Navigating the Road To Success

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“The road to success is always under construction.” ~ Lily Tomlin

Not too long ago I was invited to give a talk to the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) at Boise State University. The group wanted me to speak about how I got started in my career in public relations, the ups and downs, what I’ve learned and how I got to where I am now, which is the owner of a PR company, a freelance writer and author. Like most people, my career hasn’t been pristine and perfect, so I decided to base my talk on the flops, fiascoes and failures and how these disappointments all played a role in where I am today.

“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”

As the old proverb says, “A diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure.”

Bumps in the road

My background includes dropping out of college, being rejected numerous times for positions I really wanted, working as a grunt, being overworked and underpaid, being stuck in jobs I detested, feeling utterly incompetent and being mercilessly fired. The last point was the best thing to happen to me because it forced me to put on my Big Girl Panties and start my own business.

Every one of these experiences, laid the foundation for my future, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

 I discovered that success could be more difficult than failure.

So, here are a few of the thoughts I shared with this wonderful group of students:

First, every opportunity leads to the next, even if it doesn’t look that way. Apple computer founder Steve Jobs called this “connecting the dots forward.” He described the twists and turns of his college and early work life and how it is impossible to connect the dots forward to see how it will all come together. It’s only when we look back that we can see how our experiences all brought us to where we are. We never know how our actions today will serve us in the future, so be open to trying new things, taking risks, working at jobs that maybe aren’t perfect but will expand our skills. We need to have faith that the dots will connect in the future.

Second, find something that has meaning to you. Don’t just chase money. One time I quit a job that I loved and was passionate about, because they wouldn’t give me a raise. I left it for a higher paying job that I hated so much I cried every morning for two years. I learned that chasing money is not a good life practice. As author Maya Angelou said, “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”

Third, find balance. Many years ago, I FINALLY was hired at my “dream job” after applying five times over a period of several years. I thought life would be great, but instead I discovered that success could be more difficult than failure. One of my problems was I didn’t feel completely sure I belonged among this elite group of PR professionals who worked there. Sometimes I felt like an imposter and at any moment the Fraud Police would catch up with me and tell me that they knew about my insecurities and deficiencies, and that I wasn’t worthy of working with the cream of the crop.

Have faith that you are exactly where you are supposed to be right now, even if it is not exactly where you want to be.

So, I worked ridiculously long hours to prove I was good enough. Every evening I worked until 9 o’clock. Then I would call  the security desk and ask a guard to escort me to my car parked two blocks away, in the dark, in the heart of downtown. One night the guard walking me to my car said, “What are you doing working this late every night? By now, everyone else has gone home, had dinner, spent time with their kids and family, and here you are just leaving. “You’re working your life away. Is it worth it?” She was right. I had forsaken any sense of balance in my life for a job. There’s an old saying, “No one on their deathbed ever said, ‘Gee, I wish I had spent more time at the office.” I had to learn that the hard way.

Fourth, try to see disappointment as opportunity I never expected to be fired from a job. Today, many people are unemployed and it is a hard situation. However, losing a job can also open up new opportunities. This is what I learned from my experience:

“No one on their deathbed ever said, ‘Gee, I wish I had spent more time at the office.” 

  • Some of the world’s most successful people have lost their jobs . It usually is the impetus that helps people find new energy, interests and goals.
  • When disappointment and loss happen, try not to see it as a failure. Instead, consider it a window that has been flung wide open after a door has shut.
  • Believe in yourself. Have faith that you are exactly where you are supposed to be right now, even if it is not exactly where you want to be.

Finally, as Joseph Campbell encouraged, “Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”

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