Why should you look into your past at the painful failures when it is your accomplishments that count?
Instead we begin by looking into your past to become better acquainted with that unique, successful person who is yourself. This is by no means an easy task. If you are like most, you have been acting parts for so long, and adapting yourself to roles provided by changing circumstances that sometimes the roles become more real in your mind than your actual self.
As Hitler’s propaganda chief, Paul Goebbels, proved, a lie repeated often enough takes on the appearance of truth, and when that distortion takes place, conflict results. Not that you were lying when you adapted yourself to changing roles any more than the chameleon is lying when he changes color from place to place, but he may have some conflict in deciding what color he really is.
What we are looking for in your past are your achievements. That should be a pleasure, but immediately we encounter our old bugaboo, tradition. I know I have dwelt over-long on tradition, but you have no idea how much too long tradition has dwelt in you.
A few phrases, no matter how often I repeat them, do not easily overcome belief so firmly panted by the centuries that they are akin to instinct. You may want to look for your achievements, but as I warned earlier, your first reaction is to shy away from anything that might make you look “conceited,” or “too big for your britches.” Forget it.
Successful companies spend millions of dollars a year in advertising to proclaim the merits of their products, and what is good for companies is good for individuals when the claims are based on merit.
So let us get organized, and obvious suggestion leading to more complications. A few years back I visited a friend who had become the chief adviser and organizer for as multi million-dollar company. On my previous visit I found him with a desk so neatly stacked with papers that the neatness itself was awesome. ‘I’ve got everything organized in order of importance,” he had assured me. “In one second I can’t find any paper I need.”
This time, not to my complete astonishment, I found him with a clear desk, while in his hand he held one manila folder. “You were right,” he admitted wryly. “Those neat piles I was so proud of were distracting.
As long as they were there, they reminded me of what I had to do, and I could not concentrate on the one job that was urgent. So I cleared everything off the desk except the job I was working on, and I’ve been able to concentrate like fury ever since.”
He had discovered one of the basic laws of work: The more you have to do, the more important it becomes that you concentrate on one job at the time. Work organized for successful accomplishment is work organized to direct full attention upon the job in hand, with no dissipation of energy on nagging distractions. Yet it is not quite easy.
Before my friend could select the one job for his immediate attention, he had to concentrate first on some job planning. He has to familiarize himself with the values of all the papers before he could determine the order in which they were to be tackled one by one.
Steeped in company policy as he was, the job-planning offered no great difficulty. On the other hand, how do we concentrate on the overall job-planning of a career when we don’t know what course the career might take?
The traditional “rules for success” have no answer for that question. They could have you “set a goal,” and “work hard” until you get there. He logic seems sound, and many determined men have achieved “success” that way, but just as often the results can be tragic.
That distant goal at the age of 20 can turn out to be a dead end at 40, especially if the goal was one selected as the result of well-meant advise from parents, friends, teachers or employers. And then, tradition would have you believe, it is too late to start over.
By this time, you should have remembered many of your achievements. If not, take the time to write down ten for a start. These might be relatively unimportant experiences to anyone but you yourself.
Like gold ore, your achievements have to be “panned” to separate la borrasca from the gold. When you have the golden information, when you know your best self and your best capabilities, you will come to know the goals you want to reach. As each goal is gained, the habit of success becomes more deeply entrenched, and constantly and bigger and more goals become attainable.
Now to uncover your achievements. Of course, I have asked you to make a list of at least ten, but if you have already done so you are an exception. If you are like most of us, you haven’t been able to locate many , if any significant achievement, mainly because they have been blanketed under layers of modesty. Or perhaps, like many others you have procrastinated in listing your achievements. Only you hold the key to your success, and only in your achievements is it to be found. So start writing, preferable in a new notebook that will in itself signify a fresh start toward success. Start with the first achievement that comes to mind—something you enjoyed doing and did well, which made you feel good when it was done. But it must be written down. Do not concern yourself with listing your achievements in chronological order, or in order of importance , or, least of all, with what others may have thought of them. Though we are all different, we all share many of the same talents, as the conformists are happy to point out, neglecting, however, to mention that no two individuals are equally strong in all the same talents, nor do they have the same opinion of them. And it is in these differences of strength and opinions that one individual differ from another. Sometimes we can see talent in some people showing up so strongly that we refer to them as born salesmen, or born actors, or born artists, and then we look at ourselves where these talents are conspicuous by their absence, and wonder if we were born with anything. For the most part, when we think of people born whose talents were clearly evident quite early in life, I know a born sales manager who, at the age of nine, had four boys working for him on his paper route. General James Gavin had read all the military books in his local library before he was twelve, and Stanley Hiller of helicopter fame was caught speeding at the age of nine—in a scooter he powered with his mother’s washing machine motor.
But what about those whose talents are not so conspicuous? Or those it was customary to say that their talents “showed up late in life,” or that they “came as a surprise.” Not so. Their talents were just as surely present early in life as those of their more conspicuous friends. What was lacking until recently was a means of recognizing them at all ages. Now we can not only recognize them, but we can apply them to fields of opportunity that didn’t even exist when these talents were first demonstrated. I am reminded here of a four-year old boy who plagued his uncle with questions like, “Why does a nail stick to a magnet?” and “Why does a compass point to the north?” and “What is magnetism anyway?”. In 1883 these questions indicated only that the boy was a nuisance, but at the age of 43 Albert Einstein won the Nobel prize for his development of the theory of relativity.
The age at which your achievements occurred is not important. However, in selecting your achievements—you vein of gold—be sure to include experiences that brought you personal satisfaction as well as accomplishment. That others might not have recognize them as achievements is of no consequence to you. For one achievement, such as winning a spelling bee, you might have received praise and a pat on the head. For another such as collecting a dozen different eggs of song birds, you might have been soundly punished. But no matter what your friends, parents, and neighbors might have to say about those incidents, the only thing that counts is your own opinion.
To be continued…
*Orlando Huaman is a job counselor and a freelance writer. Malololelei.