29 Apr 2013

Success - 10 Tips to help you find your way

I was recently asked a question on LinkedIn, and the question itself was quite simple "can you give me some advice / tips to be successful in marketing".
The question really got me me thinking and reflecting on my career to date. Making the topic slightly broader, I thought it made an interesting topic for a blog post and so my response to this person and anyone else who is interested is below.

Remember - We are all different, have different objectives, goals, strengths, weaknesses, approaches and personalities. I have read too many books that promote a 'one hat fits all approach" and this is just a load of BS. My advice whenever reading any 'life' advice books / articles is that if you can take away one useful point then your time hasn't been wasted. When reading the points imagine you need to teach someone else the points. It's a good practice as it makes you question and challenge the advice more, which in turn helps you validate it in your own mind and understand it.

What is Success ?

I don't think the answer to this is actually that simple. It should and could be but it's not, yet the answer is the defining metric that you are essentially benchmarking your career against, so it makes sense for you to at least try and define this for yourself first.

The corporate capitalist machine would have you believe that success is driving a nice car, earning a big wage, having a big house, going on fancy holidays, being able to buy all the things that 'make you happy', and if this is your definition of success then fair enough.

For others success may be one or some of the following:
  • Being a respected voice in your company / industry
  • Yielding results, beating targets
  • Being responsible for driving innovation / thought change
  • To make a difference in the world

Firstly, I am not a success expert - who is ?

Success is subjective, it's personal, but unfortunately the western world and media has greyed the lines where success is generic and happens to the chosen few.

Recently I was in Lombok in Indonesia. It was raining and I took shelter at the side of a road under a tin roof in a very poor families shack. In many people's view, this family situation did not attribute to success, possessions wise they had very little. But their spirit, their love for us and each other, and their overwhelming hospitality was incredible. In my mind, they were successful in life itself, despite their lack of money. I am not suggesting you go and live in a small shack, but the point in this example is that success can be internal. Focusing only on external elements will not make you happy, and will certainly not make you feel fulfilled.

Below are a few tips / resources that help me, I hope at least one thing resonates with you.

Tip 1: Define your definition of success for you

These aren't you goals, it is just a simple top level definition of what you believe defines success in your career.
It also doesn't need to be a fixed metric that is cemented permanently in the ground. People change; be pragmatic and re-evaluate whenever you feel the need to.

Tip 2: Always set your goals

This tip can not be overstated. In work and your personal life, always invest your time in thinking about, visualising, and planning your goals.
Goal setting is not simply bullet pointing what your goals are (although this is the first important element), it is about planning how you will achieve the goals, and also when you believe the goals will be achieved. I recently wrote an extensive blog post on goal setting.

Visualising goals is also a very powerful way of achieving your goals. A fantastic blog post by my good friend Greg Beazley can be found here on how to create a vision board.

Tip 3: Enjoy what you do

You get one shot at life, enjoy it. 
Work to live, don't live to work. 
The greatest asset we have is choice. 
We can choose what we do. 

Remember a lot of people don't have choice in this world. You might say "but I need this job as I can't afford my mortgage", or "I need to buy this car" etc etc
Your entire eco-system is defined by choices. From the clothes you wear, to the restaurants you eat in, to the amount you pay for your mortgage. Seems a little silly to spend the majority of your life not enjoying work to then have minimal time to 'enjoy' the fruits of it.

Here is a brilliant short video (3 mins) titled 'what if money didn't matter' - well worth a watch.

For some more inspiration, here is a past blog post I did on Living life without Regret. Powerful yet obvious stuff really.

If you enjoy something, you will do it with passion and passion in everything is positively infectious.

Tip 4: Be a little cautious but always aim high

I feel super charged as have recently read The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?, which I highly recommend.
In short the story of Icarus goes like this. Icaurus was imprisoned but his father made some wings for him to wear and escape. Icarus's father warned him not to fly too near the sun as the wax on the wings would melt and he would fall to his death. When Icarus escaped he loved being free and flew up near the sun. Low and behold the wax melted and he fell to his death. This story has been used to suggest that we should't aim to high, however there is more to the story that is often forgotten. Icarus's father also told him not to fly to close to the sea as the water would weigh the wings down and no longer work. The point is don't short change yourself either by settling on 'OK'. Aim high but be a little cautious.

Too many people in business 'suck it up' and conform. They keep their opposing opinions quiet in a meeting as it takes them out of their comfort zone, yet ironically that is not actually what they are paid for. They are paid to be thinkers, to challenge, to innovate, to evolve the company. To achieve this properly sometimes requires moving out of your comfort zone and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

If you work at a company and always conform because it's safe, you will not be remembered, and certainly not missed. You will just be another member of staff that did an ' satisfactory job'.

Take risks, be bold, be that person that speaks up in a meeting if you disagree or have a different approach, be individual. Don't be scared if you are laughed at, or people do not agree with you. That's just life. Don't take it personally. Do it for you, not for others.

I am not suggesting that you deliberately go out there and cause a ruckus, and there are good and bad ways to behave within this context, but move away from just being safe.

Tip 5: Don't just hear - listen

I once heard a stat that we can think 5 times quicker than we can talk. Listening and hearing are actually two different things.

"Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening leads to learning." Source:

You hear all sort of sounds every second of the day but you don't process (listen) to all of them, that would be far too much for our brains to process.

How many times have you been in a meeting or having a chat with a friend and you can tell they are not listening to you. Sure, they can hear you and they aren;t talking over you but there are not listening. Likely, they are thinking about what they are going to say next, which in turn means they are listening to you even less.

In business and in life make an effort to actual listen, as listening requires effort. If you only hear and are using your brain to think about a response you are taking in such a small percentage of what the other person is saying, not only is it rude and obvious but you may miss something very important. Listen don't hear.

Tip 6: Have integrity

Lying may give you a short-term win but it will never prevail and may come back to bite you. Always have integrity in everything you do. Integrity earns you trust, and trust in business / life goes a long long way. "He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword"

Tip 7: Personal Development

1. Knowledge: Yes knowledge is nothing without action but you do also need the knowledge first!

  • Know your industry
  • Know your audience
  • Have empathy with your customers
  • Know your product/service

2. Network - Get to know people in your industry, get insights from these people, share knowledge, go to conferences. These connections are invaluable for your career and will create endless opportunities if you embrace it.

3. Ask - "If you don't ask, you don't get" - If you don't know something despite thinking the answer to be obvious, ask. The only way to really learn is to fail first.

Tip 8: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Peopleis a book by Stephen R Covey. It is one of the best selling self-help books ever, and there is a reason for it. Personally, I think it is an excellent resource and highly recommend you read it. It is unlike many other books in the same category.

Without ruining the book for you, as the book title suggests, Stephen highlights 7 habits of highly effective people, which I have listed below.

He splits these 7 habits into 3 phases, from the ground up they are; Dependence, Independence, and Interdependence with Interdependence being the desired finishing point.

The first three habits focus on moving from dependence to independence:

  • Be Proactive
  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Put first things first
The next three habits focus on interdependence, i.e working with others.

  • Think Win/Win
  • Seek first to understand, then be understood
  • Synergize
  • Sharpen the saw
More reading on this can be found here.

Tip 9: Constantly review yourself

There is no point in setting goals and trying to achieve them if you don't review how you are doing against them. Things change, people change, the situation changes. Always take some time out to review where you are at with everything. That way, if you are a little off track, or you think the goals you have set are unachievable or you simply do not believe they are longer valid in your life, amend them and start again.

Tip 10: There is no such thing as luck

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Learn, network, create, review, grow, repeat. Opportunities are things that help you grow. Some people go through life branding themselves as 'unlucky', whilst everyone around them is 'lucky'. This simply doesn't wash. People aren't lucky, they just have their eyes open to opportunity.

Keep your eyes open to new things, jump on all the opportunities you can and you will be successful. If you fail, look at what you gained trying, and where you failed. Have another go, or maybe the result isn't as important anymore, so start something new.

You always have the luxury of choice.

A few books / authors that I recommend:

What tips do you have to be successful? Please share and I hope this post helps your journey.

About the author
Si Muddell is a Digital Strategist who has worked extensively both agency and client side. Si is fascinated about marketing, psychology & what motivates people, and loves guitar, surfing and travelling.

Get connected with Si on TwitterLinkedIn &
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