Articles from the Career Advisor
Success Skills for Ages 16-30
  Unlike many frustrating things in life, success is fairly black and white. It is attainable by the application of a few basic and universal principles. Yet as I've said in this column before, "If success were easy, everyone would be driving a Porsche."

As a consultant, I've found that I can make successful people more successful; but it's very difficult—maybe impossible—to turn non-motivated people into superstars.

The reason is that they lack what I call the "basic success skills," things like showing up on time.

Here's an example: many times I've felt sorry for callers with desperate career problems. I've gone to great lengths to re-arrange my schedule so I could meet with them at no charge to offer help. More often than not, these desperate folks don't show up to take advantage of FREE counseling sessions.

It's surprising how many people register for a class, then drop out midway. Or how many volunteer to be on a committee or project team, then miss half the meetings. Woody Allen said, "The secret of success is simply showing up," and I believe he's right. "Showing up" is one of the most fundamental success skills.

I've developed a success model for my two sons, ages 25 and 26. The 25-year-old is a musician in North Hollywood; the 26-year-old is an architectural student in Seattle. Both are at the age of getting their feet on the ground in their careers. Here is a chart I developed for them:

Responsibility Irresponsibility
Adult Child
Ownership Denial
"It's me"/"It's mine" "It wasn't me"/"It's them"
Results Excuses
You act on events Events act on you
ACTOR (Power) VICTIM (Powerless)
Make things happen Watch things happen
Do it now Wait; do it later

Let's take a look. The model suggests that the goal of growth is to move away from childlike attitudes and behaviors into adult roles. When we do, success usually follows.

The responsible person (adult) takes ownership of situations, and says, "It's me—it's mine. I did it; if something went wrong, it's (partly) my fault. Let's see what I can do to fix it. Let's see what I can do differently next time." By contrast, the irresponsible person (child) lives in denial, and says, "It wasn't me—it was them." Meaning, "It was someone else's fault, not mine."

Where the responsible person gets results, the irresponsible person offers a myriad of clever excuses. I've heard thousands of job-changers make excuses about why they can't perform. One day I made a list of all their excuses, 66 to be exact, and here are just a few: (1) It's too hot (or cold), (2) It would mean starting over, (3) The timing isn't right, and (4) I went to Catholic school. (To review the full list, see "66 Handy Job Hunting Excuses" in this section.)

Successful people act on events; they're actors. They retain their personal power. Less successful people let events act on them; they're victims. They feel powerless. The successful person makes things happen; the unsuccessful person watches things happen. Successful people do it NOW. Less successful people wait; they prefer to do it LATER.

I wanted to teach my boys "The Basic Success Skills," so I made a list of 28, and I'll repeat them here. This list is not complete, nor has it been critiqued. Please read it, make corrections or additions and FAX the results to me at 303/790-0606. I'll send revised lists to you as they emerge. Perhaps together we can develop a simple roadmap for success that all of us can follow.

  1. Show up on time.

  2. Listen 80%, talk 20%.

  3. Do what you say you're going to do.

  4. Own the problem; don't make excuses.

  5. Do it NOW.

  6. Plan for the best, and expect the best.

  7. Give more than you get.

  8. Get organized; keep a "To do" list.

  9. Be a compulsive note taker.

  10. Underpromise and overdeliver

  11. Tell the truth.

  12. Compromise . . . practice WIN/WIN.

  13. Write down your goals.

  14. Seek outside support—don't try to go it alone.

  15. Ask for advice, ideas, and help.

  16. Spend less money than you earn.

  17. Be likeable and love others.

  18. Always be studying something.

  19. Don't talk down to anyone.

  20. Desire to be the BEST.

  21. Arrive at work early, stay late.

  22. LOVE what you do.

  23. Meet time deadlines.

  24. Keep a single focus.

  25. Look out for others.

  26. Be quick.

  27. Develop a sense of mission, purpose, and urgency.

  28. Love your career, but don't become a workaholic. | Return to index of articles.

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