“The safest investment is the thing you have the most control over: you.” – Michael Ellsberg, Bryan Franklin
Every day is a competition.
Except instead of someone lined up across from us on the sports field or the person next to us lifting a barbel, it’s with our ego, our comfort zone, and fear. It’s with the desire to simply “clock in and clock out” for 40+ years and waste a career while simultaneously wasting a life.
But the good news is this is a competition you can win. The most successful people you know in corporate America have learned to compete at work and win each year. They take the same approach to their health, relationships, and mindset to build the career they want, instead of like most people, reluctantly accepting the career they have.
You can compete every day to build your career and overcome the things that would try to distract and derail you. You can use that competitive fire to build the career you want to have and not just “forced to have.”
Here are five simple ways you can invest in yourself and compete to build your career.
1. Read a new book each month
That’s twelve new books per year, read at a solid pace to retain – and apply – the new information. If you look at the average book having 12-15 chapters, you’re reading less than 1 chapter per day.
Reading 5-10 pages doesn’t sound like very much. But with each page, you’re making progress toward a) identifying yourself as someone committed to investing in yourself, and b) advancing your knowledge base.
And you’re lapping everyone that’s mindlessly scrolling Facebook each night.
One way I’ve been able to keep my pace in books is on the months I know I’m traveling a ton, I make sure I have an audiobook downloaded and ready to go. That way if I’m in a car or running through airports, I can plug in my headphones and listen to the book versus feeling pressure to physically have one in hand. Heck, the $14.95/month for Audible is more than worth the subscription with the access to audiobooks it provides.
Pick 10 books out for the next 12 months. (I always leave space for 2 knowing someone I want to read is going to release a new one within 12 months) and commit to yourself to read a small amount (5 pages) every day.
If you need help getting on a monthly reading plan, consider joining the 2019 Competitor Book Club. You’ll receive a weekly reading plan, monthly video calls, and an online community of fellow readers. Join here.
2. Get a mentor
“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” – John Maxwell
What if you could bend time to shorten the distance between where you are now and where you desire to be in the future? You could use the shortcut to avoid certain pitfalls and speed up your success.
That’s essentially why having a mentor is crucial – the right mentor-mentee relationship helps you bend time to get where you’re trying to go much faster than you could by yourself.
A great mentor is someone who will:
- Challenge you
- Encourage you
- Hold you accountable
A successful relationship will involve a mentor who is doing what you want to do. Learn from them, then here’s the key piece – reach out with a give, not a request. If you first reach out to the person via email, you need to:
- Find out where you can add value or help the mentor
- Be honest with them about looking up to their success and wanting to learn
- Have 3 direct questions you can ask them and make sure one of them includes Tim Ferris’ favorite, “What’s one piece of advice commonly said in your industry that I should ignore?”
- Click “Send”
As the relationship develops organically, I want to encourage you not to mentally check-out when the mentor challenges you. It’s their responsibility to push you beyond your comfort zone and what you *believe* you’re capable of. Additionally, commit to the long-term process. Like any relationship, great things take time, so the longer you two work together in a healthy, challenging way, the better your results – and faster you’ll be able to bend time.
3. Learn a new skill online
The wealth of information at our fingertips today is limitless.
But the problem is not enough people are taking advantage of it. This is where learning a new skill online over time can position you light-years ahead of your coworkers over the course of your career.
Hundreds of websites now offer free or cheap online courses that teach users how to do practically anything.
- Google Adwords or Facebook Ads
- Public Speaking
The list goes on and on. Thousands of courses can help you add a new arrow to your quiver of skills. When your coworkers go home and do nothing, you can invest 30 minutes an evening, 2-3 nights a week to learn a new skill.
All of sudden, you’re adding more value to your team and enhancing your long-term career prospects by using those newly acquired skills.
4. Invest in your coworkers
Back when I had a consulting practice, two of my coworkers and I grabbed lunch out of the office twice a week. We occasionally talked work, but more often than not, we talked football, family life, and career aspirations. It gave us the opportunity to better know each other, which in turn helped us better communicate when working together.
And years later even though we’ve both moved from that project, we still talk about career moves and opportunities that could benefit each other.
It pays to invest in relationships with those you work with. In addition to better knowing your coworker(s) on a personal level, it gives you the opportunity to better understand how they communicate and work.
Which boosts your ability to excel as teammates working toward the same goal within an organization.
One of the easiest ways to invest in your coworkers is to commit to a weekly lunch schedule to leave the office together and go eat. This opportunity creates positive benefits on two fronts:
- It gets you out of the office to recharge before the afternoon.
- Provides opportunity to get to know your coworkers outside of the office and strengthen your working relationship.
Another option, as presented in The Last Safe Investment, is to take time for activities out of the office. The example listed was to compare the amount of money spent if you went to a Friday night blockbuster action movie ($15) and ordered a large popcorn ($10) and beer ($12) compared to taking your coworkers to a documentary film during a matinee (4 coworkers + you = 5 tickets at $5 = $25) and discussing the film afterwards.
Not only does the second option cost less, but it additionally adds more long-term value to you by strengthening the relationships you have with each of those coworkers.
For more information on this, I highly recommend reading The Last Safe Investment here.
Networking gets a bad rap. For every great Meetup event, there are 100 that simply are a business card exchange. At its core, networking is about building relationships with people.
Great networkers aren’t looking to a crowd of people, asking themselves “what can I get out of these people?” They’re instead asking themselves “what can I do to help these people get where they want to go?”
See the difference?
Great networkers meet people and ask how they can help. They’re concerned with giving more than they are taking. And that’s why they’re well connected, because everyone wants to know someone who can help them.
If you want compete for your career, you have to be a great networker. You have to make time at least once a month to attend a networking or industry event and connect with someone(s) you’ve never met.
But for the love of God, do not be that person who walks into a room and starts passing out your business cards like candy to trick-or-treaters. That’s not networking, that’s spam. Physical, annoying, makes you want to never-work-with-that-type-of-person spam.
Don’t know where to start or feel like you’re too shy to effectively network? Focus on this:
Tips for great networking
1. Ask questions about the other person deeper than “what do you do?” Some great replacement questions might be:
- What brings you to tonight’s event?
- How’d you get into your current line of work?
- What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing this year in your industry?
- What do you enjoy doing for fun outside of work?
2. Use LinkedIn and your current network
LinkedIn is an incredible resource right at your fingertips. Unfortunately, a lot of people still haven’t learned not to spam you with business cards just like they would offline. However, dig into your own personal network. Message connections you haven’t talked to in a while to check in and ask what they’re working on or pain points are. Offer to connect them with someone you know who could be able to help said pain point.
Then find an opportunity to transition the conversation from LinkedIn to offline.
3. Look up Meetup events in your area / interest.
There are events all over your city, every night of the week, for every business or personal interest you can imagine. Pick a few different Meetup events and jump in. See what you like, what you don’t, and find one that fits you – then consistently show up each week.
One great tip I learned from a fellow speaker is to show up every week and ask “How can I help?” to the Meetup organizer. It’ll put you into a position of adding value to the event, investing in a relationship with the organizer, and further elevating your status within that specific Meetup.
Great careers don’t “just happen.”
You have to compete every day for them. It’s easier in the short run to avoid investing in yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone to grow. But easier in the short run always come back will bite you in the ass in the long run.
So the ball is now in your court. It’s your career after all.
Put one of these 5 actions into your life to build a good career. Put all 5? You’ll compete and create an incredible career.