Throughout my career, I’ve met people who seem to think there is a formula for success. They are always buying the latest self-help books, CDs and DVDs. They have lists tacked on the wall of their cube or office that give them a step-by-step process for success.
A success rulebook?
Many of the self-help gurus tout things like “9 steps to sure-fire success” or “The roadmap to living the life of your dreams”, as if you can simply read the book and wait for utopia to set in.
I’m a list person myself. I live by my to-do list on a daily basis. And I’ve been known to read some of those self-help books. But rather than take the advice verbatim of someone that doesn’t know me or my goals, I prefer to let the advice of those gurus complement my existing plan. Every once in a while they come up with a technique or approach that’s a bit unique, but there isn’t much new out there. If you read enough of them, you’ll find that all of their advice begins to sound the same.
Their general advice goes something like:
- Determine what you love to do more than anything
- Do that for a living
My guess is that if everyone actually followed that advice to the letter, we would end up with an inordinate population of alcoholics or porn stars.
Looking for a formula
Some people are looking for a predefined recipe to get rich or be successful in some measure. If you polled the most successful people you know on what they attribute their success to, I’d be surprised if any of them said, “It was [insert guru’s name]’s book. It changed my life and resulted in my becoming CEO of this company.”
The people who gain the most success from those books are usually the authors themselves. They convince people to buy their books and products and reap big bucks from the folks who pay to attend their motivational seminars (which are really infomercials to buy more of their books and products).
“But Lew”, you might ask, “Aren’t you the author of a self-help book?”
Well, sort of. I place something of a distinction in the fact that Consulting 101 is a self-published book intended to provide tips to consultants just starting out to help them avoid making some of the same mistakes I made and witnessed. I don’t have supplementary products and I don’t do educational seminars to sell the book. I’m a consultant that works for a consulting firm and likes consulting. I’m keeping my day job.
The bottom line though, is that only you can define what success means for you and how you can get there. Not everyone wants to be a sales expert or the head of GM.
Whether it’s from books, your brother-in-law or your boss, getting advice from others is, well, advisable, but you should always ask:
- Does this advice apply to my goals?
- Is this advice self-serving for the advisor?
- What credibility does this person have that compels me to follow this advice?
Keep in mind that all advice is optional. You need to determine whether it applies to you and what you want to accomplish.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.