10 Habits for A Successful & Satisfying Career

How often is the status quo really what you want? Most of us find ourselves on a career path determined largely by the influential people in our lives (parents, friends, colleagues) and by a market space that we have become familiar with. If this process has resulted in a life experience that finds you jumping out of bed because you can’t wait to get to work, you’re in the minority.  A recent survey found that 60% of the 26,000 Americans they asked claimed that they would like to choose a new career. 

I’ve spent the last two years looking for and interviewing the other 40%, the people that are happy with where their careers have taken them. I isolated the happiest, most prosperous people in this group and looked for the common career paths and behaviors that help explain their success.

I actually struck out on identifying the best career paths; it turns out that there are happy and prosperous people everywhere. What I did find, however, was a common set of habits that were exhibited by the most satisfied individuals. They tended to be people who enjoy learning and who had developed a high level of expertise within an area that they were passionate about. And whether they work in small or large organizations, they utilize an entrepreneur’s approach to their work. In other words, they aren’t satisfied by the status quo, bring a high level of energy to their work, and attract highly competent people to help them explore new ideas for better serving the markets they are passionate about.

What follows is a description of the 10 habits that I believe has enabled these individuals to experience highly satisfying, prosperous lives.

  1. Build Your Own Prosperity Cycle.  Pursuing prosperity means breaking trail rather than following the crowd, and this approach requires self-confidence and an abundance of personal motivation. The prosperity cycle helps you build both by harnessing the energy generated by successive cycles of focused effort and exhilarating personal achievement.
  2. Exploit Your Natural Curiosity. Successful entrepreneurs as well as intrapreneurs exploit opportunities that most others don’t see, using solutions based on insight that others don’t have. Where does the superior insight come from? From delving into the minutiae that determine the effectiveness of a solution. Indulging your natural curiosity makes it possible to effortlessly get deep enough into a subject of interest to build valuable insight.
  3. Know Thyself. Prosperity is an existence that enables you to apply your passions, personal strengths, and values to work that is personally satisfying and fun while providing the financial resources to experience your envisioned life. Taking the time to understand your unique strengths, values, and passions is key to finding prosperity.  Doing work that you love and are pre-wired to excel at usually leads to financial success as well.
  4. Build Creative Tension. Creative tension is an extremely productive force created within anyone who has undertaken an honest assessment of their own current reality and compared it to a personal vision of the life of their dreams. It works in the background of our daily activities to motivate actions that help move us toward our personal vision.
  5. Learn From The Best People And Organizations. Malcolm Gladwell nailed it when he said it takes 10,000 hours to develop a differentiating level of skill in anything. But it only works if you’re learning the right skills from the right instructors. Confirm your life’s passion and accelerate your development of world-class skills by going to work for an organization that will teach you the essence of what it has invested hundreds of thousands of hours to understand.
  6. Earn An “I Can Do Anything Attitude.” Being a pioneer is scary. Doing something that may or may not be successful is scary. But that’s where you are going if you’re pursuing prosperity. Gain the confidence that you need by looking behind the wizard’s curtain and learning the tricks that allow him to appear gifted. Then find the coach that will help you do the same.
  7. Recognize And Quickly Analyze Opportunities. Successful entrepreneurs have learned to see and analyze the opportunities that stream by all of us every day. And they do it in real time. I call this being an entrepreneurial actuary. The trick to doing it is to embrace your inner rebel by throwing conventional thinking out the window so that opportunities can be seen, and then learning to quickly estimate market sizes and the rough costs of products and services that address the need.
  8. Genuinely Care About Other People. Pursuing prosperity is a team sport, because not much worth achieving can be accomplished by yourself. Care about others because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it builds a very rare commodity — trust. Teams built on a foundation of trust have much higher levels of productivity and are more fun to work in. In the book, I give details on a concept I call carefrontation and how it leads to personal growth for everyone involved.
  9. Partner Wisely and Broadly. Your choice regarding a life partner or business partner can put you on the fast track to achieving your personal vision or make it a virtual impossibility. The right partner is an enabler who helps you to hone your vision, offset your weaknesses, and give you the confidence that you might just get this damn thing done.  The wrong partner’s attitude and negative forays into the irrelevant will suck the energy from the room, and your mojo with it.
  10. Find A Mentor, Or Three. An experienced mentor can take the pie-in-the-sky vision that you are hesitant to even say out loud and, through experience and personal example, lead you to the point where you can see yourself making it happen. In addition, build a database of guides who don’t need to know you as well as a mentor, but can effortlessly provide advice within specific areas of expertise.

Can a motivated individual develop these habits? Absolutely. Every one of the people I talked to managed to do it, and they had to figure it out on their own. In all of them, it started with a decision to make a change. That change led to the next, and the next, and the next. In fact, I think a lot of their satisfaction comes from the fact that their quest is never over; it’s just the end of one learning cycle and the beginning of another. The happy accident in all of this is that many of their prosperity cycles come with financial rewards from employers and consumers eager to make use of their better ideas. What’s your next quest?

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Mark Hopkins
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