May 28, 2011


food line Oct 25, 1929You spend your life waiting
for a moment that just don't come.
Well, don't waste your time waiting.
--- Bruce Springsteen, Badlands

In recent weeks, I've been chatting with more university students looking for career advice. To generalize, they want to make wise career choices in a world of uncertainty. They're looking for answers, the right path, the recipe, the magic formula, the missing ingredient. One asked if sales experience is the fast track to becoming a CEO.

Here's the good news: there's no 100% risk-free path from Point A to Point B.

If there were a paved route with signs and rest areas, others could easily follow it too. What worked in the past needn't work now. Times change permanently. Luck also matters. Along your path, Point B may lose its allure. Do you stick or start towards Point C? Before deciding, read The Dip by Seth Godin (my thoughts).

You may not be in the right place at the right time. Those factors are outside your control but don't despair: you can make yourself the right person. When opportunity taps faintly, you'll be ready. This preparation beckons opportunity to seek you out. Why not do something while you're waiting?

Your Weapons

Who are you willing to fight? Who are you willing to offend? Who are you willing to support?
Go on the record. Take a stand.

Isn't that risky? No. Mediocrity is the bigger threat to your success. You can't get everyone to like you — for long. Why not show your trail even if you change directions along the way.
click to enlarge (and visit source)
Lady Éowyn: "I fear neither death nor pain."

Aragorn: "What do you fear, my lady?"

Lady Éowyn: "A cage. To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire."

Aragorn: "I do not think that will be your fate."
— JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King


To stand out, why not be proactive and expand your circle of influence? How can you lose by doing this? Here are three steps.
  1. Start: take initiative (Poke The Box by Seth Godin)
  2. Ship: deliver again and again (Linchpin by Seth Godin)
  3. Stick: hone your skills while others falter and vanish (Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and The Dip by Seth Godin)
Do the three things and you'll find a niche. You'll stand out. You'll clarify your principles. You'll improve your skills. You'll find your own voice. You may even find a new untrodden path.

You'll get credit for everything you do that's online. It's not that others will read, watch or listen to all of it. Your consistent persistent generosity will make a strong impression. Rain/shine, hot/cold, you're there. You're dependable. You're worth a gamble.


If you won't share yourself on the permanent public record — which social media lets you do — you're in a cage of your own  making. What's holding you back?

What if I say the wrong thing? That can happen anywhere at anytime. You need to use your good judgement. You'll get better with practice.

What if I quit? Your inability to stick will be visible to anyone who cares to look. Maybe that's enough motivation to stick.

Others have the same fears. Victory goes to those who overcome them. To win a horse race, you just need to be ahead by a nose.

Quick Start

You've got the tools. Do you have the guts? It's much like public speaking — a key to success that few master. If you want to build your self-confidence, join Toastmasters (find a club). For very little money, this nonprofit helps you improve. Fellow members give valuable feedback that pays dividends forever.


If you choose to do nothing, you're not a failure: you're average. As Seth Godin says, "Average people are in the majority, but they're not in demand."


Podcast 119 (5:35)

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS If you're average, you're dependent on the factory owners. Their interests may not match yours …

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