David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, hosts a weekly podcast titled Rule Breaker Investing. In a recent episode, he discussed one of his long-term goals being to get rid of the term “long-term investor.” He argues the term is redundant. If one is investing, it is always for the long-term. People who buy and sell securities on a short-term basis are not investors, they are traders.
Regarding investing, I completely agree with him. Investing and trading both including buying assets in the hopes of value appreciation or making a return. However, only investing has a long-term focus.
Likewise, you can take a long-term or a short-term focus on your career.
When you’re a teen, or even in college, it might be okay to have a short-term focus on your career. Actually, it’s more likely a short-term focus on a job. You didn’t have a career back then, you had a job. It served one purpose – to make money.
After college, however, you started your career. That first place of employment, hopefully, was to serve as the springboard for the remainder of your career.
The Differences between Investing in Your Career for the Long-term and Short-term
What is the real difference between investing in your career for the long-term and investing in it for the short-term? Obviously the difference is a matter of focus on time.
Employees who focus on the short-term in their careers typically focus only on the amount of money they can make. If they can jump to a different employer and make just a couple of thousand dollars more, they’ll do it.
I’m not saying that is necessarily the wrong thing to do. Each person needs to make a decision for him or herself.
If you’re focused on investing in your career for the long-term though, you’d make a decision based on how staying with the same company or moving to a different company will impact your career for the next five plus years. You make the choice based on the long-term, not the short-term.
Sometimes, those decisions are based on lifestyle as much as, if not more than, the increase in pay. You should be able to have a life and work. If you work all the time, what good is that really? I learned that lesson in my career…
5 Tips for Investing in Your Career for the Long-term
Now that we agree investing in your career must contain a long-term focus, what actions can you take to help you achieve long-term success in your career? Let’s look at five tips that will help you have that long-term focus.
Focus on Personal Development
No matter what you do in your life, personal development is important. Developing yourself is the greatest long-term investment you can make for your career and your personal life.
Most people want to get better. Too many people though don’t create a personal development plan. Instead, they leave it all up to chance.
“I’ll read that book when I have time.”
That time never comes if you take that approach.
Make a plan to improve in all areas of your life. You won’t regret it.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
You can get really comfortable doing the same tasks every day at work. As long as it’s still enjoyable, you can do the same thing day after day. That’s good but to really succeed in your career you’ll need to expand beyond your current responsibilities.
You’ll need to take a few chances and not be afraid to change. You’ll want to ask for different and more challenging responsibilities.
I’ll give you an example from my career.
Within the first two years of my career, I in-charged several engagement’s called “directors’ exams.” I got really efficient with these types of engagements. Regardless of the staff I worked with, we would finish up a directors’ exam in about two-and-a-half days. Before this, it would take some people a full week to complete these jobs.
The more efficient and effective I became, the more money the firm would make. That was great for the firm. It was also great for my confidence.
There was one problem though.
I got bored!
At the point I determined I couldn’t do those engagements anymore, I chose to talk with my boss. I told him I was bored and wanted something more difficult to work on.
Naturally, I couldn’t just be taken off those jobs entirely but my schedule did change. I was scheduled on more difficult and more rewarding jobs.
That decision to speak up greatly helped my career.
Be a Generalist
Studies have shown that generalist CEOs make more money than specialist CEOs. Read this article from Cláudia Custódio with the W.P. Carey School of Business of Arizona State University and discover what she says about the topic.
Think about it. CEOs who are good communicators, are visionaries and lead by example have the ability to achieve excellence. They rely on the ability of people with different strengths than their own.
This is the same reason employees really good at performing a certain task do not make good managers of people with those same tasks. Just because you’re a good sale person does not mean you’ll be a good leader of salespeople.
Early in your career you’ll need to become an expert at something. Do that but also seek out ways to do other things. Take on other projects and learn new skills. Most importantly though, learn to be a better communicator.
Build Your Personal Brand
What you do right now in your career can have a lasting impact on your career. If you want to invest in your career for the long-term, you need to build your personal brand.
Whatever you put on social media today will be online forever. Make sure what you post agrees with the brand you’re trying to build. Regardless of how old a social media post is, it could come back to haunt you.
Your brand is more than your online presence, although very important, it is everything you do. Build your brand now to what you want it to be and it will open doors for you in the future.
“It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.”
We’ve all heard this saying before. It may not seem fair but it is true. The relationships you build can provide you with opportunities down the road.
Don’t confuse relationships with acquaintances though.
Acquaintances can be helpful but they won’t put themselves on the line for you. People with whom you have build a close relationship will. You’ll do the same.
Remember though that when you align yourself with someone, make sure that person will represent your brand well.
Start Investing in Your Career Now
It’s never too late to start investing in your career for the long-term.
Looking to the future is always a good practice. However, you can’t forget about the here and now. If you don’t perform at a high level now, you can kiss the future goodbye.
Start investing in your career now by working hard, excelling at everything you do and thinking about the future.
Question for you: What have you done to invest in your career for the long-term?
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was recently released in movie theaters. It has set all sorts of box office records already and will continue selling an unprecedented amount of tickets. Because of the success of this iconic franchise, I figured there had to be some career lessons we can learn from these movies.
Achieving success in your career will not come without ups and downs. Some days success will seem eminent. Other days, it will seem impossible.
One tenet of career success is having an open mind; a willingness to learn — from any source. Any source can even mean fictional movies with make-believe characters.
Following are 4 career lessons we can learn from Star Wars:
Your Impact Can Be Great
George Lucas set the bar high when Episode IV was released in 1977. Before it’s release, the critics were not very positive about the movie. George Lucas knew, however, his movies would have a great impact on people.
He wasn’t trying to win best picture. Instead, he wanted to impact people by entertaining them. And that is what he did.
When I was making Star Wars, I wasn’t restrained by any kind of science. I simply said, ‘I’m going to create a world that’s fun and interesting, makes sense, and seems to have a reality to it.’
For almost 40 years now, the Star Wars franchise has appealed to the masses by entertaining them.
Your impact on the world can also be great because you are great. You are an expert in something and it’s your duty to share that expertise with the world.
Just like Star Wars, you can start small, i.e., the first movie, and start providing value. After you make a small impact with your small start, you can leverage that into having a bigger and better impact on others.
It Takes a Team to Win
Han Solo had a partner in Chewbacca. Luke Skywalker relied on R2-D2 when he crashed on Dagobah. They each had someone to rely on.
In fact, though, it took the entire Rebel force to win. Each of the primary characters in Star Wars had special talents that supported the entire team.
The most successful people in history have learned they can’t achieve success by themselves. It takes teams of people with different talents and abilities to achieve success.
You may like working with others who have your same mindset and tendencies because it is comfortable. If you do that for too long, you’ll realize you are getting nowhere fast because you don’t have every ability you’ll need.
It takes a team of people to make a lasting difference in the world. Isn’t that what you want to achieve through your career?
When Yoda told Luke Skywalker, in The Empire Strikes Back, to raise his crashed fighter from the swamp, Luke responded with “Alright, I’ll give it a try.” Yoda, responds with my favorite movie line of all time.
“No. Try not. Do…or do not. There is no try.”
We need to heed Yoda’s advice in everything we do. Saying we will try is limiting our abilities. Trying shows a reservation of doubt of our abilities. We need to just do.
Take this one step further into the religious realm. Jesus, in Matthew 5:37 tells his listeners to answer simply with a “Yes” or “No.” Any other answer than that, He says, comes from the evil one.
In your career, believe you have great abilities and you will accomplish great things. When someone asks you to do something, say “Yes” or “No,” instead of “I’ll try” or “Maybe.”
You are only as good as you believe you are.
It’s Okay to Fail
Darth Vader did not tolerate mistakes of any kind. He expected his followers within the Empire to be perfect. If they made a mistake, he would use the Force to choke them to death.
Hopefully you don’t work for a boss like that.
The Rebel Alliance, however, made many mistakes and lost many battles. That did not cause them to give up or turn on one another. They continued pressing on toward their goal.
We need to do the same thing in our jobs and careers, in fact, in all aspects of our lives.
We’ve all made mistakes and had setbacks but that doesn’t mean we should quit.
Children fail all the time. They fall when they try to walk. They fall when they ride a bike. Imagine if they stopped getting back up and doing it again. We adults forgot how to learn.
We need to remember the importance of learning from failure.
The most important of the career lessons we can learn from Star Wars is…
So far, the Star Wars series has spanned a period of almost 40 years. That’s amazing.
Few movie franchises have been able to survive over that long of a period, much less with as much fanfare as Star Wars continues to have. The only other one I can think of is the James Bond franchise.
Your career is the same. You shouldn’t expect to reach the corner office within the first year in your career. It’s going to take time. Lots of time.
Be patient as your career evolves. Reaching success too quickly would most likely have one of two results: immediate overwhelm or boredom.
Instead of being impatient with your career and always hoping/looking for something more, enjoy each step of your journey.
A career is a journey. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Question for you: What other career lessons have you learned from any of the Star Wars movies?
Earlier this week, I was reminded several times about how much I enjoy my career. In each instance, the voice in my head said, “That proves this is the right career for me.” Crazy as it sounds, I actually had that thought each time.
You can love what you do and still have some areas you’d like to improve. While I may grumble every now and then about the increasing bureaucracy I have to deal with, I undeniably enjoy what I do. Without improvement, there will be no growth. Without growth, I’d be bored.
Is this the right career for me?
Before, during and maybe even after college, you asked, “Which career is right for me?”
Eventually you landed in what you’re doing now. You decided this job was what you were going to do. It was right for you at the time.
Is your career still right for you?
You probably see co-workers leave for other opportunities all the time. Obviously the career was not right for them. Does that mean you’ve made a bad choice? Should you be taken those opportunities like your friends have?
You won’t change until the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.
In other words, until the unknown of that other opportunity is more appealing than the known of your current job, you’re going to stay where you are.
So how can you judge the unknown and the known? That’s really hard to do.
Here’s what I would do instead. Think about the things you like about your current job and decide whether that would also happen or be available in the other opportunity. Also, you’ll want to figure out what would be better in the new opportunity than in the current. Be sure about it.
Let’s look at the positive side of that equation. What do you enjoy about your current job that would make you say, “This is the right career for me.”
The Right Career List
Complete the following sentence in as many ways as possible and write them down.
This is the right career for me because…
Below are several of the reasons I’ve come up with for my career. Some of them might mirror your ideas. Maybe you’ve never even thought of them and now you realize you do enjoy that aspect.
This is the right career for me because:
- My clients view me as their trusted advisor.
- It makes me smile to talk with certain clients.
- I consider most of my clients as friends.
- Instead of shaking hands, my clients give me hugs.
- It makes me feel good to help my clients solve problems.
- It makes me feel good to help my clients brainstorm new ideas.
- My clients’ families feel like members of my family.
- I’m good at what I do.
- I enjoy what I do.
- I enjoy experiences here another opportunity could not guarantee.
- I get to help others learn.
- Leadership opportunities present themselves frequently.
- Building relationships is at the heart of my job.
- I get opportunities to speak.
- I get opportunities to write.
- I get to work with different people.
- I get to work in different places.
- I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule.
- I get to travel.
- I work with people smarter than me.
- I get to work out of my comfort zone which helps me grow.
- It allows me to learn new things frequently.
- There is no opportunity for boredom.
- It pays well so I am able to provide for my family.
- Something good happens every day.
- I thrive under pressure.
- It allows my Christian virtues to shine through.
- I impact others’ lives.
- I choose to make it that way.
Of course there are things I don’t like about my job too (a.k.a bureaucracy) but they do not outweigh what I love about my job. Some of the things I like are also things I don’t like.
For example, traveling is a fun part of my job. However, it’s difficult traveling like I do because it takes me away from my wife and daughters. I like it but I don’t too.
Stop Straddling the Fence
If you are on the fence and keep looking to the other side and all you see is green pasture, remember than it will be green wherever it is watered. Start watering your side of the fence and see how green it can get.
Today, I want to challenge you to critically think about the good parts of your job. Make a list similar to what is above. Determine now if you’re in the right career for you. Don’t wait.
Life is too short to waste our time in the wrong career. It’s too short to not be happy. You need to work to provide. You probably even want to work. So why not do it and say, “I’ve found the right career for me.”
Have you achieved everything in life that you envisioned when you were younger?
Do you dream about traveling the world or having certain life experiences but don’t know how or if they will ever happen?
We all have goals, aspirations and dreams. Reaching those goals or achieving those dreams is where we get stuck. Isn’t wishing for something enough?
Nope, it’s not enough.
You can believe in it. You can pray for it. You can talk about it.
Positive thinking is great. Regardless of what some say, no one achieved anything by just positive thinking.
Achievement requires action
A business takes intentional action to accomplish its corporate goals each year; you need to take intentional action too.
Notice that the actions you take must be intentional. Random actions will rarely get you where you want to go.
Action is extremely important and so is intentionality.
The intention of your actions comes from having a plan. In this article, I’m going to show you how to create a personal development plan so you can experience the growth you desire.
First Step to Create a Personal Development Plan: Brainstorm
Before you can create a personal development plan, you need to figure out your goals, aspirations and dreams. To figure them out, you need to have a serious brainstorming session.
If you are married, you might want to have this brainstorming session with your spouse. Here is an article that will help you have a productive brainstorming session:
The purpose of this exercise to identify all your potential dreams for your life. These should include all five areas of your life discussed in that article.
Write down as many potential dreams and goals as you can. For this exercise, there are no bad ideas. Come up with as many as possible.
Do you want to travel to certain countries? Maybe you want to travel to all the countries of the world. Write it down.
Do you want to watch your favorite sports team in every professional stadium in the country? Write it down.
Again, there are no bad ideas.
Step Two to Create a Personal Development Plan: List 100
From your brainstorming list, identify 100 items to put on your “bucket list” for your life. These are the dreams and goals you will work toward and review regularly.
Some of the items on your List 100 need to be crazy and almost unreachable. You want some items on your bucket list to take creativity, hard work and maybe even some luck to achieve.
Besides the “almost unreachable” items, you want other items on your list that you REALLY want to achieve. Maybe they have been life-long goals. Whatever, you need to be personally vested in reaching these goals.
You will likely discover that your initial list from Step 1 was too short. That’s okay. Creating this List 100 is a big process. It’s simple but not necessarily easy.
If you can’t get 100 items on your bucket list, take time to come up with more. Do not move on to Step 3 until you come up with 100 good items.
Step Three to Create a Personal Development Plan: 5 Areas of Life
The third step in creating your personal development plan is where intention and strategy come into play. Until now, you’ve been dreaming.
Now we will put feet to your faith.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve read Why You Need a Personal Development Plan, go back and read it and get familiar with the five areas of life a personal development plan should include.
You want to identify two items from the List 100 for each of the five areas of life. If you can’t find at least two items for each of the five areas, go back and revise your List 100.
For example, for the area of Health, maybe you have items on your List 100 of 1) Running a marathon and 2) Getting back to your pre-marriage weight.
These are two great bucket list items related to Health. If we left it at such a high level, though, it is unlikely you will ever reach these goals. That’s where Step 4 comes in.
Step Four to Create a Personal Development Plan: Smaller Goals
High-level, hard-to-reach goals will not be realized just by writing them down. Instead, you need to determine your plan for reaching those goals.
Your plan needs to be comprised of small steps so you can experience the joy of small wins upon your journey. Therefore, you’re going to turn each of these 10 items into more specific goals on which you will focus your intention and action.
One of the big struggles people have with goal-setting is getting overwhelmed with the process or not setting enough short-term goals to recognize success. Without small wins, you will likely not continue with your plan.
Make these step-by-step plans for each of the 10 items. If 10 seems too overwhelming, just do one for each of the five areas of life. At least you will be growing and improving.
Let’s break down the goal of getting back to your pre-marriage weight so you can see how to perform this step.
Most people know what to do to lose weight and regain their health. Eat better and exercise more right? Basically that is all it takes. But those two things are not easy.
Let’s look at just losing weight and then you can apply these processes to exercising more.
The most important thing to realize is that losing all that weight is no longer the goal you want to focus on every day. Maybe you’ve put on 50 pounds since you go married. If you just think every day about losing 50 pounds, you are going to get discouraged.
Break that down into smaller goals. First, set a goal of losing one pound per week. If you do everything else addressed below, you’ll likely lose more than that. Once you experience wins in losing one pound a week, increase that goal.
Losing weight is the goal, not the plan. What is your plan? There are several things you can do to help you succeed.
An often overlooked step in losing weight is having an accountability partner. Maybe you and your spouse or your best friend take this challenge on together. You report successes and failures to each other. You ask each other how everything is going. You’re accountable to one another.
My wife and I did this together several years ago. She wanted to lose weight she had gained while pregnant with our last child. I wanted to do that as well, even though I couldn’t use being pregnant as an excuse.
Over a period of six weeks (I think), we prepared our meals together, ate the same food, kept each other accountable. I could not have done it without her.
At the end, I had lost 27 pounds. She had got back to her high school weight. We experienced great success.
The best part is that we have maintained that weight loss. We stay right where we want to be with our weight because we made it a life style. We didn’t go on a diet. We changed how we look at and react to food.
Since that time, my wife has gone to school and become a Certified Health Coach. She now helps other people make these life style changes and serves as their accountability partner.
Hiring a health coach is another great mini goal to losing the unwanted weight. I know the benefits of a health coach because I live with one.
You may question whether you can afford a health coach. If hiring a health coach will increase the quality and length of your life and reduce other health-related costs, can you really afford not to do it?
If you want to reach out and talk with my wife to see if the two of you should work together, contact her at PurdyYourImage.com.
Now that you know my weight loss story, let’s get into setting those smaller goals and creating the plan.
Of course, you will reach your goals faster by going cold turkey on certain things. Stopping bad habits you’ve been doing for years can be difficult. Instead of cold turkey, maybe your goal should be to reduce the consumption of certain foods and then quit altogether down the road.
Here are a sample of items you should have in your plan to lose that weight:
- Stop consuming soft drinks (diet or regular). You’ll see huge gains from this if you just stop this bad habit.
- Drink more water.
- Eat more non-starchy vegetables.
- Eat whole foods instead of processed foods.
- Remove dairy from your diet. Replace milk with a nut milk such as almond or coconut milk.
- Eat less wheat and grains.
- If you need seconds to feel full, only eat vegetables for your second serving.
- Drink a high quality, natural protein shake. It is probably best to stay away from whey protein.
- Eat a meal before you go grocery shopping.
- Throw away all sugary sweets in the house and don’t buy more.
- Don’t eat any food after 8 p.m.
Step Five to Create a Personal Development Plan: Celebrate
Now that you have a plan for each of the 10 goals from your List 100, put them into action. Remember your goals should be small. If you find it difficult to achieve a small goal, maybe you need to make it smaller.
When you accomplish a small goal, such as losing one pound that first week, celebrate it!
Celebrating should be filled with positive self-talk and talking with your accountability partner. A celebration of losing a pound of unwanted weight should definitely not be having a bowl of ice cream before bed that night.
Step Six to Create a Personal Development Plan: Review, Revise and Replace
Review your 10 goals on a daily basis.
It would be great to add that review to your morning routine. That should encourage you at the beginning of each day so you can be strong each day.
Read them in detail each day. You may get to the point that you have them memorized. If you can recite your goals from memory, that’s great! Remember to review not just the primary goal but each step in the plan.
If you discover you haven’t done so well on one of the steps, it’s okay. Refocus and move on. Don’t dwell on it or view it as a failure.
Revise when necessary.
As stated a couple of times above, you may need to revise your goal or the individual steps in the personal development plan. If you need to revise something, go ahead and do it.
The purpose of creating a personal development plan is to help you be better. If you keep working toward a goal that needs to be revised but you don’t revise it, you won’t be the best you.
Now, close your eyes and imagine the day when you accomplish one of your List 100 goals. Won’t that be a great day!
You’ll be able to scratch out or delete the individual steps in the plan and the List 100 item. I wish I could be there to watch you do that!
Replace the goal you reached with another one.
Don’t stop with scratching it off your goals list. Replace it with another one. You always want to be working toward goals. If you achieve one, replace it with another one.
You’ll have to go through the first five steps of how to create a personal development plan when you do that and that’s okay. You’ll be making more progress toward living the life you want to live.
What will you do?
Are you committed to living a life at your full potential or do you want to continue trudging on the course being jealous of the lives of others?
Earlier today, I read a post on Facebook from one of my “friends” in which he was whining that he was tired of seeing all the posts of his friends on their vacations. He said he’s worked hard for many years and has yet to take a vacation.
I wanted to add a comment telling him to stop whining and do something about it. If he wants to take a vacation, he can. He probably just doesn’t believe he can. Of course, I chose not to comment.
You have so much to give to the world. You deserve to live the life of your dreams. It’s up to you as to what you do about it. Will you create a personal development plan and become the best person you can be?
Question for you: Will you take the first step in changing your life by creating a personal development plan? If you need help, reach out to me.