As we look around at others in our lives, we often wonder what it took for certain individuals to succeed; how they made it so far, so quickly, or what motivated them to keep going even when times were difficult. There are many qualities that make a great leader or support you in becoming one; there are unlimited opportunities for you to experience and gain the skills you need to become successful in life, but one of the elements people often overlook is their foundation. Examining the foundation on which your life is built is not about going back and pointing the finger at our childhood. It’s about looking forward to your ultimate goal and asking yourself what it takes to get there to achieve and manifest your goal.
We all know the building parable “Is your house built on sand or stone?” When it comes to achieving success, understanding that your experience and academic portfolios are the building materials you use to build your life house means it’s important to ask which pieces of your experience are stone and which pieces are sand. While moving through life, our foundation needs to actually be comprised of both elements, for science reminds us that sand is actually very small stones.
In life, flexibility is critical to our learning and adopting new information, allowing us to mold and bend when necessary, and stand firm in our beliefs and values. Using myself as an example, people often wonder why I would choose to make certain decisions in life; and for the most part, my decisions were based on following my heart and my desire while staying true to my dreams and values. When first embarking on the new role of coach, I did the exercise most of us have done when deciding to take a turn in our careers and wrote down how my life experiences (both professional and academic) supported this turn. When looking back to even my teenage years working at a boat marina, my work experience has always ultimately supported either directly or indirectly my recent life decisions.
Take a few moments now and reflect on where you are and how your journey brought you here. Are you where you want to be either personally or professionally? If not, how can where you are today be considered a piece of stone in your foundation of achieving the success you’re seeking? Remember, you need to think outside the box sometimes to see how there is a supportive element to be found.
Getting back to the concept of having both sand and stone in the foundation of our success, we need to remain flexible since life is not consistent nor is it predictable beyond a certain point. Yes, we can predict if we break the law the chances are we’re going to get caught and possibly go to jail. But outside of the obvious, life is unpredictable; having sand within our foundation allows us to adjust when necessary and take corrective action.
When we can identify which elements are directly supportive—the pieces of stone and which pieces are indirectly supportive—we can easily begin to mold our foundations in a way that our goals become more easily accessible and allow our success to be within reach. Experience such as our degrees, diplomas, and certifications can be either supportive directly (you’re in business and you have a business degree) or be indirectly supportive (your certification in CPR may be used at your place of work to help a co-worker). Your work experience of flipping burgers at a fast-food restaurant may be directly supportive, and your experience of being a summer life guard as a teenager may be indirectly supportive since your goal is to own your restaurant—flipping burger obvious connection, right? Lifeguard? Not so much, or so you think. The communications skills you learned during this period helped you build a foundation in which you can talk to people under stress with a cool head, which is a great leadership skill.
We also need to remember the road we take to achieve our goals isn’t necessarily driven straight—such as … point A to point B to point C, etc. We may, in fact, have to reroute ourselves to gain the experience and skills necessary. Your journey may then look like you’ve driven from point A to point B to point D to finally arrive at your destination of point C.
When deciding to make life changing decisions for your career, your success will always be built on the foundation of your past. How you apply and use this foundation is what empowers you to continue reaching for your goals and achieving the success you desire.
Until next time, embrace your inner wisdom.