Build Your Success While Other People Rest

By: Kevin Smith

The holidays are upon us and we know that some well-deserved rest and relaxation lies ahead.

I get it, I really do. You’re tired. You’re done. You’re a car that’s been burning on all cylinders for months on end and thousands of miles. You can smell the bitterness of burning rubber and there’s steam coming off your engine block; you’re road weary. Like most people, you want to end this long trip, park in the garage and cool down for a bit. And, this is what most people will do.

But, since you are reading this, you’re not most people. You’re willing to do what others won’t so you can live like others can’t. Continue reading “Build Your Success While Other People Rest”

I Play the Tuba and I Still Win in Life

There’s nothing valuable about being normal. “Normal” is easy and can be found everywhere. If you could find a diamond just by walking down the street, it wouldn’t be worth nearly as much. Same principle applies to people.

Sometimes we have to face the difficult reality that, at some point, we’re all just trying to fit in. We’re asleep at the wheel. Success comes first to those who wake themselves up.

In life, if you want to live like others can’t, you have to do what others won’t.

For me, one of those things was playing the Tuba.

If your first thought after reading that was that I’m a geek, a loser, or a fat kid with pimples, that’s OK. I’m writing this, you’re reading this, and I’m winning.

I played the tuba at request of my teacher who needed someone to fill in for a year. I said “Yes” because I loved music. The only reason I would have said “No” is for fear of being made fun of. Yet, this tuba was responsible for this first-gen college graduate. College wasn’t even in my sights until November of my senior year of high school. One last minute trip to my first Ohio State football game and the next moment I’m painting lines in my backyard, driving 400 miles a week for practice, and trying out against hundreds of other people born and bred to be there. 4 years later, I was “dotting the ‘i’” at the 2003 BCS National Championship game in Tempe, Arizona. Continue reading “I Play the Tuba and I Still Win in Life”

Stop Asking Permission To Get Ahead

Why do we seek permission to change our professional identity?

Let’s pretend that you want to be a photographer, but nothing about your college training, career choice, or anything for that matter has truly prepared you for it. It’s a hobby, a passion, and something that drives you, not to mention, you’re quite excellent if you don’t say so yourself. You’d be a photographer if only somehow you could make the transition. In reality, there’s only one problem, only one thing in your way: You.

Let’s say you’re an accountant and a very skilled one who handles the books, scrubs the finances, and makes your company tick. But when you’re not counting beans, you’re out capturing life’s beautiful moments. It’s a hobby – a love – and you’ve even started a collection. It’s not just your friends who tell you how good you’re getting, but even strangers. But you’re not a photographer. You don’t have any official training, no official certification, and far be it from you to give yourself the promotion of your dreams.

However, one day while on a much needed vacation, you strike up a conversation with a stranger. Eventually, the stranger asks, “so, what do you do?” Feeling a little rebellious you bravely blurt out, “I’m a photographer!” “Oh really!” the stranger replies, ‘how awesome!” (a totally different reaction than had you said “accountant”), “can I see some of your work?” You play it cool, go along with it and say “sure!” while you load up some pictures from your snapfish account. The stranger looks, you tell the stories, and the she is clearly impressed. The stranger asks if you have a card; you don’t, so you exchange e-mails and part ways. 3 weeks later, the stranger meets with her friend who is getting married in 5 months and mentions that she still needs to hire a photographer. Immediately, the stranger chimes in “I just met the most fantastic photographer while at a lunch last week. I have her contact information, you should really consider hiring her. Her stuff was amazing!”

And, voila! You just became an official photographer.

This didn’t happen when some university decided to credential you. It didn’t happen when someone promoted you. This happened because you promoted yourself in a way that you can back up. And, true, whereas you aren’t as good at it now as you will be in the future, that moment leads to all future success and opportunities that await you.

We live in day of identity, where everyone and everything achieves an easy label, whether good or bad. In college for example, declaring a major in anything is an easy identity shift. Majoring in English? Be prepared for everyone to ask you how to spell something even though you can’t spell worth crap. Majoring in engineering? Be prepared to be asked how to fix everything even though you’re really studying titanium’s chemical properties. Counseling? You’ll have to listen to all of your friends’ problems as long as they don’t have to listen to yours. And, because people typically enjoy identifying with their interests, we usually play along because any failure to live up to expectations for something we so strongly label ourselves with (and pay money for) would be a failure of our own competence and our own self-worth.

In short, we seek others’ permission to create the person and/or profession we want to be. Instead, it is us and us alone who control our own identity, and our real brand value is then determined by how well we follow through.