How to succeed in the life and career you want

This article was originally published by the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM).

Promising title, right? A successful life and career. Who doesn’t want that? I might as well ask: “Who wants to find one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets?” (Answer: me, obviously; Follow-up question: do you know where I should start looking? Because, seriously, that river of chocolate looks outrageous.)

I thought about jotting down some tips from my own experience on building a successful life and career, but let’s be honest, I haven’t done much yet. I mean, my 2 year old son says I’m the best light-sabre fighter in the galaxy, but that’s just because I told him so. Rather than give you my own ideas, I have decided to pass on some tips that I recently learned from a truly inspiring man: Andy Fell.

On 24 May 2018, the NEXT Young Professionals Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce held a networking event in Sydney. We were privileged to hear from Andy Fell, founder of Gift631 and #youthforgood. Before his current ventures, Andy led a distinguished 30 year career in the UK and Australian financial services sectors, culminating in his posting as St George Bank’s General Manager of Retail.

As a Cronulla Sharks devotee, I don’t enjoy hearing anyone from St George tell me about their success. Luckily, Andy worked for the bank, not the rugby league club, so I attended, expectant to hear what he had to say. I’m glad I did.

Anyone in the room could attest to the plates of wisdom nuggets that Andy served up from his 30+ years of successes. My task? To reproduce as much of that gold as possible in this short article. Wish me luck.

Andy Fell immigrated to Australia at the height of the GFC with his wife and three of his four children to take up a position at Westpac. It was at that time that he discovered that “anyone can lead a business when times are good; it is what you do in the tough times, the times of stagnation, that sets you apart.” Can anyone lead a business when times are good? I can’t help but feel that that might have been a bit of modesty on Andy’s part. Still, the principle rings true.

One key to Andy’s successes is his commitment to being a life-long learner. Anyone could see that. So, how can you reproduce that commitment in your own life?

Firstly, by learning from people. Whenever you see someone that (you feel) is better than you in an area, choose to learn from them. Identify the particular attribute that you admire about them, and copy it! Then add your own 10% winning edge.

Secondly, by learning from books, because leaders are readers. Your self-development is your responsibility, so make reading a daily habit. Now, there are dozens of books out there, maybe even more. To get you started, here are a few game-changers:

  • On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite A Radically Inspired Life by John O’Leary; and

  • The Morning Miracle: The 6 Habits That Will Transform Your Life Before 8AM by Hal Elrod.

Self-development can be uncomfortable. Getting into the habit can be annoying. That might explain why most people don’t bother. John C Maxwell brings some perspective to the issue: peddling uphill is harder than downhill; but everything good in life is uphill. If you want to get to the top of the hill, you’ve got to put in the work.

I’ll leave you with a few short lessons that I took from Andy’s session:

  1. How big are your aspirations and goals? If your ‘goals’ relate only to your to-do list, they are too small. Set big goals, and write them down.

  2. Make a daily appointment with Mozart and your journal. Unless Beethoven or Bach are more your style. Actually, I added in those extra names, so I can’t promise they will work … maybe stick to Mozart, as Andy suggested. Anyway, the point is this: you need some ‘calm’ time each day. It will bring perspective that simply doesn’t come when you are stuck in your to-do list. This non-technology time is also the best way to spark those ideas that rarely reveal themselves to a mind that is consumed by the next urgent (but not necessarily important) task.

  3. Practise self-affirmation. Your subconscious cannot tell the difference between perception and reality. Everywhere you turn you can find someone willing to tell you that you are not skilled enough, not experienced enough, or not right for the job. In a world so willing to highlight your inadequacies, you must provide your own affirmation.

  4. Follow the leader. Don’t chase dollars, don’t chase the title, find the most amazing leader in your organisation and follow that person. If your current organisation does not have an amazing leader, you might need to start looking broader.

  5. Regularly assess your life in light of the ‘Rocking Chair Test’: When you’re in a rocking chair on your porch as an 80 year old, will you look back on your current life and career with pride, or regret?

  6. Live your life with generosity and a servant’s heart. Approach every relationship and connection mindful of what you can bring, not what you can get. Gratefulness is one way to keep this front of mind. Consider this: “I complained that I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet”. Whether this quote belongs to Ghandi; or Helen Keller; or Tolstoy; or an Arabic Proverb; or an Irish or Jewish Proverb; or whether I just made it up; it is a nice way to bring you back to gratefulness.

In the fourth grade, I tried gold panning on a school camp in Bathurst. Despite being assured that there was gold in the dirt that I was given, I found none. This piece is a short reflection on an engaging and full presentation by an accomplished and inspiring individual. It summarises ideas and habits that have previously filled entire books. Hopefully I have done some justice to those ideas, and that the gold has not slipped through my fingers in the same way that literal gold did into that stream.

If you are a young professional with an interest in, or connection to the United States of America, we’d love to connect you with other like-minded, ambitious individuals. Visit our LinkedIn page so you don’t miss our next event.

Author: Ryan Murphy

Leading Partner: Darren Gardner