For a long time, I didn’t feel successful. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I didn’t really know what success was.
I graduated from Bowling Green State University just south of Toledo, Ohio, with a degree in interpersonal communications. My major had been “undecided” until the beginning of my junior year. The only reason I chose interpersonal communications at that point was it was the only degree with which I could graduate on time (with a few additional courses).
As I came close to graduation, I felt like sports marketing was something I’d be good at. I was lucky enough to land an internship with the Cleveland Cavaliers after graduation. But after finding out that all the money went to the players (the operations team works very long hours for very little pay), I decided to go to graduate school.
With two weeks left before fall semester, someone dropped out of the teaching assistantship program at Penn State University, leaving an opening for yours truly. I taught four semesters of public speaking and ended up with a master’s degree in communications.
Overeducated and underexperienced, I traveled to Cleveland to find a job. After sending out hundreds of resumes with no luck, I took the master’s degree line off my resume and started to do temp work. After a few monthlong work engagements, I ended up scoring full-time work at an insurance company working on internal communications projects.
Yes, I had a job but I was searching to find a purpose to my life and trying to figure out whether I was headed down the right path.
Three books that changed my life.
Shortly after this I read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It had a huge impact on how I defined success and what I really wanted to do with my life. Though I read the entire book cover to cover, I felt particularly compelled to remember one passage:
“Opportunity has spread its wares before you. Step up to the front, select what you want, create your plan, put the plan into action, and follow through with persistence.”
It was then that I started to set goals for my life.
Next, I read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. The second habit listed is “Begin with the end in mind,” which means:
“To begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.”
It was then that I started to write down my goals.
Fast-forward to April 2007. I decided to leave my role at Penton Media, where I had become vice president of custom media, because I didn’t feel I had influence over the direction of the company after a recent merger. One of my written goals was to have influence in whatever job I held. I decided to start what was to become the Content Marketing Institute.
That year, research conducted by Gail Matthews from Dominican University of California showed that people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33 percent more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.
At that time I started to share my goals with others, but more important, I reviewed those goals on a daily basis. Yes, every day I would read my goals, making sure I was staying on track.
The difference in the direction my life took from that point on is beyond remarkable to me.
Two habits you need to acquire.
You can have the most amazing product and plan for your business, but if you don't keep your focus every day, there's a good chance you'll fail. To be sure you keep your eyes fixed on whatever you're working to accomplish, wake up each morning and do these two activities:
1. Write down your business and personal goals.
2. Thoroughly review your goals.
Doing this changed my life in a positive way. I believe it can do the same for you.