Career success is the result of constant effort

Career success is the result of constant effort

If you wanna’ be the best at something, you have to work at it.

This is a universal truth: An inescapable, non-negotiable imperative of success is effort. Achievement, in any form, comes as a result of the work you put in. Luck is not success. Circumstance is not achievement. Success is a result of effort.

But here’s another fundamental truth: effort — consistent, sustained work on any given task — is hard. And for many, hard is too hard. Things get in the way, life offers an array of complications and distractions and as a result, we look for shortcuts. Get rich quick schemes, lose weight fast diets, exercise without effort.

Results don’t come without commitment to the task. This is an absolute truth. In everything.

Learn from the best

But who am I to say this? Advice on success is, of course, best delivered by those who are truly successful, those who’ve achieved the highest of heights.

I’m always fascinated to read the behind the headline stories of success, the work it’s taken for recognisable individuals to achieve what they have. And invariably, it has taken a lot of work — here’s a few examples of well-known success stories, leaders who’ve made it to the top of their game through their commitment to the work:

  • Marissa Meyer is currently the CEO of Yahoo, but before taking this job, Meyer was the Vice President of Location and Local Services at Google (she was also Google’s 20th employee). Meyer developed a reputation for her dedication, regularly working 130 hours a week, sleeping at her desk, and pulling all-nighters.
  • The head of General Electric, Jeff Immelt, has been working 100 hours a week for 24 years – a Herculean effort.
  • Michael Jordan is renowned for his work-ethic and commitment to winning, routinely logging hours of additional training time or keeping team sessions going till the desired results were achieved – an approach that clearly yielded results.
  • In the same vein, a trainer for Team USA at the 2012 Olympics recounted a story underlining Kobe Bryant’s insane work ethic and commitment to excellence, saying how Bryant called him just after 4am and asked if he would come help him shoot.
  • In his book ‘The Virgin Way’, Richard Branson talks about our misunderstanding, or misattribution, of luck. Branson tells the story of a golfer who made a ‘lucky’ shot, which was, of course, a shot the golfer would’ve practiced thousands upon thousands of times. Luck had very little to do with it. Branson also details how his relentless efforts (and willingness to take risks) lead to his enormous professional success

Those who achieve great things are not doing so because of genetics or luck or circumstance or any other reason you might like to think is at play and out of your hands. All those factors, of course, contribute, but the one constant in the journey of every high-achieving person is commitment to being the best. Belief, dedication, and consistent effort.

A commitment to self-improvement

In order to achieve the highest results, you first have to believe you can. You have to see yourself where you want to be and dedicate yourself to realising that vision.

Recently I spoke to an author who was talking down her abilities, saying how she wouldn’t dare dream of being on the same level as one of those published writers on the book-store shelves. ‘Why not?’ I asked. ‘Where do you think they started?’

It’s not good enough to look at the leaders in your field and think they are ‘up there’ and you are ‘down here’. Your work has to be as good as theirs. You have to consider yourself able to be as good as them. If you don’t think it’s possible that you could ever be as good as they are, then you’ve already lost out. Leaders got to where they are by listening, learning and working every day. Leaders are you, they’ve just done the work to get to the next level.

You have to set yourself in for the long game — success won’t come over night. You have to learn to be objective, to stay focussed on what you’re trying to achieve, amidst the doubters. No-one’s going to hand success to you, no-one’s going to lift you up and support you and give you an easy ride. Expertise is grown through self-improvement, through knowing yourself and where you stand within the wider landscape, and through learning every aspect, absorbing knowledge from anywhere you can.

And it never stops. The most successful people are up every morning, going at it again. Always thinking, always working, always building on their skills.

Now that’s not to say you can’t have work/life balance — of course, taking time to live your life is more important, being present for those you love is on a whole different level in the scheme of things. In no way, too, am I saying everyone should be working 100 hours weeks.

But if you’re lucky enough to have found what it is you’re passionate about, what you want to do with your life and career— what will form your own definition of ‘success’ —putting in the time is the only way you’ll reach it. The best writer, the best marketer, the best parent. Commitment to learning, to evolving, is the path to success.

Effort is hard. Sustained commitment to any task is difficult. But if you wanna’ be the best, you have to make a commitment to working on it, using every opportunity you have to improve. If you ever think you’ve learned all you can on any given subject, you’re 100% correct, and where you are in your progression is where you’ll stay.

But if you wanna’ be the best, you can. You just have to put in the work. And always be open to seeing a new way.

More reading:

3 vital ingredients to fast-tracking career success
Job seekers: why hard work trumps talent
The answer to achieving success at work and in life


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