KNOW HOW

The 3 Stages of Career Success

Every person with a financially successful career goes through these three distinct stages.
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Recently, I laid out my rules for being successful in business.  Today, I'm laying out, not the rules, but the process of becoming successful.  In my observation, everyone who has a financially successful career goes through the following three stages:

1. Self-awareness.  Most people do not know what they want to do with their lives or even what kind of activity makes them happy.  You ask these people "What's your dream job?" and they reply "I dunno..."  So the first stage of any successful career is knowing enough about yourself to know what you ought to be doing with yourself.

2. Monetization. Most people get stages one and two backwards.  They take a job (or a major in college) with the intent of making money and then wonder why they're not enjoying themselves.  The recipe for success entails first finding out what you want to do and only then figuring out how to get people (customers) to pay you money to do it.

3. Expansion.  Now that you know what type of work makes you happy and you've gotten people to pay you money to do it, you expand your ability to do what makes you happy by reaching more people (customers). This inevitably results in you receiving more money for what you truly enjoy doing.

Here's an example from my own life.  I knew from the time I was four years old that I wanted to be writer.  I fought against that self-awareness for decades, working at jobs that, while they made me appear to be successful from the outside, were not what I really wanted to do in my heart of hearts.

When I finally gave in to that self-realization, my main task was finding ways to get people to pay me to write. This is was when I first started learning about selling, because monetization is always an act of selling.  As a result, within two years of becoming a full-time freelance writer, I was making twice what I was making before.

Because I was now doing what I always knew I was supposed to be doing.

At this point of my life, I'm at stage three: focused on expanding my reach as a writer, secure in the knowledge that what I write has real value to my readers (that's you guys) and that the more readers I get, the more value I can provide and therefore the more money I'll make.

I'm not telling you this to impress you, but to impress upon you that you that you must listen to that inner voice of self-awareness that knows what you should be doing with your life.  Once you listen to that voice, I absolutely guarantee you that there is a way to get people to pay you to do what you truly love.

Then you just do more of it. More money. More happiness. It's that simple.

Probably one in 100 people "get" the process I've laid out above. I'll bet you're one of them or you wouldn't be reading this column.

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IMAGE: Daly and Newton/Getty
Last updated: Dec 12, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is "Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts that You Need to Know."

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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