Is There a Blueprint for Success?

How did Howard Schultz go from a kid growing up in the Brooklyn projects to CEO of Starbucks? Or how did J.K. Rowling go from being on welfare to writing a best-selling series of novels? It’s not a matter of luck. There’s a blueprint you can follow.

Artists, inventors, politicians, entrepreneurs — they didn’t get where they are totally by chance. Knowingly or not, they followed a blueprint… and I was determined to find their secret. What started as mere curiosity had turned into a real interest: I was studying communications, psychology and leadership. I was looking for a formula. You might call what I found an “blueprint”, a road map that people use to grow in their careers. This algorithm can personalized, and now you can use it too. I call this secret formula “ENGAGE” because the point is to engage your potential, your purpose, and the people around you to achieve sustainable success!

ENGAGE is a six-step plan for discovering your passions and use them to accelerate your career growth. It’s about spending more time on the things that really matter to you so that you get what you want out of both your personal and professional life! Are you ready to ENGAGE?

E: Explore your meaning

Stuck pushing papers as a clerk at a law firm, recent college grad Lloyd Blankfein had no idea how he would move his career forward. But he knew one thing. Whatever task he set before himself, he would do it well. Eventually, Blankfein found a new stint as a salesman for a Wall Street trading company that was later acquired by Goldman Sachs. His passion for perfecting any task, no matter how small, would propel him to the top, earning him the title of CEO for the largest investment bank in the world.

Proof that Blankfein isn’t an anomaly comes from a global survey conducted by Deloitte. They asked participants what drives growth: purpose, or profit? The response was overwhelming, with 82 percent of respondents who worked at organizations with a strong sense of direction expressing confidence that their companies would grow. Lloyd Blankfein was able to turn purpose into (high) profit!

What’s the first step explore your meaning? Identify your top three values, then define things you can do each week to embody that value. You value creativity? Set 15 minutes aside to doodle. You love adventure? Visit one new place every week.

N: Narrow your goals

Once you know what your values are, it’s time to set your goals. Multiple studies show that setting goals is itself a mini-algorithm for success. A few years ago, researchers at Dominican University found that individuals are 42 percent more likely to achieve goals by simply writing them down.

Nobody knew this better than Thomas Edison. Edison held over 1,000 U.S. patents for inventions including the electric light bulb and motion picture camera, but he never received a formal education. His secret? He chronicled his plans for new tools and technologies in more than 3,500 notebooks.

What’s the first step to narrow your goals? Set clear targets. Say them out loud. Write them down. Are they SMART — simple, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound?

G: Generate a plan

You’ve figured out where you want to be, but now you have to chart your route to get there. Standing between you and your goals is usually just one person — a boss, an HR manager, a professor, or maybe a competitor. Usually that person is in your network. What you need is a plan for engaging with that person in a way that will benefit you. But how do you do that?

It’s simple.

When Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh hires someone, he gives them two different types of interviews: one to test skills, the other to assess cultural “fit.” Hsieh’s approach is actually a version of what most managers do anyway without realizing it. According to Kellogg School of Management professor Lauren Rivera, managers tend to hire candidates they believe could become their friend. In other words, understanding people and their motivations is a crucial factor in your own success algorithm.

What’s the first step to generate a plan? if the person who can help make your goals reality is someone you already know — and it’s likely they are — then do your research. What traits, behaviors and interests do you share? What habits can you learn and adopt from them? Successful people know how to assimilate the environment they aspire to be in.

A: Anticipate roadblocks

You’ve identified where you want to go and how to get there. You’re ready to start. But no matter how much you plan, you will inevitably run into roadblocks.

These roadblocks can be people, circumstances, or our own limiting beliefs. They can also be the tasks you have to complete to achieve a goal. Whatever shape these obstacles may take, successful people learn to anticipate and navigate them by designing their own back-up plans. And feeling prepared can itself boost your productivity. According to psychologist Tim Judge, people who feel in control of their lives tend to achieve higher levels of work performance.

Vera Wang almost made the cut for the 1968 U.S. Olympic team as a figure-skater. It was a setback, for sure, but Wang turned to Plan B. She plunged into the fashion world and emerged an editor at Vogue, which eventually led her to start her iconic fashion design empire.

How do you start anticipating roadblocks? Break down your goals into steps. Want a promotion? Then you need to 1) complete an important project and 2) bring in new clients. Go over what can go wrong in the process: missed deadlines, only finding one new client, etc. Think: how will I prepare for this?

G: Gain persistence

Brothers Matt and Ross Duffer had written a script they believed in. But their TV show about the crossover between a parallel universe and small-town life in 1980s Indiana kept getting rejected — 15 to 20 times, in fact. Still, the Duffer brothers’ excitement outweighed the rejections. Eventually, Stranger Things got picked up by Netflix and went on to become one of the most popular new shows of 2016.

There’s no denying that chasing your dreams is hard work. And sometimes motivating yourself to keep going can be harder than starting the journey in the first place. So how do you avoid getting burned out? Psychologists who study cognitive flexibility argue that the answer has to do with being open to the unexpected — even if that’s just trying a new restaurant, meeting new people, or discovering a new hobby.

How do you gain persistence? When you feel like giving up, switch things up instead. Do something totally out of your wheelhouse — it doesn’t even have to align with your goal. Are you struggling to get recognized at work? Learn how to cook a new recipe, change the route you take on your commute, try a new sport, or simply spend your lunch break with someone you haven’t met before.

E: Elevate yourself

Douglas Conant always looked for opportunities to celebrate. The former CEO of Campbell Soup Company would scan his email and the company’s internal website, looking for ways to acknowledge the contributions of his employees. He even composed handwritten notes congratulating employees on their promotions. Later, when Conant was in a car accident, he was flooded with get well notes from hundreds of people.

Becoming a role model who inspires people does not require grand gestures. Instead, it means paying attention, saying thank you, and recognizing the work others have done. A thoughtful compliment can go a long way towards inspiring others and increasing your leadership skills.

How do you start elevating yourself? Start by acknowledging one person who helped you get where you are or who positively shaped your life. Showing respect inspires others and builds influence.

E.N.G.A.G.E. will help you find your own “successful thinking”. However, this blueprint will only work unless you do. Your dreams are out there waiting to be realized!

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