Early in my corporate communications career, I had the privilege of working for one of the greatest mentors I ever had. Her name is Pam Preston and she was vice president of Human Resources. I reported directly to her. She gave me a piece of advice that has helped me overcome every professional challenge I've faced and has helped me have a successful career.
She told me that the best way to change a situation was to change my perception of that situation, and then went on to say that the best way to change my perception was to learn something new. While simple, that statement has had a profound impact on my life and has helped me become a lifelong learner who's adept at adapting perceptional shifts to relevant situations and challenges.
I recently come upon insights that build upon Pam's rock solid premise of shifting situational perceptions and driving success via the writings of career expert, Jon Acuff.
Acuff is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker and self-described “chronic job quitter who coined the phrase "career savings account" in his book Do Over.
In a recent conversation with Acuff, he explained the need for every professional to have a "career savings account" to be successful and adapt to the challenging situations and transitions every professional faces.
The truth is most people don't like their current job situation. In fact, a 2013 Gallup survey found that 70 percent of Americans hate their jobs or feel disengaged in the work they do. That doesn't sound like success.
Acuff says the "career savings account" concept helps shift that negative perception of work and helps ensure a rewarding, successful career. The concept is distilled in this simple "formula."
(Relationship + Skills + Character) x Hustle = Career Savings Account
And each of the component resources of the formula are briefly explained below.
Relationships - Who you know. These are the the individuals you lock arms with you during your career.
Acuff said, "If you want to find out who your friends are, go through a negative unexpected transition like being fired. Relationships can reset perceptions and help you through those challenging career moments."
Skills - What you do. These are the intrinsic talents and abilities that differentiate you from others.
"If you've reached the apex of opportunity within an organization, it's your skills that make the difference at that point. Skills are the hammer that help you break through a ceiling. It's impossible for you to stay stuck in a lousy situation if you're continually learning something new," said Acuff.
Character - Who you are. This is the foundation on which your career and life are built. Character enables you to know what you're about and holds it all together in the face of extreme challenges.
"Character is your anchor that helps stabilize and ground you for future success and weather negative situations. Your character forces you to focus on what matters most---what's at your core," he said.
Hustle - How you work. This is the drive and commitment that pushes entrepreneurs and professionals to do the things that other people don't, enabling them to enjoy the success that others won't.
"Hustle needs to become a habit, especially when an unexpected opportunity comes along. At that moment, your hustle is the best resource to make the opportunity as big as it can be. Sometimes success lulls you into complacency, habitual hustle helps shift that perception toward constant improvement," said Acuff.
While these resources might not be new---Acuff astutely observes that all four are necessary to be successful. If you're missing just one of them, success can unravel and he gives some examples.
"If you've got relationships, skills and tons of hustle, but your character takes a hit - you become Tiger Woods. If you have amazing relationships, character and skills but lack the necessary hustle - you become every NFL draft bust," said Acuff. "If you've got everything except sustainable skills, you'll be a 'one-hit-wonder'---if that. Or say you've got fantastic skills, hustle and character with no relationships, you become like the title character in The Emperor's New Clothes - an isolated leader who won't allow anyone to speak truth to him. Leadership that can't be questioned ends up doing questionable things."
We all know that success is not easy.
But not everybody knows that success starts with changing your perception of the challenging situation your facing, because the exact same situation may cause some professionals to buckle while other professionals buck-up. The difference in those situational responses hinges upon the individuals' respective relationships, skills, character and hustle---and it's those resources that make all the difference when it comes to success or failure.