There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the old and weary but fundamental question — how can I achieve success in life? So I will not attempt to answer that question here because I think this is personalized to the individual’s interpretation and defined purpose in life.
I benefited from being mentored by brilliant minds in my professional environment. I could say that this question garnered the most prolonged pause and the most thoughtful look from my various mentors.
Several years later, I now have some mentees as I try to pass along the wisdom and experience gained over the years — the battle scars I wear, the lessons behind the tears, the spark I keep in my heart to keep going despite all the wounds.
Recently, during one of my mentoring sessions, the questions “what do I want in life” and “how do I get there” came up repetitively. They seem to be a common theme at the start of any mentoring session. The mentee typically wants to change something from Point A to Point B or C. Those were also the same questions I had during my earlier years and continue to be points for deep reflection over the years.
My experience makes it clear that the answers themselves are a process. There are no shortcuts, only long and winded routes one must be willing to travel by. They are very tailored to the individual. The common thread that weaves everything together consists of having a clear destination, a journey map, and a measurement system.
They use data to gather insights on what they need to do differently to achieve their goals. They are constantly monitoring and using insights from data to measure progress and remove roadblocks. They are never emotional about success and failures.
Successful people set clear goals, create an actionable roadmap, and measure relentlessly. They care about the numbers and the results.
Clarity of that one goal or destination, where you want to be, is important to start this process. And this isn’t easy to define. Sometimes it could take years to figure this out. But for some, this is one thing they knew they were born to do or to be, without a doubt.
Skills, knowledge, experience, and realities of life are vital constraints that prevent us from taking that first step to doing what we love. Usually, we go with the flow of the day that turns weeks into months and years, until one day, we realize that we need to face the same question again.
To help you write your success story, you must consider these elements deeply:
1. Passion: What is your “why”
What is your “why”? What is that one thing that gets you up and going in the morning early, feeling energized? What is the one thing you love that you can’t stop thinking about? It’s that first thing you think about as you wake up and the last thing you think about as you go to bed (that is, if you can even quiet your mind to sleep).
If you don’t know what you are passionate about, make a list of your interests. Ask people who know you well about what they observe, such as likes/dislikes, things, or activities at which you are good/not so good.
Browse the internet, social media platforms, or streaming services to see what others are passionate about (e.g., environment, sustainability, healthy living, writing, sports, technology, coaching, acting, creative arts, etc.).
These activities will also spark ideas and motivate you to cultivate new interests that could potentially uncover your deep passion.
2. Skills: What are your capabilities
What skills do you have to achieve that passion? Do you know what it takes to create good photography if your love is of photography? Do you have a great camera? Do you know about design?
Capitalize on the skills you have and identify areas of learning opportunities. Develop a growth and learner mindset and continue acquiring new skills to make yourself relevant for the present and the future.
Several online classes are available from various reputable academic and professional institutions now at affordable prices. Investing in yourself is crucial to staying relevant and impactful.
3. Goals: What is your destination
Once you know what fuels you and what you have to launch your rocket, set your Point B (short-term) and Point C (long-term). Your destination could change as you take your journey, and that’s ok.
However, it would help if you were clear about the goals you are setting for yourself at any point in time. If you are currently working an 8 am-5 pm job that pays for your present and wants to become an entrepreneur creating beautiful digital photography, set your short-term and long-term goals to get to your destination.
For example, a short-term plan could be making a collection of 40 carefully edited and curated high-end food photos every month and selling them for $1 on your website. This allows you to understand the market and your customer better so that you can adjust and finetune your pricing, offering, promotions, and platforms later.
A long-term goal could be to create a rival offering to Shutterstock or Canva that is innovative and changes how photography is made or consumed. The more specific you are, the better, but sometimes long-term goals could be broad as you learn in your present to set more precise plans for the long-term.
4. Roadmap: How do you get to your destination
Now, taking everything together — your passion, your skills, your goals — you must plan for how you will orchestrate turning them into results.
If your destination is to go to Paris from California, what will you do to get there? What resources do you need to line up? We plan trips carefully, but we sometimes plan our life destinations sloppily.
You must create an actionable plan that gets you to your Point B or Point C. What preparation do you need to do? What additional skills do you need to acquire (e.g., online classes, MasterClasses, certification, diploma, practicum, internship, etc.)? What kind of network do you need to be involved in (e.g., people in the community, people with the same interests or goals, etc.)? Who can help you (e.g., your family and friends, colleagues, mentors, etc.)? Who can inspire and motivate you (e.g., influencers in the space you want to get into, global leaders, external research, case studies of how others have done it successfully, etc.)?
Define all the critical steps with realistic and tangible timelines. Manage it like a project and hold yourself accountable for accomplishing milestones and correcting your course as needed.
5. Measurements: How do you know if you’re getting close
This step is often forgotten.
Goals are not slow-cookers or ovens where you set and forget (to a certain degree). What separates successful people from average achievers is the ruthless measurements of whether goals and targets are being achieved or not.
Successful people know their numbers and results. What you can measure, you can improve.
If your target is to earn $2000 sales every month and your measurement shows that you are not achieving that, you need to deep-dive into why and what can be improved.
Data and analytics could help you gain insights into what is going on, why you are not achieving the target, what could happen if you don’t take action, and what you should be doing now to improve to meet your target. Understand your facts and make fact-based decisions and improvements.
Keep going until you get there
Iterate relentlessly and be patient. Getting this right takes time and various iterations, failures, learnings, and discoveries. If you fail the first time, don’t get discouraged. Everyone goes through the same phase.
Success is built from passion and learning from failures. Get back up again and test another approach until you find what works. You’re on the right track as long as you continue learning, adapting, and improving.
Remember that passion.
Remember why you are doing it.
If you believe in it badly, the next steps will follow through