I love helping people achieve their dreams. That may sound cheesy, but it’s wholeheartedly true. It’s a way in which I’m able to tap into things bigger than myself, keep a pulse on new ideas, and see my friends succeed.

I find that a small change in thinking can create a large change in impact. My wife, the lovely Anna Watson Carl, is an incredibly talented writer. Yet last year, she was extremely frustrated by the lack of progress she was making in her journalistic dreams. We sat down for an hour and looked at her career with the big picture in mind. The changes we made were small, but significant. Over the past year, she’s been published in Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, and TIME magazine.

Frameworks help us to make sense of things and they corral our every day tasks toward a bigger goal. For me, frameworks are how I make sense of the world.

A framework for your career

Moving straight to the punch, your career consists of four things, three of which are in your control. Not surprisingly, I call it the skills-assets-connections framework.

(The fourth category is luck. If you figure out how to control that, please send me an email and let’s get coffee.)

Each of the three core categories is important and within your control. You can be the most skilled artisan on the planet, but if you’re lacking connections, you lack a distribution channel. You can have billions of dollars of assets, but without proper skills, these assets can be lost.

Assets ≠ Wealth

A common misperception is that assets require money. It’s simply not true. Financial assets require money, but that’s only a subset of assets at large. At any age, any point in your career, you should be building out your asset base.

Even if you don’t have money, get started anyway! Create a portfolio of your best work, make tools to help you work faster, keep a list of ideas, vet them and patent them or create a blog and build a brand.

Assets are important because they can work for you, even when you aren’t working for them. It’s a lynchpin to working smarter, not harder. It’s easier to launch a fashion line if you’re already a recognized brand (like Elin Kling). It’s easier to design a website if you’ve got already got a collection of inspiration. When I worked on Wall Street, I had hundreds of spreadsheets that would allow me to analyze data faster than the competition, which kept my customers happier.

The point is that assets work for you. And they pay dividends in size.

I’ll be writing about the other two categories soon. In the meantime, I would encourage you to take an honest assessment of the assets you have, and the assets you want to create. It’s been incredibly helpful for me.