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How to Start Your Six-Figure Journey!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. –Lao Tzu, Chinese Philospher

So it seems everyone would like to make a six-figure salary. My previous blog post on my six-figure journey got the most views ever, which made me think a lot more about this, sometimes mythical seeming, achievement.

First of all, it’s not mythical. It is possible–and more importantly, it is possible for a lot more people than you would imagine. Including you! That said, I will spend the next few months talking about this journey and giving you tips and ideas for how to do it based on what I’ve learned and am still learning about how to move higher on the career ladder.

The Road to Brainstorms

I also want to hear from you about your biggest career and job search challenges, your fears and concerns about career transitioning. I’ll also write about how to make the case for the value you deliver to your employer and the company you work for in order to get more money. I’ll write about those challenges so others can benefit from my experience, and yours too.

Let’s tackle these challenges together and get you started on your six-figure journey today.

A word of caution: This journey is not a easy one, nor one for the faint of heart. As I mentioned before, I gave up a lot to achieve a crash-course in career development and figure out a strategy for making it happen. It takes effort, a lot of brainstorming, reading, observation, confidence–and a lot of willpower and perseverance. But if a 32-year-old slacker can do it, imagine how much easier it will be for you.

If you are starting this journey in your 20s, you’ll be way ahead of me–and if you are starting later, then I am living proof for you that it’s never too late.

I started my journey because I wanted to make a lot more money, but that should not be your sole reason. So as your first exercise you should jot down 5 things that will motivate you to start this journey and stay on it. Money can be one of those five things. And because it’s important to recognize and plan for obstacles and risks, jot down 5 things that could potentially derail you from the journey or make it difficult for you at times to want to continue. When you know the challenges ahead of time, you can plan for them and manage them better when they arise.

Reading books is important on this journey, or at least listening to valuable audio books. Right now I have a goal to read a book a month. I thought that was impressive, then a good friend told me he is reading ten a month! Try for 6 books this year. I will recommend some here.

One of the books I still love and read early on this journey was, Selling the Invisible. It’s a great, easy read. When you can sell something intangible, than think of how easy it is to sell something tangible. The book contains short case studies, about a page, with a lesson learned at the end, which you can quickly apply in your job. The book is tiny, so the pages are tiny too. I say that because I know a lot of people don’t like to read much. Hence, this is the perfect book to start you off.

If you are a more serious reader, start with The First 90 Days. It takes the most valuable learning garnered from supporting and consulting on CEO job transitions or from transitioning people into the role of CEO and helps you to apply it at any level. No matter what job role you’re in today, you will learn something valuable from this book.

Leave comments telling me about your Six-Figure Journey, challenges or dream, or email me at: my6figurejourney@gmail.com.

Here’s to your success! You can start with just a single step…

Six Figures in Seven Years: From Slacker to Guru

Every job you have, no matter how crappy, can teach you something, about business, leadership, or about yourself. If you let it.

Career path.

Create your own career path!

We all have a career dream. Or had one at some time. Though that dream, if not forgotten or discarded, rarely comes to fruition in the way we envision. Sometimes it doesn’t come to life at all–because life happens, and we often let it derail us.

In the words of Scott M. Peck, from his book The Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult.” It’s true. It is. Sometimes it downright sucks. One of my college psychology professors used to say, “Life is a sh*t sandwich and sometimes you have to take a bite.” Peck also said, that “once we see the truth, we can transcend it.” I believe this to be true from personal experience–because if you expect that there will be disappointment and crap along the road to success, and there is, then you can plan for it and manage it accordingly, without letting it frazzle you and disillusion you right off your path.

That is easier said than done, but it is possible. I know. I did it. And though others looking from the outside in say, “I made it look easy,” it wasn’t.

I think back now to when I was finally getting ready to graduate from college. I was an older-than-average student, because I’d been in and out of school for 10 years, but that’s another story for another post–and a good one too. I remember how excited I was to go out into the world and get a real job and start making some REAL money. My dream was small then, I just wanted to earn $25K a year. That was my meager goal. And it was still the 90s. I used to think, that if I made just that much, my life would be much better. Anything would be better than the salary of a student. Back then I never even considered that someone who wanted to be a writer had the right to dream of six figures.

I was wrong.

Upon graduating and getting my first job, at about $19K, I quickly realized that even at $25K, I’d still have to wait tables on the weekends in order to have extra cash with which to enjoy life. I’d forgotten to factor that into my salary plan. Needless-to-say, the harsh reality of my new professional life, to put it bluntly, sucked!

After about 6 months of that, I already knew that kind of meager life was not for me. Professional life was not at all what I expected it to be. Not the “big time” I’d dreamed of. I needed to make things happen much faster. I wanted to be promoted faster, and get raises faster and started blazing a trail to a big salary as quickly as possible. I dreamed about this all the time. And thought about it all the time too: What are all the ways that I can bring this dream to reality? I brainstormed like crazy, just like I had when I was a kid. And it helped.

I looked at people like Oprah, who had a much harder life growing up than I did, and others who succeeded against way bigger odds, and thought, “if they can do it, this should be a lot easier for me!” And while in comparison it was easier, it didn’t feel like it. That’s where the importance of leadership comes in. I learned that sometimes leading yourself is the toughest job you’ll ever face–along with keeping yourself motivated.

So how do you do it? You stay focused on your goal. And you must be fully committed. And I mean “fully.” No matter what happens, no matter what you give up or miss out on, or how lonely you get, you cannot give up on that dream of success, because it’s there waiting for you to reach out and grab it It’s there for all of us. While all my other friends turned away from what seemed like a tough path, I stayed the course, and eventually started believing that I too could earn six figures. Why not? Why not me too? And why not you?

People often ask me if there were times when I wanted to give up. There were many times when I wanted to give up on the dream, because it seemed so distant and remote–and, well, “dreamlike.” Foreign. Ethereal. So I learned not to focus on the destination, but instead set smaller, achievable goals and milestones that gave me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, sometimes in huge ways. Those smaller accomplishments motivated me even more to get to the next point. And the next.

There were disappointments on the journey too though. It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. I got passed up for promotions when I knew I deserved them above others. My input and advice were often disregarded because I didn’t have an MBA. The raises I received were often insulting. And there were many other reasons that could have derailed me from my path to success, but I didn’t let them. I stayed strong, because I knew that all that stuff was just hiccups on a path to much greater things. Many of those people along the way would be at those same companies and same jobs for most of the rest of their lives, so the promotions meant much more to them than to me.

I saw my jobs as stepping stones that taught me valuable lessons enabling me to climb higher and faster, so while I wasn’t getting everything I wanted from it, I was still getting something of value. I basically learned to see those obstacles, as challenges that taught me how to solve problems and become more strategic at getting what I wanted in the workplace.

I knew it was going to take some time to achieve my goal of six figures, but I was willing to keep blazing that trail against those odds, because as I accomplished more, I also learned how to make things happen even faster, and convince people to hire me due to the value I brought, ultimately shortening my journey from $19K to six figures from 10 years to only seven! Something most people don’t accomplish in a lifetime. And it’s only gotten better from there.

I think we all have the power to achieve our dreams, but we give up too easily and listen to the voices of naysayers–people who want success to come easy, so when it doesn’t, they settle for much, much less. We lose sight of our vision, our dreams, and discount our brainstorms and our instinct.

I’d have to say that what kept me going more than anything was listening to my inner voice, because throughout the years, I kept hearing something inside me telling me that I could do it, that I could have a better life, get smarter, and better at recognizing and solving problems. That inner voice kept me going, especially during the tough times when all I wanted to do was go have fun with my friends, but instead stayed in on the weekends to read business books and do homework for my night classes.

It was worth it, because I was creating the life I wanted–the life I dreamed of as a kid. And again, I have to say that the book, From Good to Great was a tremendous source of inspiration for me at the time. It got me through the difficult times. I refer to that book a lot in my work because it affirmed my way of thinking and launched a major turning point for me. Guy Kawasaki’s book, Rules for Revolutionaries, basically served as my bible, because I saw myself as a revolutionary of sorts: I was trying to change what people saw as “the impossible.” His book still holds up today, because the lessons are timeless and just as valuable.

 career-development, #strategy

There’s a strategy for attaining six figures! What’s yours?

I never did get an MBA, though I started to twice, but always got so busy I could never continue. I ended up getting my MBA from books and actual work experience alongside other MBAs. After a couple of years, I often competed against MBAs for the same jobs–and I often won. And I don’t say that to brag, but to note the value of learning on your own from books-and from other people. I was lucky to have worked around a lot of every smart people who were willing to take me under their wings and teach me, so don’t discount the value of relationship building.

I like to joke that I got my MBA in a Box, and it still did the trick. Best of all, it only cost pennies in relation to a student loan for grad school. It’s all in what you do with the knowledge you have. An MBA can only open doors for you, the rest is still left up to you. If you cannot convey the value you can deliver to a company, an MBA still won’t get you the job. Not anymore.

You have to take that first step toward your dream, whatever it may be. And surround yourself with people who believe in you and challenge you to be your best. Stay away from negative people who have no vision. When I told people I was aiming for six figures in ten years, they all laughed at me. And said, “That’ll never happen. Today they ask for my advice on how to earn more, negotiate better and how to career transition, so I don’t hold it against them. They used to tell me I “was dreaming.” They were right. I was dreaming, all the time–about my future and how to make it come true.

Dreaming is a requirement! It’s your brain showing you what’s possible. It’s what moves us forward.

My favorite Buddhist quotation says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And I know from my experience that it’s never too late to get started. I didn’t start my journey, or even realize what that journey was for me, until I was in my early 30s. It’s never too late to start.

My dreams continue to be big, bigger every day actually. For me, the sky is the limit as far as success and accomplishment go. That’s how I see the world: Endless possibilities! And if I ever get disillusioned or think a dream is too big, or too far away, I just think of someone like Oprah and what she’s done, and still doing, and I quickly remember that my dreams are possible too. Yours are too.

Here’s to making your dreams a reality!

Read more. Learn more. Earn more!

g_ROD

 

 

Dear College Graduates

grodland: brainstorms that mean business™

They say it’s lonely at the top, but where exactly is the top? Do we ever reach it?

Here is why I ask that question: One of my many nephews is going off to college, finally. I use the word “finally” only to make a point. He’s 21. Although, I wholeheartedly believe 21 is a very good age to begin college, and 25 even better–18 is still too young an age to be granted such freedom, and expected to stay focused at the same time.

I also refer to this with “finally” because at that age when someone decides to put off college, or anything, you never know how long that pause will last. I understand that better than most because I took several pauses in the course of my college career, that after the third one I think everyone pretty much wrote me off. A friend of mine’s…

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Thanks to all those who follow my blog!

It rule appreciate that you follow my blog–and honored that you read my writing, especially when there’s a deep blue sea of blogs out there. For that I am truly grateful. I am always open to your ideas, suggestions for topics and willing to answer your questions.

#Brainstorming brings #success

Brainstorm your way to Success!

I hope you guys have a great week. If you are looking for a job, I wish you the best on your job search. Remember to customize your resume to each job–almost as if you drafted the resume especially for that potential role. And don’t be afraid to use their own words on your resume. It’s what they’re looking for so if you have the skills and experience, just copy and paste. No need to reinvent the wheel.

Here’s to a year of success and inner peace!

Onward!

g-ROD

Succeeding in an Age of Uncertainty or How to Keep Your Job!

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill

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Uncertain job market

We live in uncertain and unpredictable times. We always have. It’s actually the norm, although we only notice it during really tough economic times because people talk about it more. That’s the good news. The bad news is that going forward, we we’ll be talking about this, and living an Age of Uncertainty all the time. It’s almost guaranteed.

Have you noticed that companies undergo huge transformations almost every other year now–even where you work? Though some are more transparent than others. In the old days–which ended for the most part, at the end of the Bush Era–big corporations only did lay offs, made big changes in technology, business process or organizational structure about every 10 to 12 years. That meant that even if you were a low-performing employee, your job was safe for at least 10 years.

American business is now global

The global economy matters

Now that we’ve seen how the global economy can impact us here, it matters more than ever, so corporations are forced to make big changes almost every year. Succeeding in the global marketplace, is no different than you trying to succeed in your job market, it’s much like playing a game of chess. Some big global player makes a strategic, or stupid, move and the other players have to make their moves in turn. It’s one of the ways of staying competitive within your industry. You have to stay ahead or at least keep up with your opponents. That’s why companies also make strategic changes internally–to keep employees motivated and high performing. So what does that mean for us?

It means we, as employees, must have our own yearly strategy for staying competitive, efficient and for becoming a “learning individual,” much like a “learning organization.” Be smart. Keep learning. Think ahead. Look ahead. Plan ahead. When you can see what’s coming next, you can prepare for it and be ready. Best of all, you can survive big transformations. Not everyone does that. Not everyone wants to–some people don’t want to work that hard–so that leaves a lot of opportunity for those who do!

Because I spent my younger years, not planning for the future, or even considering the future, I now live on the opposite end of that spectrum: Constantly thinking of the next BIG thing, the next BIG move or trend or cycle–at least with regard to my career and business. I’m not saying you have to be obsessive, but you do have to be extremely dedicated to navigate and succeed in the current rapidly changing marketplace.

So how do you do that? There are two major schools of thought, at least from my perspective. One, change the way you think, or two, grow your skill set. When companies downsize, the people with the broadest skill sets tend to be the last ones standing. They are the worker bees.

Brainstorming is a journey

Critical Thinker or Worker Bee?

On the other hand, those with the right mindset–that of a critical thinker and problem solver–almost always have the right skill set by default. It’s just a part of their nature to do so. They are the strategists and analysts, but also those who are willing to do what’s needed to survive. And succeed. Which one are you? James Reed and Dr Paul G. Stoltz explore the theory that employers prefer people with the right mindset and what that mindset entails in their thought-provoking book, Putting Your Mindset to Work.

Developing the right habits, along with “a certain way of thinking” also are major themes in Mark Hopkins’ Shortcut to Prosperity, another book I found extremely inspiring and valuable. If you only read one book the rest of your life, his book should be it.

In the early part of your career, you’re expected to be a “doer,” but at some point you should work to be seen as a problem solver. But you have to become one first. No one tells you when that time should be though, you have to figure that out for yourself and begin presenting yourself that way, otherwise people continue to see you as a tactical “doer,” forever a worker bee.

I’ll explore both schools of thought more in my next post. In the meantime, I wish you the best in your job search or in advancing your career. There are a lot of formulas for success out there. You just have to find the one works for you.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu  

–g_ROD

Beyond New Year’s Resolutions

For years, as many others do, I made a New Year’s Resolution. Giving up something, vowing to do more of something or starting to exercise more or eat a

Year of #Success

What’s your #resolution?

better diet. It took me until a few years ago to realize that doing that was for the most part pointless, for several reasons: 1) The resolution was too broad, not quantifiable or measurable; 2) I didn’t create a roadmap or plan for achieving my goal; 3) I didn’t check in to see how I was doing; 4) I didn’t learn from my failure for the next year.

Though my list has evolved and improved since the very first one–and become longer too. I’m ambitious by nature. My list generally includes three
categories: Career, Personal and Spiritual, but you should format your list in whatever way is meaningful to you and include anything and everything you’d like to target accomplishing. The key thing here is to know that this list is just for you, not to compare yourself to others, but to track the improvements you wish for yourself. Below are examples of types of goals I’ve included in the past:

Career: Increase salary/earnings by 10% by end of the year; Get certified in Lean SixSigma in Q1, 2014; Read one business book per quarter.
Personal: Exercise 3-4 times a week for at least one hour: Save 20% more per check this year; Go to bed 30 minutes earlier 3-4 times a week.
Spiritual: Meditate 4 times a week for 10 minutes; Go to church 2 times per month.

While targeting going to bed may seem like such a simple thing to achieve, we often don’t do it for any number of reasons, so it helps to put it on the list. In addition, some small, simple steps such as getting a few more minutes of sleep every night can make a huge improvement to your ability to think, process information and even your mood and productivity. Figuring out what those small steps are for you can have a huge positive impact on your life, career and health.

Two things you may consider doing with your list: Once you’ve drafted it, put it away and don’t look at it for a couple of months. Then track to see what you’ve

The Year of #Success

What’s your #Strategy for #Success?

done since you started, celebrate your wins and mentally note where you need more work, then don’t look at it again until the end of each quarter. Follow that same process for tracking and planning throughout the year. At the end of the year, take all the goals you didn’t accomplish and transfer them to the top of next year’s list, as your priorities, and add a few new ones to challenge yourself even more.

If you don’t reach all your goals, don’t sweat it. Remember it’s a process, not something that makes you instantly perfect. Just making the list and tracking it is an achievement in itself because it’s the first step in changing the way you think about goals, problem solving and keeping yourself accountable. Every little step and accomplishment has merit because regardless how minute, they are a valuable piece of the puzzle that can ultimately improve your life.

This year I didn’t accomplish as many goals as last year, and at first I was very disappointed, then I realized I’d learned some truly great things in spite. In leading a team for the first time, I learned valuable lessons about what it takes to be a leader, not just manager or supervisor. It takes a lot more than just expertise. It takes wisdom, vision and the ability to see the big picture as well as seeing the importance of the details and knowing how to lead from someplace in between so that everyone on the team is valued and included.

I also learned the value of recognizing the different ways that others approach work and what they need to succeed. Because we all have a different take on achieving our goals and a process for getting us there. I have to admit that sometimes I’m blinded by the compulsion to achieve my goals that I forget to consider how that process may impact others. It was nice to have someone on my team who could point that out to me and help me step back and be more objective–and considerate. Those lessons far outweigh having accomplished my entire list of goals.

This year was a banner year for learning and growing, not just as a leader, as a person. For that I am very grateful.

I hope this helps you to begin achieving the things you’ve been wanting to and to develop a process that works to truly improve your life, and your work.

Here’s to a year of success–however you choose to define it.

Onward!
Gregg

Dear College Graduates

They say it’s lonely at the top, but where exactly is the top? Do we ever reach it?

Here is why I ask that question: One of my many nephews is going off to college, finally. I use the word “finally” only to make a point. He’s 21. Although, I wholeheartedly believe 21 is a very good age to begin college, and 25 even better–18 is still too young an age to be granted such freedom, and expected to stay focused at the same time.

I also refer to this with “finally” because at that age when someone decides to put off college, or anything, you never know how long that pause will last. I understand that better than most because I took several pauses in the course of my college career, that after the third one I think everyone pretty much wrote me off. A friend of mine’s dad even said to me, “by doing so you’ve just decided you’re gonna work for the rest of your life. Without retirement.”

Though I later realized his sentiment was very ‘old-school thinking’ speaking–believing that sticking with one path and one company till retirement was the only way to go. I’m happy to say he was very wrong–about me at least. But that’s another story for another post. Unfortunately, neither of us knew that it was wrong thinking for a new generation at the time, so hearing those words I took them to be gospel, since I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. For a while did absolutely nothing. My nephew at least had a job, so he’s one giant step ahead of me.

One thing I’m excited about in my nephew’s journey is that he came to this decision all by himself. He chose when the time was right to start something new. I truly believe that is the way to go. It took me ten years to get my degree, because I followed my own path. And though it was a long, winding one, I turned out to be a great success. Greater than I had if I’d followed a prescribed path–and it continues to unfold even as I write this.

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Life is a long and sometimes winding road.

The bottom line is that when someone else chooses your journey for you, and parents will dislike me saying this, it rarely unfolds the way they envisioned it, “for you,” because it’s not their journey. They have their own. No one can choose your path, or your journey, for you. If they do, then you can’t really call it yours. And often you end up making a drastic turn later in life, one that impacts a lot of other people.

Don’t get me wrong. We all need guidance and direction, and help sometimes, but that’s different from pushing someone onto a specific path. So instead of telling my nephew what he ‘should do,’ and how he should do it, I’m simply celebrating and sharing my experiences with him, and anxiously waiting to hear about his. He did tell me he felt he should know what he was meant to be doing, but that’s something we ask ourselves our entire lives, no matter how successful. Even Marissa Mayer likely asked herself that question the day her baby was born–and Mark Zuckerberg after the Facebook IPO.

The question, “What’s next for me now?” will always exist no matter how many milestones we reach. It’s just human nature.

The answer to that question is not a single one. It changes throughout the course of our lifetime–likely many times–because we will always be in search of the next Holy Grail.  While years ago learning that would be the case would’ve made me feel extremely uneasy, I now see that as an adventure, an exciting one. That’s what I hope for my nephew, that he’ll see learning as something exhilarating, not just from books and classes, but life itself. Because a lot of what makes us truly successful is what we learn about ourselves along the way, and about those around us who cheer us on and want us to win. Their beliefs, their challenges, and their passions, and even their fears, can help to make that, sometimes winding, road seem not so daunting. Words of wisdom and support from friends, family and colleagues helps to collectively drive all of us toward success–because success is rarely, if ever, a journey you take alone. Though at times it will feel that way.

Dual Mind BrainstormingI think the world is made up of people who see either “obstacles” or “opportunities.” If you see everything as an obstacle, you’ll never find success, you find pitfalls. Because what’s the point of trying if you’ll just hit another roadblock, right? But if you see the world as infinite possibilities, which it is, then every challenge becomes an opportunity to solve a problem, to learn something new, and to grow, and more importantly to advance you on the journey to greater heights and even bigger and better adventures.

That’s what I hope for my nephew, because that’s what my dad wanted for me the day I was born, “the world!” It took me a while to realize that, but I did, and I’m glad I did. I’m also grateful he put that wish out into the world for me, and that it never disappeared.

‘There’s a whole wide world out there. Go forth, and explore it. And figure out which part of it is meant for you.’ And don’t rush. You might miss something.

Here’s to Success–Your Way!

g_ROD