Recently, I’ve gone through some interesting transitions in my life that have made me evaluate my ideas on how to achieve success.

My recent experiences have led me to discover 2 things about life and success that even this lover of all-things-personal-development had never really contemplated before.

I’ve concluded that the ability for one to be successful comes down to mastery of 2 broad categories of skillset:

1. The importance of relationships.

2. The importance of setting goals.

I think most people “know” that these are important, but either misunderstand them (as I did).

These 2 attributes are, in fact, a precursor to The Main Idea, wherein I write that the key to success is a thorough understanding of the proper mindset needed for success, and the corresponding actions that are influenced by that mindset.  Being unable to master these likely means the inability to even aspire to accomplishing great or interesting things with our lives.

But I won’t bore you with anecdotes.  Let me tell you how I came to this conclusion:

I recently moved to Hartford, Connecticut from Phoenix, Arizona, where I just received my Masters in Taxation degree from Arizona State University.  I moved here for a number of reasons.  For one, I wanted to be with family who lived out here.  Second, I was interested in exploring the East Coast business climate (Hartford especially enables this possibility, given its close proximity to Boston and New York.

Third, and most important: I was getting the sense that life in Phoenix–where I grew up–was becoming too “simple”.  I was becoming too contented with my surroundings, and  I wasn’t pushing myself as hard as I needed to.  I think living and staying in an environment that is overly comfortable and familiar can do that.  In a sense, I was becoming a bit lazy–at least lazier than I wanted to be.

So I threw myself into a new environment, and decided to see what would happen.

I didn’t come out here cold-turkey.  I had a place to stay, and I knew what I wanted to accomplish: I want to start a tech company by the end of the summer.

The 1st Key: The Importance of Relationships

While back in Phoenix, I could rely on the various resources and connections I had made throughout my high school and college days, out here in Hartford, I am a nobody.  But I expected that, and it is something I resolved to change.

So I started doing what I do best: thinking, analyzing, and problem solving; trying to figure out how I could take my current situation.  I’ve read 3 or 4 books since I’ve been out here (it’s been 2 weeks), namely Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferazzi.  Keith’s book stresses the value of relationships in accomplishing goals and achieving success, and how lacking in that area will likely ensure one living an unsuccessful and unfulfilling career.  He recommends a rigorous, methodological system for finding, befriending, and providing value to (and receiving value from) contacts.

Some people criticize this as being too manipulative or conniving with relationships.  But think about it for a second: how do relationships help you?  If you want to advance in your career, emotional support , or to be in on a new business opportunity: who’s going to help you: people you know and have relationships with, or strangers?

On reading Keith’s book, I realized two important things:

a.) Just how valuable relationships are, and

b.) I had never really spent any time developing them before.

This was especially apparent in Connecticut, where I know fewer than 5 people.  It was clear something needed to change.

I’ve written consistently about how to reach out to others, how to network, how to use personal branding, how to build personal credibility.  What I failed to realize, though, is just how important it is to actively and consistently use relationship-management techniques.  

Today, I:

  • Use Excel sheets to map out all of my contacts, including my priorities with them (do I want to befriend them?  What value can I provide them?  How can we work together?)
  • Spend a significant amount of time researching contacts, and figuring out how to make a meaningful entrance into a community.

And it’s paid off.  I’ve met some excellent people in Hartford; I’ve begun to make the business connections essential to starting a successful business.

One of my next articles will cover relationships and their importance in greater detail.

The 2nd Key: Setting Goals

We’ve all heard this one before.  I’ve even written about setting goals here on RCSays.  So saying “you should set goals” is hardly anything new.

But, in the past, I was contented with undefined and grandiloquent goals: “someday, I want to start a tech company”; “I’d really love to get involved in politics…it will happen in the future”; “it would be great to become involved in philanthropy”.

In his book, Ferrazzi writes a story about a young college-matriculating Bill Clinton, and how Clinton would always carry a black address book to write down information about every contact he met.  Once, Clinton even pulled out the book and started writing down details about a new acquaintance as they were talking.  When the acquaintance asked Clinton, “what are you doing?”, Clinton confidently replied, “I plan on running for Governor of Arkansas, and I’m meeting and remembering people now who will be important to know when I run”.

What struck me (as you know, Clinton did succeed–twice–in becoming Governor of Arkansas) was the specificity of his goal.  I realized that’s what had been missing in the way I set goals.  I realized: a goal that is not measurable or that does not point to a specific outcome isn’t a goal at all: it’s just a recipe for frustration and a feeling of failure.

So I resolved to never again approach achieving success and accomplishing goals in the whimsical way I used to look at it.  Today, I have very specific goals.  My 3 professional goals are: 1. working as an entrepreneur in the tech sector, 2. working part time as a public speaker and writer (as I do here), and 3. working in philanthropy, specifically by using my public speaking abilities to promote important causes.  And I have specific deliverables for each of those goals; I make To-Do lists on a daily basis outlining how my actions today will lead towards my long-term goal.

What can you take away with my story?

1.) Realize the importance of relationships and setting goals.

Look into your own life.  Think of where you want to be, and the things that seemingly keep you from getting there.  I daresay that those biggest things will be 1.) your perceived lack of connections, and 2.) “not knowing” how to get there.  My advice is to immediately make specific goals for yourself.  In a play off of mindset inspires action, your determination to get to a final end-point will lead to you naturally doing what is necessary to get there: just like me with my tech startup- I don’t know exactly how to achieve success, but my determination to meet people and set goals means that I’ll figure it out soon.

2.) Realize the importance of the things I’ve talked about on this blog: living a meaningful, exciting, interesting and fulfilling life.

The importance of being motivated and proactive with life: the idea ofenvisioning oneself as successful and working on a daily basis to accomplish meaningful goals.  

It also means smartly approaching goals, and scaling your efforts so that you can maximize your upside potential, but mitigate the pains of failure.

3.) The value of constant learning and improvement, and keeping a disinterested attitude.

My dedication towards constant learning and constant improvement allowed me to develop the conclusions I write here.  I think it can do the same for you.

Keep living well, and pursuing nothing but the best for yourself in life!

Photo Credit: By Jorge Barrios (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons