How to build the foundation for a successful career

One of the most famous doctors in American history found his calling by looking within and understanding his purpose. He was born in Huddersfield, England — the son of Indian immigrants — and moved to the United States when he was three-years-old. He was raised observing the caring, nurturing ways of his parents, who were both medical professionals.

He admired so greatly what they did to help other people, he knew inside that was precisely what he wanted to do. He attended Harvard University for his undergraduate degree and went on to earn his MD and MBA from Yale University. He later went on to found and run several nonprofit organizations, and continued serving patients.

Dr. Vivek Murthy’s passion was always about helping other people. Once he became the Surgeon General of the United States, he became the nation’s top doctor and started to champion emotional well being. His desire to help was always at the center of what he did. It was his purpose. This purpose is the biggest key to building a successful career.

We all have the power to find and use this to our advantage.

We all have different obligations and we’re all blessed with different talents. We all mature and grow in our unique way. What works for Elon Musk, Vivek Murthy or Sara Blakely might not work for you and me.

The following guidance is meant for you to build the career you’ve always wanted. I think you’ll find there is room in your life to do this work. It’s a matter of being strategic and committed to doing so.

Define Success for Every Goal You Aim to Achieve

My business career has taught me that any new goal or project should clearly define precisely what success will equal. We all define success for ourselves differently. The key to writing a book, landing a new job or completing a home renovation, is to define success specifically for that venture. Everything begins with that definition of success.

In The 4 Disciplines of Execution, the authors list their fourth discipline as, “Create a Cadence of Accountability.” This involves regularly self-checking your progress in an effort to, “share stories, check the scoreboard, celebrate successes, and talk about lapses and what to do about them.” This increases your productivity and keeps you engaged and aware of what’s going on.

Sometimes, we get obsessed when we think about our moment of victory — the end goal — that we lose the concentration and energy we need to diligently concern ourselves with the fundamentals of execution. Make sure you always understand what success looks like, so you can excel in any endeavor.

Be Yourself in All Creative and Imaginative Ways

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde

The secret to unlocking our potential is to use our creative imagination to dream big dreams and set goals that are uniquely crafted for our lives. Some people spend their whole lives trying to be someone else when all they need to do is think deeper about what matters most to them. Once you have that part figured out, it’s easy to line up what you want with who you truly are.

As St. Catherine of Siena once said, “Be who you are called to be and you will set the world ablaze!” You need a sound structure, a rock-solid foundation of core values and a believing mindset. When you have room to create, you are able to operate with less stress and pressure. This clears your mind to put forth your best effort.

Concentrate on Professional AND Personal Development

The great President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Amen. It’s of paramount importance that we focus not just on our professional development — how we improve job skills and emotional intelligence — but also our productivity and how we make those around us more successful.

You can always grow in emotional intelligence. Make empathy, focused listening and a teamwork mentality a greater part of your personal growth repertoire. In order to learn, it helps when we immerse ourselves in observing success and helping others to be their best. It helps to work with a coach that can bring these strengths out of you and into your performance.

Psychologist Fredrick Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory sets the table for what matters most to happy professionals. Things like recognition, achievement and advancement matter dearly. But not just professionally, personally as well. People want to know that their team members and managers care. Otherwise, it seems like we’re dealing with robots. And that sucks.

The development of trust and confidence, on both a professional and personal level, has mattered more to me than any other trait. I know many others who would, deep-down, say the same thing. These factors drive our emotional intelligence, motivations, and aspirations. They fuel both our personal and professional development.

To recap:

  • Always define success for what you plan to do in your career.
  • Be creative and imaginative. Bring ideas to the fore.
  • Always invest in your personal and professional development.

This article first appeared on Medium. Join my newsletter for emotional intelligence and productivity content! Check out my Amazon bestseller, The Value of You, which has helped tens of thousands of people develop the game plan for living their best life!