Finding success in life is a cycle of goal setting and achievement. As we enter January many of us will undoubtedly bump up against folks setting new year resolutions and those refusing to do so. But whatever the time of year, we all have goals we want to achieve.
In this article you will find three insights for a successful life that I often share with professionals as an invited speaker. If you implement these practices, you will no doubt notice that your life improves and your actions take you in the direction of your dreams.
- Ask for help – however far you’ve come and however smart you think you are or think people expect you to be ask others for what you need.
- Stay tall and aim to raise your standards all the time.
- Find your support and tap into it often.
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1. Ask for help
When I was doing my PhD at Caltech there was an unspoken rule: it was okay to look ‘stupid’ and ask ‘silly’ questions as a newbie, but not later. Beyond the first year, you were meant to appear smart!
For those familiar with the American PhD system, an average PhD can take 6-7 years. Getting a PhD is in effect practical research leadership training. You’re expected to:
- embark on a journey of discovery
- form a hypothesis
- become an expert on a specific topic
- create new insights and knowledge.
You’re expected to achieve all this in a fixed time frame. But there is one thing few people tell you that I think is key to success. Doing a PhD requires that you learn to connect with other people so you can benefit from their experiences and invite them to be part of your journey.
One of the best habits my PhD experience gave me was to ask for help. In fact, it forced me to do it and helped me realize that asking for help and getting feedback is a vital practice when we’re working on the edge.
Asking for help helps!
Today, working with leading scientists and creatives who find they are on the edge of their art or question, I see how important it is to feel one is not alone there. What often distinguishes those who succeed from those who collapse is that the former group gets more advice, help, and support.
No one gets anywhere alone. In fact, I am so convinced of the critical need for developing this skill that I have included it in all my leadership development programs. One of the very first exercises I ask my delegates to complete is to make a list of people they can turn to for help and support.
So if you have a dream or an idea for something, and feel you don’t know where to start, ask for help!
2. Stay tall
Suki Chan a digital artist once asked me to participate in her installation 100 voices. Being part of this project involved me contributing to a recording where I along with 99 other voices offered one nugget of wisdom.
I was uncertain up to the very last minute about what I would actually say. So many seemingly important ideas ran through my mind. In the end, I resolved to let the energy of the moment be my guide and to simply show up and see what emerged.
Once in her recording studio in front of a big professional microphone, her question prompted me to speak about what it’s like to be a ‘tall poppy’. I don’t know who originally coined this phrase but the tall poppy syndrome refers to people who seem to stand out. Standing out can be hard. It puts pressure on the person and draws attention to them.
The tall poppy syndrome can give rise to one or both types of dynamics. (1) The tall poppy feels uncomfortable standing out and tries to play small to norm down to others or (2) Others try to cut the tall poppy down because they feel a lot better when everyone is more or less the same. This means that while we like to see examples of tall poppies in our world as vivid reminders that they exist, their presence can also make us feel bad and we enjoy when they are brought down in some way and humbled.
Daring to stand tall
Tony Robbins, a famous motivational speaker and performance coach has a lot to say about this topic. He urges people to hold their standards high by:
- understanding this dynamic
- holding high standards.
- choosing to be with people who help us aim high
I fully agree. Tony explains that when people around you notice that you’re outgrowing them in some way, they fear losing you which makes them bring you down. They may do this by discouraging you or outright sabotaging your rise.
Similarly, as we don’t generally like to displease those we love, we often stop aiming higher so as to prevent creating a gap between us and them.
My second piece of advice and wisdom is that you stay tall. Find people who are even taller to inspire you and help you see that there is still room to grow. Often, there is much room! Seek people who can help you be where you belong.
3. Find your support tribe
To succeed leaders and visionaries need fertile ground and a great deal of support. Being on the edge can be a lonely experience. The right environment is a bit like good soil for a seedling. It’s critical. Its’ often why people choose to work in certain places, study at certain institutions and why some people become our friends for life while others come and go.
My third tip for success is that you develop a healthy support tribe around you. Find people who motivate you, challenge you, sustain you and help you on your way. People who will celebrate your achievements and help you commiserate your setbacks. Create a circle of trusted colleagues and friends who will give you honest feedback, assess your progress, and inspire you to keep going.
Be open to new connections
Finding your niche takes time, being open to new connections and some experimentation. You may find yourself pursuing many false leads before you come across people worth keeping in your support network. While networking gets a lot of air these days, what I’m actually recommending is relationship building.
Networking can be challenging but asking for help and sharing your experience and goals need not be. When you’re in the company of people that share your challenges, your values, and who are in pursuit of similar goals, you have found your tribe. All of a sudden you find you have lots in common, conversations flow naturally and your energy lifts. So get out there and connect with people who share key aspects of your struggles or have similar aspirations.
Bottom line for a successful life
All of the three tips above have one thing in common: the need to forge connections with others.
Taking that first step is vital. It may feel hard to reach out but trust me. Your success depends on it! And your experience along your journey will also benefit from having more people around you.
- Ask questions.
- Ask for help!
- Share your dreams with those that will listen, call a meeting of minds.
Some people say the world is filled with mean, selfish, terrible people. This has largely not been my experience. For every person in need, there are two whose generosity will touch your soul and restore your faith and belief in humanity.
Your success awaits you.