Over the course of my life, I’ve built several careers: I’ve been an accountant, I’ve started my own law firm, I’ve created a commercial real estate business, and, most recently, I’ve embarked on a career as a writer.
Throughout all this, I’ve found that success doesn’t come by accident. Sure, sometimes exciting and unexpected things happen to us, but most of all, we make things happen. Ultimately, success comes from learning and developing certain qualities — seeds that grow into a fulfilling life and career.
I’ve observed some of these particular characteristics (or lack thereof) in myself, and also in others — those who’ve worked for me and those I’ve collaborated with over the years. And I’ve always tried to take note of which qualities serve me, and which ones don’t, on the pathway to success.
But one thing I like to keep in mind is that success isn't just about external factors. Part of being truly successful, in all facets of life, involves balance. Below are what I consider to be five of the most important choices we can all make to optimize both our success, and our sense of balance, in our lives.
1. Always aim to be consistent, in relationships and at work.
As a manager, coworker, husband, and friend, I always strive to be consistent. It is also one of the qualities that I value most in those around me. I want to be able to count on the people in my life, and in my business, and not have to worry whether they will show up and follow through on their word.
Consistency is also a huge factor in building trust. Having a mutual sense of trust in your relationships helps both parties manage expectations, and thrive independently. In the work environment, I'd argue that consistency is even more important than talent. It is the solid bedrock on which all good companies, teams, and organizations are built. Though this also goes for families. If your bedrock is solid, you can create something incredible on top.
2. Cultivate your creativity (even if you don't think you're creative).
We all have creative capacities, even if we’re not traditionally “creative people.” In fact, our ability to innovate and find creative solutions to challenges is what makes us human. Being adaptive is part of evolution after all!
This choice is especially crucial for those who underestimate their creativity, but really goes for everyone. I suggest you dig a little deeper to find ways you can foster your creativity, and use it in your life and career. Brainstorm. Bring new vision to recurring problems. Dare to think differently about challenges that have become routine.
Experiment, tinker, and envision. Try an activity you've never tried and see if it resonates with you. Your willingness to experiment and explore will help you have fun and de-stress, but will also serve to make you feel more comfortable thinking on your toes, an obvious ingredient for success.
3. Make an occasional gesture to be selfless.
In today’s highly competitive working world, it’s easy to believe that the best way to get ahead in your career is to look out for #1. But, much of the time, the opposite is true. The top point guards in basketball are those who best assist their teammates and make everyone around them better players.
Plus, when we fixate on a rigid notion of "success" or "being the best," we lose touch with our many facets, and often fall prey to extreme behaviors. And as I said, success is all about making room for balance, too. When it comes to the context of work, I’ve always felt that the best employees are those who lift everyone else up with their attitude, effort, and unselfishness.
4. But don't forget to be selfish sometimes.
I know it may seem as if I’m contradicting myself, but I'm not. While selflessness is an essential choice to make for success, so is making the commitment to sometimes being selfish when appropriate. Nothing in your life will feel successful if you don't know how and when to stand up for and take care of yourself.
Otherwise, we may find ourselves too discouraged or depleted to be a worthwhile contributor to our families, communities, or workplaces. None of us can help anyone else if we aren’t personally happy, healthy, and fulfilled.
5. Get in touch with the power of wonder.
In order to be at our best, we all need to find ways to remain inspired. I’ve made a habit of taking time out of everyday to amaze myself. It isn’t necessary to go to Cirque de Soleil or take a ride on a spaceship. When you think about it, life itself, in all its complexity, holds so many reasons to be amazed. I think about the stars, the wonders of nature, the way my wife says “good morning.” I’m amazed at my 100-year-old father’s seemingly boundless energy. I am constantly reminded how amazing my life is, and how amazing all life itself really is.
Success and balance both rely on paying attention. When we pay attention, we can make choices that nurture our achievements, but also ourselves.