You have to course correct on a regular basis, or as the peak performance coach Tony Robbins says “2mm shifts”, to get to where you want to be.
The path to being successful in your career and life is never a straight line. Although money is important, it’s really the passion pulling you forward that will bring sustainability in your career and overall happiness.
For many of you who don’t know me personally, here is a bit of my story.
In the early 1990s, I went to a top engineering college in the Tri-State area. I didn’t know what I wanted to do during this time. All things considered, I was decent at a lot of things. However, I was not exceptional at any one. This is the reason I chose Chemical Engineering as my career path. I thought it was the highest paid field at that time. Regrettably, I chose it for the wrong reasons.
Fast forward 3 years later. I became a Junior Process Engineer at a chemical plant near the southern tip of New Jersey. On one of many lengthy drives to my full-time co-op assignment, I was driving my 1992 Honda Civic close to 80 miles an hour. Unfortunately, it skidded and hit the side of a bridge on a fast moving highway. As a result, my car caught fire and was completely totaled.
I walked away with just a minor case of whiplash thanks to the safety air bags. Afterward, a friendly police officer drove me back to my dormitory room. I laid in a fetal position for the next few hours both grateful to be alive and felt a sense of numbness. I had a gnawing feeling of a lack of purpose and knew something had to shift.
It’s Time to Course Correct
I realized that I would need to course correct in my career. It took that moment of dancing with death for me to realize that I didn’t want to die doing something that I wasn’t passionate about.
What I was beginning to be passionate about was technology. I had seen an early stage of the Internet which to me was so much more exciting. In each of my co-op jobs during college, it was those technical skills that stood out.
Create a Roadmap
I created a roadmap for the next two years using an Excel spreadsheet. I saw that by doubling on credits and taking summer classes, I could follow my new passion in technology and graduate with a degree in Computer Engineering in addition to Chemical Engineering.
What that life changing accident taught me is that we each have an internal GPS system. Just as a driver with a GPS system needs to make adjustments due to the hundreds of different variables in the way, we each need to continually course correct to arrive at our dreams. Success is never a straight line.
That which is measured, improves. That which is measured and reported, improves exponentially. – Pearson’s Law
Seven Careers in a Lifetime?
An average person makes 7 career changes over a lifetime. In my case, I already made 6 major career shifts over the past 20 years. This made me realize that it’s never too late to follow our passions. Sometimes, those passions change and that’s okay.
We often need to be reminded of our own greatness. As such, having the right peer support team makes a world of difference. I was able to course correct and did that career shift in college was because of my encouraging peer group.
It so happened that my dorm roommate was studying to be a computer engineer, as was my neighbor, and many of my close friends. It didn’t hurt that the dot.com boom was underway and many of us could predict that it would be big and exciting.
Your Peer Group and Environment is Stronger than Willpower
After I graduated from Engineering School, my two new roommates and some college friends became my new peer group. I would spend most of my weekends with them. One of my roommates, Victor, got incorporated and began to flourish in his 1099 technology consulting work. He mentored me and I followed suit, leaving my first full-time job to do the same.
Likewise, I mentored our other roommate. Several months later, he followed our footsteps and would eventually work at his dream job for Cisco Systems. He is still there to this day.
As my peer group evolved over the years, I found my career choices shifted as well. Often, I needed to course correct based on failures. I prefer to call them breakdowns. What I’ve learned is that behind every breakdown, there is a breakthrough or opportunity if you’re ready to see it.
After 9/11, I realized that I no longer wanted to work in a cubicle. I wanted to use the skills that I had learned to build communities and make a difference in the world. That lead me to start a nonprofit called Metrofly. For the two years that we ran it, its mission was to adopt a different charity organization each month and throw a party with a purpose. I learned the skill of marketing through running that nonprofit. I still use those skills today.
Over the years, I got better at reframing challenges and see what’s possible on the other side. In fact, this is one of the core daily coaching questions used in Success Circles, a peer-to-peer support and accountability community that I started more than 10 years ago. It has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs and job seekers around the world reach their dreams.
10 Lessons I’ve Learned
I have learned 10 lessons over the years that may help you on your journey:
- It’s helpful to have a goal and a roadmap of where we want to be. At the same time, we need to be flexible on our journey to get there. We naturally steer toward what we focus on. The road itself will have different obstacles and curves but it’s up to us to keep our eye on the prize we are after. Plot your roadmap in a way that you can review it often. You can download one for free at http://SuccessCircles.com.
- The dashes on the highway of our life connect. With each step on our career path, there will be some skills that allow us to course correct and shift into a future career. When you show up to work, be your very best no matter what. Some of the best skills I have developed came from my earliest high school jobs i.e. catering, volunteering, and customer relations.
- We learn from every breakdown. As such, failure doesn’t exist unless we believe it does. Behind every breakdown, we can find an opportunity if we’re willing to see it. You simply keep asking the question, “What have I learned from this challenge and what new opportunities have now shown up?” Let’s take personal responsibility for our breakdowns. The moment we own the journey, the fog in front of us will begin to clear.
- Develop the mindset of perpetual pursuit. Imagine that each spoke of the bicycle wheel in the picture above represents an area of life i.e. Career, Money, Leisure/Fun, Family, Health, and Personal Growth. If any one of these spokes is out of whack, it can affect other areas. It’s likely that the bike won’t go too far. Therefore, it’s important that you lead a balanced life.
- Personal reflection is a great thing. However, it doesn’t spend too much time looking at the rear-view mirror. Journal your growth and victories on a daily basis. Remember that each big victory becomes a reference point. And, you can do it again. These cumulative wins will give you a new found confidence that you can do anything.
- Track and measure your progress. If something is repeatedly not working, course correct. Remember Pearson’s law.
- Gamify your approach and make it fun. Every game has rules of success. And, it begins with a huddle to strategize the plays, a scoreboard to keep track of results, and a team of people playing with you. For over 10 years, I began almost ever single workday with a 20-30 minute huddle call with a member from Success Circles.
- Your GPS system will best be realigned with the support of the right peer group. Generally, it can be an amazing reminder system because people are supporting you and cheering you on. Consequently, you may attain paradigm shifts toward your goals and dreams. What is needed is you receive feedback or another unique perspective on a problem. You are the average of the 5 closest people around you. It takes having the right mentor and team to propel you forward to your dreams. It takes accountability.
- Be courageous and practice the art of asking for support because people want to help you. Usually, you never have to go at it alone.
- Once you learn a skill or a trade, pay it forward. Above all, mentor another person. Humility is the pathway to abundance. Furthermore, remember to never give up and always move forward.
There are a number of support networks available. If you are willing, search your local area or think virtually. Are you interested in joining a support community for the next 90 days? Consider my accelerator community at Momentum.Team.
Joseph Varghese aka “The Breakthrough Engineer” is a Growth & Profit Strategist and a Co-Leader of the New York Power Team. It’s New York’s largest monthly personal development and leadership community. He empowers others to stay focused, driven, and living their highest potential. For over 12 years, he is immersed in the science of peak performance, productivity, and gamification. As a result, Joseph is a thought leader in the area of peer accountability.
Since 2005, Joseph has been facilitating the Success Circles momentum programs which are a Peer-to-Peer Momentum Partnership and Accelerator Community. These programs are the ultimate blend of productivity and relationships, delivering the highest impact. Each member is a success story.