As this year winds down to its conclusion, we start to look ahead. We are compelled to perform retrospectives and see how they measure up to our keys to success. Thinking of this, I am reminded of a keynote speech that I had heard when I was being recognized for achieving the rank of Eagle at a council dinner for the Boy Scouts of America.
The Speaker was a successful businessman and an avid pilot. He shared his “5 Keys to actual Success.” I had written them down and committed them to memory. Many years later, I have revisited these, and I have added a sixth one from my years of personal experience.
The 6 Keys to Success as an Adult are:
- Effectively Manage your Time
- Effectively Manage your Money
- Understand the Context of your situation
- Always have a Backup Plan
- Keep a Healthy Network of Friends
- Know when it’s appropriate to say “No”
Effectively Manage your Time
The first of the 6 keys to success is Time. Time is an interesting resource. You either have enough, or you don’t. You can plan to have extra time, but you can’t bank it and use it later. In our current world, time is finite. We can’t create it or destroy it. It is there and constant.
So, why is Time so important? Time gives you options. When time is limited, so are your options. This is similar to that old adage of a parent telling their child to complete all of their chores first to play the rest of the day/weekend.
By options with time, it’s about how you choose to spend it. You can spend it on work, sleep, play, watching TV, or visiting with loved ones. You can budget time, but you can’t make time. If you budget your time appropriately, you can spend it enriching your life and well-being.
When time is a shortage, you are more stressed. You need to complete the task. You are late for an event. By not being on time or completing the assigned task, people are disappointed. You are disappointed. This leads to additional anxiety and stress. A little stress is good, but a lot is not. This is why you need to effectively manage your time.
Effectively Manage your Money
The second of the 6 keys to success is money. Many people measure success by how much money one has. One’s Net Worth is a computation of money and valued possessions that can generate money. However, money alone is not a true measure of success. It is only an indicator.
Money, like time, gives you options. When you have money, you can choose how you wish to spend it. If you have enough money, you can buy that car, house, plane, or yacht. You can also choose not to spend it and either hold onto it as cash or save it in an interest-bearing vehicle like a savings account.
Unlike time, money is not finite. You can go negative, or you can construct ways to create more. The ideal management of money is at the heart of capitalism. The art of investing money to generate more income without any active work is the realization of metaphors like “Money growing on trees” or the “Goose that lays the Golden-egg.” This is often referred to as passive income.
When you go negative, your options are reduced. This is because you now owe someone or institution money. They want their money back on a predetermined schedule, and if you don’t meet their expectations, they will charge you extra. Like with time, this situation has produced a large amount of stress and anxiety. Whereas the feeling of not being in debt gives one a sense of freedom, relaxation, and wonder.
Some advisors and strategists can help you devise a plan. I’d recommend seeking out a fiduciary for advice. The end-goal for money management is for you to not be in debt. If you are in debt, there is a plan to easily recover if the plan doesn’t work out.
Understand the Context of your situation
The third of the 6 keys to success is Context. Context is always key in one’s understanding. If you don’t understand your environment’s circumstances, you won’t be able to navigate yourself to a successful result. This key is hard to explain without giving examples and relaying stories to illustrate this key point’s meaning.
When first presented with this key, I was told a story about how a flight crew was preparing to land their plane, and the landing gear deployed light on their instrument panel didn’t light up. They scrambled and tried many different tricks to get the indicator to turn on. Unfortunately, all of those attempts failed. Eventually, they ran out of fuel and crashed. The FAA review board found that the landing gear had deployed, but the light indicator on the dashboard had burnt out. No key system had actually malfunctioned, only the medium of communication. The simple solution would have been to ask for a visual confirmation that the landing gear had not deployed.
There are many stories in the IT community about support calls about a hardware issue. The support analyst goes through their entire checklist to learn that the actual issue is a loss of power to the building that the customer is calling from. In audio engineering, they teach you how an audio signal flows from a microphone to the speaker. In troubleshooting, the first step is always to check the power source. Once confirmed, you can continue to travel down the path from microphone to speaker.
Always have a Backup Plan
Adaptability is the underlying trait in this fourth of the 6 keys to success. Anything rarely goes according to plan. You always need to plan for unexpected issues and have contingencies in place. By doing this, you are saving yourself time and possibly money as well.
Going back to the story about the plane and the landing gear. Had there been a spare indicator light, they could have replaced it and seen that the light was a problem. Before any pilot takes off for a flight, they need to make sure that they know their surroundings, alternative airports, and enough fuel to get them from their destination to an alternative airport just in case weather or another circumstance prevents them from landing at their destination.
Having a backup plan builds confidence. Everyone is aware of the options, and swift decisions take place. If there is no backup plan, you now have to create one. However, time is now at a premium. Stress levels are increasing with every passing second of inaction. As stress goes up, people’s trust and confidence in your abilities dwindle.
In martial arts, the difference between a newcomer (Green Belt) and an expert (Black Belt) is their ability to adapt. A black belt has more tools at its disposal when an action does not go according to plan. Initially, These tools are taught. They have used more as experience increases. The key is to start mentally preparing yourself to use them.
Keep a Healthy Network of Friends
Friendship is the focus of the fifth of the 6 keys to success. There’s a saying, “A friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move a body.” Having friends is good. Maintaining those friendships is even better. As with the saying, having friendships is like having an extended group of advisors. They can also help with manual labor if necessary. The key to friends is that you can turn to them when in need. They will help you out unconditionally.
For this section, I refer to “True Friends” and not the one-sided transactional friendships that also exist. True friends will try to pick you up when you are feeling down. They can also help you get through a rough time. Losing a job or a long term relationship will cripple your ego. A good friend will be there to help you pick up the pieces and move on. All relationships require a level of maintenance. Some friendship bonds are so close that when you meet up after an extended time away, it’ll feel like not a day has passed. Many friendships are easily maintained with a simple phone call or IM/DM to see how they’re doing.
Another reason why friends are so important is that they will give you an unfiltered opinion. If you have a business idea, your friends will be the first people to pitch the concept to. Their feedback is important as you start the process of refinement. Your friends are also a great network to help you out when you are looking to make a career change. They may know of someone who can use your services. They may also think of you when a job opportunity arises that they think you are best suited for.
Know when it’s appropriate to say “No.”
Knowing when it’s okay to stop is the sixth and final of the 6 keys to success. Growing up, I was told to always accept a task when given by a manager. In sports (or Music), I was conditioned to always say “yes” when my Coach asked me to do anything. They were the gatekeepers for opportunities to progress, develop, and make new connections. If I turned any of these down, I would lose out on that experience. I would also lose out on the possibility of being the first choice for the next opportunity.
In my professional career, I have seen many of the same practices in place. Many Vice Presidents have told me that they have achieved their success by never saying “No” when asked by a superior to take on a new job. Those who take ownership when the opportunity presents itself are rewarded. Delivering a positive result is always rewarded. Showing commitment and dedication is always a good thing to display.
But at what cost?
From my experience, it is always okay to say no when it comes to a violation of one of the following:
No job is worth violating any one of the three above. If your employer does not respect that choice, it is time to seek new employment. Integrity and ethical behavior are as good as saying “yes” in the proper circles. Seek out those circles and thrive.
In some cases, you are not ready to say “Yes” to an opportunity because you have not mastered effective time management in the workplace. It could also mean that your team is not functioning at a level that would permit you to take on additional work. If that is the case, please read my post on time management and team building.
6 Keys to Success – Conclusion
These 6 keys to success are guidelines. The skills you learn in your pursuit to achieve them will be invaluable. You will not achieve any of these keys overnight, so please exercise some patience.
At Perficient, we continually look for ways to champion and challenge our talented workforce with interesting projects for high-profile clients, encourage personal and professional growth through training and mentoring, and celebrate our people-oriented culture and the innovative ways they serve Perficient and the community.