Don't Fix the Present, Create the Future
The title for this column came from a trusted mentor, author, and futurist Watts Wacker. I heard this at a conference in 1999, and as a mantra it's given me direction through every hardship, battle, and challenge. Sometimes it drives me to create major change, which can be uncomfortable, but it also allows me to look forward and shake off unproductive legacy thoughts and ideas that may hold me back from my preferred destiny.
My son graduates Georgetown University in less than 60 days. And as I look forward to his bright future ahead, it occurs to me that he luckily may not yet have too much of the present to fix. Still, with a tough job market ahead, he could use a few more tools to help him create a worthy future. And whether you are just beginning like him or on a rocky path to your desired success, here are five critical concepts you and he should master to get there.
1. Collect People Not Things
No question I am an individualist, but I totally appreciate those around me and am a much better collaborator than a solo artist. When times are tough, my network helps me cope, gives me guidance, and presents opportunities when I am ready. They also most importantly save me from myself when I'm not ready. These people are willing to sacrifice comfort to tell me the truth so I can be a better person. Our relationships are built on reciprocity.
Naysayers are constantly amazed at the ways unrelated people are willing to step up and help with resources, connections, insights, and most importantly their time. In good times we share opportunities and successes together. I respect these supporters by answering every communication, sharing freely and being open to learn from them. The people whom are closest are those who, when approached right, will move heaven and earth for my family and me because they know I would do the same.
2. Find the Economic Model to Do What You Love
There is an economic path in just about any direction. It's not always clear, but there is great joy in figuring out how to generate money from fun activity. I love to brainstorm and surface ways for turning new ideas into cash. Of course the path to get there may take a few years and you may have to do some real work to make it happen. (I define WORK as the things you have to do in order to do the things you LOVE to do.) But ultimately most skills and activity can lead to a decent living if properly applied and the material expectations are realistic.
3. Gain Through Giving and Gratitude
Little of my success today is my own. I have a circle of brilliant people who engage with me, challenge me, and help me grow. I do the same for them because a rising tide raises all boats. I work hard to make sure that I bring respect and value to every encounter whether I know the person or not. Because of this I have been blessed with many opportunities. It did not happen overnight. Today opportunities come as much from people I helped over a decade ago, as they do from recent contacts. Share your value. Give with confidence, strength, and appreciation. Then people will want to engage with you and create success together.
4. Put Your Ego in Your Wallet Where it Belongs
It took me decades to overcome my natural insecurities and stop focusing on achievement for achievement sake. I realized years ago that money while not innately good or evil, is a necessary resource to accomplish anything of significance. This lens helps me validate every opportunity and decision so that I am always heading down a path of independence and financial security. I really don't care if I am right or wrong. I am happy to be wrong if someone has a better way that will bring happiness and success faster and more sustainably. As my beloved Grandmother Ethel (RIP) always said: "I've been rich and poor. While there's no shame in being poor, I'd rather be rich."
5. Be Responsible for Your Own Experience
I don't understand people who need to blame. There are always factors outside your control. Everyone has hardships and opportunities. All people have choices to make. Certainly some are more advantaged than others. But ultimately success depends on how you define it and how willing you are to escape your own comfort zone to achieve it. It's the journey that matters since most never know when the end is coming. I choose to make each day an awesome experience so that I never look backward in regret. Then I can celebrate feeling one step closer to my desired future every day.
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