great fit between you and your external situation helps you feel good about what you’re doing, and find meaning in what you’re accomplishing.

Communicate More Often

Many people who want to become more productive and successful seek to develop their communication skills – and rightly so. The ability to communicate effectively and persuasively is a powerful tool, one that produces extra impact each time you use it.

People at the top understand this: it’s good to communicate effectively and persuasively when you must; it’s even better to do this kind of communication regularly, even when there’s no special news or information to share.

Risk Opens the Door to Reward

I’m not going to advise you to take extra risk in trying to complete your tasks, projects, and goals. You’re the only one who can judge how much risk is right for you.

But I am going to say that extra risk often opens the door to extra rewards. Just make sure those rewards are well balanced against the downside potential that every risk entails.

Watch for Chutes and Ladders

It’s a children’s game that’s a good metaphor for many aspects of life. As you progress along your path to success, you may well encounter situations with a lot of downside potential that can send you down a chute of negative consequences.

On the other hand, you may also encounter circumstances with a lot of upside potential that can help you ascend into a more positive situation.

These chutes and ladders are often hidden in every situation, for everyone, along every path. That’s why it’s useful to stay alert for them, and adjust your behavior accordingly.

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