Have you ever seen someone buried alive?  I’ve witnessed too many funerals in my relatively short life. Most of them took place between 9am and 5pm, with the occasional late night or weekend ceremony to break the monotony.  Fortunately I had the support of other colleagues, since we were usually together in the office to witness the gradual decay of someone’s lust for life. We would busy ourselves with emails and spreadsheets to avoid feeling sad. If that didn’t do the trick people drank coffee to pick them up or alcohol to calm them down. 

They sold us on a dream with the promise that hard work would eventually pay off. While we could look around the office and see some who survived receiving the deferred payments, I couldn’t help but wonder what condition I would be in if my soul and struggling bank account even made it to the proverbial promised office land, flowing with printer ink and money.  There must be a better way to do this thing called work, because 40+ hours per week is too much time to spend being miserable. 

Here’s the good news: You can enjoy a meaningful career that leads to more time, money and freedom! Let’s take a quick look at how you can get started today.

Even if the ultimate goal is to become a successful entrepreneur one day, most of us will spend a substantial amount of time building or bumbling through a career inside another company. For now I’ll avoid the debate about which lifestyle choice is superior. The advice I’m about to share is worth serious consideration either way.

People clapping

Don’t stop for applause. I recently let a friend persuade me to run a 5K race on an early Sunday morning. To be clear, at the time of writing, I neither enjoy running nor early mornings. With zero training and minimal experience running for longer than three minutes, I managed to finish the race within a respectable time. Reflecting on the race, I realised how much it felt like so many of our careers.  We find ourselves running in the middle of a herd of people and immediately start comparing ourselves to others. This breeds insecurity, and we need validation to keep going. We want to pause frequently and wait for applause. Fair enough, but if you stop every 500 meters for recognition, the people who keep moving will certainly run past you and your ego.  Take joy in the fact you even have the opportunity to struggle for a better life and don’t let your self-worth fluctuate based on how many people are clapping along the way. 

Be intentional.  The fastest road to career success requires you to be very focused on what you’re trying to accomplish through each task and season. Take actions that move you closer to the life you desire.  The question isn’t, what job should I be doing to earn a certain amount of money, power or importance? The better question is what skill do I want to master right now? How can I turn whatever I’m doing into practice for that skill? This simple mind shift lets you snatch control of the situation and be your own boss even if no one knows. By focusing on skills rather than titles you can get value out of a position that’s not your dream job. To be a real boss in this world you first have to master being boss of your own mind. Work from the inside out. It is better to be well done than rare, and that takes time.

Swimmer in road

Discipline over passion. There are loads of passionate people. That number will fluctuate with everything from the weather to interest rates. Your ability to consistently rule your emotions and execute what is necessary regardless of how you feel will quickly inch you to the front. With time this discipline can turn you into a demanded expert in your field. As you probably know, specialists get paid more and treated better than professionals who have a general idea about many subjects. Go deep.

The last item I’ll offer for now is gratitude. Ambition is a greedy beast. You’ll find that no matter how much success you achieve the desire for more keeps surfacing. This thirst for progress is what drives us to keep improving. As a private banker to what many would consider successful people, I can tell you that no money, job, or business will make you happy unless you develop a deep sense of gratitude. Be grateful for what you have and for the ability to continue working for more. Be content, but not complacent.

Let these tips help you push past average, and grab hold of amazing.

Dalan is a private banker, executive career coach and content creator sharing essential career advice for ambitious young professionals at dalanvanterpool.com. Catch him on social media @dalanv.

*This article was first published in the 2018 holiday issue of Caribbean Posh magazine, page 61.