Universal Keys to Success

I recently spoke with a young woman interviewing for a position with my agency. At the end of my formal questions and explanation of our company, she asked a question that I thought was worth sharing. 

Her question was one of the most thoughtful and pre-planned that I’d had in a while, which likely speaks to why there are so many “how to prepare for an interview” blogs circulating - but I digress. 

She asked, “with all of the mentees you’ve worked with, what have you found to be the key to their success.” 

My answer applies to the 25+ young women who’ve attended and graduated from my formal mentoring program, the many others i’ve worked with, and most people who’ve been able to obtain any level of success. 

Here’s what I shared:

Be disciplined, motivation is not enough.
It is understandable to want to be motivated by life. However, if we always wait for that motivation we might find ourselves waiting for a moment that may never exist. A part of development is pushing beyond passion, motivation, and desire to seek the discipline to do things in spite of an excitement to get them done. 

The best way to grow in your discipline is to begin making things apart of your habit. Daily routines like not looking at email or social first thing in the morning, or even adding meditation or exercise to your day can help in developing the skills needed to be disciplined. 

Seek a mentor. 
You don’t go at this life alone. No matter a person’s age or space in life there’s a need to talk to someone; this could be someone to follow up with, someone to gut check with, and someone who can share things with you that might be candidly caring. But remember, mentoring is a reciprocal relationship. There must be a give and take. The teacher will eventually become and appreciate becoming the student. That means that the relationship should always be adding value (read the Team Success Handbook to learn more). 

Lastly, think of mentoring in stages, it can be for a lifetime, a season, or over a phone call (or even, dare I say, over coffee). 

Present solutions, not problems. 
No one really likes problems. Even though a great deal of us are in problem-solving positions, we work as diligently as possible to work towards a solution. So when you bring a person a problem, particularly your supervisor, that they’ve entrusted you to solve, AND you have the skill and brain to solve it, it begins to tick away at their trust. I understand that school and sometimes employers do not encourage thinking, but seriously in most cases you get paid to think. 

And when you can’t get totally answer the problem at least consider bringing the steps you’ve taken, what you’ve eliminated, and any other helpful information before you ask another person to do the thinking for you. 

Lead at every position 
We live in a hierarchical society, so it isn’t uncommon to not understand your role in the chain of command. But this tool goes outside of your title and requires you to understand how to take on leadership opportunities no matter your role. 

I recently read an article about the gentleman that created the Flaming Hot Cheetos. He was a janitor that took heed to the CEO’s call for everyone to act like an owner. By taking initiative at the level you are, it indicates that you are in constant study and serious about your craft. 

Be self aware. 
If I had to deduce some the top reasons that people have a hard time in professional and social circles, in my top five answers would be lack of self awareness. It takes some work to get outside of the pity and “it’s all about me” attitude that we sometimes grow up having. But it’s so critical.

Consider what it takes to increase your emotional intelligence. One of The Four Agreements tell us that nothing someone else does is our issue. Start there. When there’s a disagreement with someone else or someone responds to you in a way that is uncomfortable to you, begin to tell yourself, “this is their issue and not mine. I will not take ownership of their response, only of my reaction to it.” 

”The path to success is a squiggly line,” but these have been a constant. 

What would you add?