Q. One of my biggest questions after reading your book, Unsinkable: Find a Job, Create a Career, Build a Business, is about how you developed expertise in your profession. Was it through practice, or something more? I believe, as you say, that all things are possible, but I find myself really discouraged when I don't see myself progressing towards my goals.
A. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell asserts that proficiency in any field requires 10,000 hours of learning, practice, and sharping skills. Hard work, or as my dad used to say, "elbow grease," and practice, practice, practice is the best way to become proficient in anything.
But maybe you are expecting too much of yourself? It is discouraging to wait. Setbacks are also inevitable. It might make it easier to know that everyone experiences them. Thomas Edison once said, "Why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp." And then he invented the light bulb.
You have read Unsinkable, so I think you know how my progression was stops, starts, falling apart, and putting myself back together again. There were times when I got knocked down. The story that I tell in the book about getting laid off was one such setback. In that case, you will remember that rather than giving up, I came back fighting mad. Anger and just plain being “sick and tired of being sick and tired” can fuel blowing past the discouragement. Let yourself feel the anger and then use it. Each mistake is a learning opportunity and each new job or project is a chance to challenge yourself to excellence. For now:
Refuse to buy into negative thinking, and focus instead on what you have accomplished. Make a list of everything you have done so far (really do this, not in your head, but on a pad of paper.) Pay attention to even the smallest of successes. They'll start to mount up.
Don’t try to do everything at once: pick one area where you want to progress and make it a high priority, (maybe the only thing you focus on for 3 months?). Make another list of precise actions that need to change, be specific, and set deadlines on your calendar.
Commit: let go of the “tyranny of the urgent” so you can focus on what you decide is most important and put all of your resources into the goal: time, effort, and money.
And I’ve saved the most important thing for last. Be your own coach. Tell yourself you can make it, and don't let yourself get discouraged. Boost your own confidence with positive self-talk. Even if you feel discouraged, repeat after me, “I can make this work like never before,” or “I’m succeeding beyond my wildest dreams."