Success on Your Own Terms

“Life is too long not to be spending it doing something that you are genuinely passionate about.”

- Success on Your Own Terms, page 15

Passion is defined by Merriam Webster as an intense desire or enthusiasm for something. Its synonyms are fervour, ardour, zeal, enthusiasm, mania, fascination, obsession…you get it.

After polling 25 million employees in 189 countries, Gallup found that only 13% of workers around the globe feel a sense of passion for their work. What about the other 87%? The vast majority at 63% are unhappy and checked out. The other 24% completely hate their jobs.

You know which category you fall under, even if you didn’t partake in the survey. The world is rife with horrible bosses and company culture, sure. Still, we cannot blame our dissatisfaction solely on them. We, alone, are responsible for our career choices.

Success on Your Own Terms: 6 Promises to Fire Up Your Passion, Ignite Your Career, and Create an Amazing Life by James B. Rosseau, Sr. is your guidebook to managing your career and stoking passion for what you do. The author frames passion within the context of a career—manage your career so you can utilize it as a vehicle to pursue what you’re truly passionate about. In the author’s case, he’s passionate about helping others.

The book is rich with “oldies but goodies”: advice you might have come across in other books you’ve read. A few examples are building and working your network, getting a mentor, becoming a mentor to others, getting coaching and feedback, and more. The author shares personal anecdotes at every stage of his career to demonstrate how you, too, can live the six promises and live a richer, fuller life.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Embrace the Six Promises or Committments

"One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you."
- Jeff Bezos, Success on Your Own Terms, page 17

The heart of the book is built on six promises or commitments you can make to live your passion and have a meaningful, self-directed career. Here’s a bird’s eye view:

  1. Embrace your passion. Don’t discount your dreams. Revive them. Identify what you truly care about, what values you hold, and what your life and career goals are. In some ways, this step could be the easiest, and in some ways, this could be the toughest.
  2. Perform to progress versus perfection. Perfection is paralyzing, celebrate the progress you make. You’ll feel energized to keep making more progress.
  3. Promote with purpose. Let people know who you are in a way that is authentic and purposeful. Craft and hone your personal story. There’s no one else in the world like you with your unique blend of experiences, skills, and talents.
  4. Parlay your platform. Your station in life is comprised of all your experiences and skills. You’ll get a chance to parlay your platform when you are promoting yourself with purpose.
  5. Put it into action. Luckily for you, opportunity knocks not just once, but many times. You’ll have ample opportunity to practice these commitments you’ve made as you traverse the pool of career choices. None of these promises to yourself mean anything if you don’t act on it.
  6. Practice philanthropy. Not just with your money but also with your time and talent. Align your philanthropy to what you are truly passionate about.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Embrace Lateral Career Moves to Achieve Growth

"It is so important not to gravitate toward the bright, shiny objects such as chasing money or titles."
- Success on Your Own Terms, Page 96

Chase skills and experiences instead of just linear advancement. Sure, more money and a better title is always welcome, but should not be your sole motivator. Money and title won’t help you if you hate what you’re doing, if you’re not learning, or if the role is not aligned to your values. The author stresses the importance of having a developmental plan as part of your master plan. After you’ve identified your goals, identify skill gaps you’ll need to close, and actively seek career opportunities that will help you close these gaps.

For example, if you’re looking to become the head of a company one day, you’ll need to understand the business in its entirety. If you’ve worked in different pillars of the company but have no experience in revenue generation, as was the case with the author at one point in his career, you can choose to close this gap by purposefully seeking a role in that area. The author identified a downside to this—if you’re already at senior executive level, you might need to take a role in the directorship level. The title and pay might not be where you want it. Stay true to your plan, and these things will come.

There’s also another option.

Switching organizations or industries can allow you to grow and round out your experiences and skills. This is better than a status quo in your current role if you’re stagnating. As much as the author dissuades from chasing money and titles, switching companies or industries can also come with better pay. You’re learning, gaining experience and you’re getting better paid while doing so. Often, the longer you stay in one company, the raises you’re given are only cost of living allowances and not really what you’re worth. You gain better negotiating power if you have the flexibility in your plan to make the shift.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Treat Networking like a Second Job.

"If you are the only one who can speak on your behalf, you are probably in trouble."
- Success on Your Own Terms, page 131

You’ll need people on your team. Next to having a mentor and coach, networking is another key arsenal in your toolkit. If you’re like a lot of people who dislike networking, start easy. Start within the company: eat lunch with someone in another department to get to know them better, or use this time to connect with members of your own team. Take advantage of various internal meetings like lunch-and-learns. Stay in touch with colleagues who have moved on to other roles.

According to a report from ABC news, 80% of today’s jobs are found through networking. The hard fact is that employees who are known in some way to their future employer are perceived as being better hires.

It is equally important to schedule standing meetings (or coffee) with certain key people: quarterly, monthly and annually to maintain a healthy connection with key people you’ve met.

At 205 pages, this book was an easy read. I was drawn to this book initially because I wanted to know how to pursue my passion points, how to make the leap from careerist to entrepreneurship. Perhaps, this book should be more aptly titled Successfully Managing your Career. It’s not so much about pursuing your passions as it is about climbing the career ladder.

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Maria Donohue

ABOUT Maria Donohue

“You cannot fill a cup that is already full. Empty your cup.” Maria Donohue is a coach, trainer, and change leader. She works with leaders to elevate skills in team motivation, negotiations, and in relationship and business building...
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