Forget Others’ Ideas Of Career Success. Here Is How To Create Yours.14 min read

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Ask an average young Nigerian what he/she thinks of career success. You often hear things like, a stack of cash, a life with no stress, freedom, and the ability to travel anywhere in the world, whenever. Also, don’t forget the mansion that screams “I made it!”. 

Sounds attractive, doesn’t it? But here’s the thing – a lot of these ideas are often desires/expectations handed down by parents, friends, strangers, influencers, and society. They’re not necessarily bad, but they overlook the fact that we all have different interests.

And trying to keep up with these desires/expectations is often a treadmill of discontentment, anxiety and confusion. 

Think about those rich folks who grumble about their work, hate their relationships, and own houses that seem more like stress havens. 

So, you see that “career success” story is half the whole tale. 

I’ve got an inside scoop on this – because I used to be that typical young Nigerian. I cared a lot about what others thought about career success. 

Why You Care About What Other People Think

Even if you secretly hate conforming, you end up caring about others’ rules. It’s human nature, driven in part by your brain’s backstage crew: dopamine (for pleasure), serotonin (for happiness), oxytocin (for bonding), etc. They pull the strings.

For example, if you are praised by your mama for your performance at school, these hormones kick in not just to make you happy, but to energize your focus and do better next time so you get another hit of happiness

But other times, it’s fear of being seen as a failure, or imposter, that pushes you to do as they say. 

In order words, we are often swayed by the opinions of others. Yet, it’s not wrong to care about other people’s opinions. After all, most of their opinions are with good intentions – and we can pick up a thing or two from them. 

But not every opinion is worth a listen. There are folks out there – the clueless, the short-sighted, the cruel, and the just plain stupid – whose definition of success is hell for you and the world at large.

This is why you must be clear on your definition of success before even needing anyone’s advice.  

What is Success? 

Life is a grand symphony, including success. 

Instead of everyone playing the same notes, you’re composing your unique melody. It’s not a competition against the world; it’s about getting better with the tunes that resonate with your passions and aspirations.

This could be your; 

  • Health
  • Psychic
  • Relationship 
  • Finance 
  • Career (which is our main focus in this piece).

Success is not about mimicking others or conjuring up new stuff. It’s about analyzing yourself and your situation, deciding what lights you up or will work best in your given circumstance. 

And if you triumph; helping others win by sharing your story is also a part of the real success lap.

What then are the practical steps involved in a career success?  

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How To Create and Achieve Your Career Success 

Here’s a quick drill:

  • Pick your Instrument –  something you adore and can ace.
  • Master the basics and break unnecessary rules as you move up. 
  • Join or build a crew for leverage. 
  • Level up your skill set. 

Now, let’s zoom in on these ideas for clarity. 

Pick your Instrument 

To pick your instrument; start with a vision.

Vision is your unique view of the world. It’s the art of imagining an exciting life, loaded with insight.

It’s where you spot what you like, the “yeah, that’s for me” stuff.

Then there’s anti-vision, its spooky twin. It’s the scare that helps you steer clear or fortify yourself.

It’s where you spot what you despise, the “nope, not for me” stuff.

In 2020, as my university days wound down, I faced the classic “what now” moment. My degree wasn’t my dream career.

I pondered, talked, Googled – nada.

So, I hit pause, disconnected from the noise, and breathed.

I mulled over the life that thrilled and chilled me.

Do I want control over my time? Yes. Freedom? Self-Expression? Absolutely. What about the dreadful opposite? Hell no. 

So, I bid adieu to careers that rattled me (or didn’t quite fit the bill), until writing and photography took centre stage.

They became my instruments – a vision for career success.

Vision and anti-vision: both handshakes on this journey.

Venture into the realm only you can see. Turn most of the good stuff into reality.

At first, your vision might be unclear, but you can only improve what exists. 

Other times you might need to say YES to every opportunity. But once you find your thing, you start saying NO to any other thing. 

This is the beginning of your career identity. 

Your identity grows when you take more pride in your vision. 

Envision and become. 

Master the basics and break unnecessary rules as you move up. 

Once you’ve picked your instrument, don’t rush to break and invent new rules.  Babies who try to skip walking for running might get hurt. 

Instead, start with the basics – the building blocks – the first principles.

Learning the basics helps you see things clearly. 

And clear thinking with time leads to mastery.

All experts were once rookies who nailed the basics. So, don’t go looking for shortcuts. 

When you learn the basics, you can easily spot patterns and errors which will come in handy when you need to tweak the rules to fit your vision.

Relying on what others say, or copying their formulas often only leads to a shallow mind and mediocrity.

Take photography, for example. I began with grasping how light affects images and the exposure triangle. And, now I can manipulate lights in a way no one taught me with this knowledge. Still learning the building blocks of a killer shot – subjects, composition, colour grading, storytelling, etc 

The secret is to break the big goals into bits and focus on the daily habits/activities that bring you closer to success. 

For example: I want to be a writer and photographer, focusing on documentaries, conceptual and narratives. 

So, I built a daily routine: read a bit, edit a pic, and write a couple of social media posts (I don’t always post them).

Plus, I dive into YouTube for documentary and photography stuff three times a week.

And when I spot a weak link, like my writing style or how I organize my thoughts, I work on fixing it.

Identify the crucial stuff or the gaps, then practice, and repeat.

At the start, it’s all about nailing the basics – not racing for the spotlight.

Join or build a crew for leverage

We and our ancestors are not that different, despite the time leap.

They thrived by finding like-minded spirits for surviving the cold, hunting for food, and building their homes. 

Surviving and thriving are more than just brain power. It’s tribal power.

So, on your success road, spot your kindred spirits. People with the same drive or a fitting vision. But level up work with people smarter, stronger and more accomplished than you.

Over time, their rise lifts you, making for strong ties and open doors. 

But: remember that success is a single-player game. If you and your crew’s vision starts to grow apart, step back, and rethink.

And if you must walk away, don’t wreck relationships. Walk gently.

Level up your skill set

Our species have levelled up over centuries. 

From stone-tipped spears to fishing boats. Wild horses to muscle cars. Cuneiform to computers.  

Like everyone else, your best self thrives on non-stop edits and upgrades.

Progress requires learning and unlearning.  

To do this:

  • Dial back, ditch what flopped.
  • Spot trends and new tech for a modern edge – and learn. 
  • Peek into the future, and predict where the world’s headed. You don’t need 100% accuracy. You just need to have a sense of the evolutionary curve.
  • Adapt, and gear up for what’s next.

Now, let’s zoom in with a practical example. 

The internet has levelled the playing field. Everyone can win big. 

Social Media is not just fun anymore. It’s now the front door of most businesses.

If your social media is mostly about fun, pointless debates, or showing off skin, you’re not peering into what’s ahead. And you need to ditch that pattern (unless you’ve found a way to align that with your vision). 

You don’t need to be on a dozen platforms. You can be a superstar on one platform and then spread across others.  What matters most is that you are building genuine social connections with the people you meet online. 

To thrive on them, inquire and learn the skills needed; copywriting, storytelling, content marketing, for instance. To hook folks in, fuels desire and compels action. 

You can even start today for free by getting our free ebook on writing.

But you don’t stop there. Think ahead: How would people buy from you if you have a product or service? Since, the future’s likely to be cosy, with folks shopping from home. So Online shops? Or perhaps the metaverse? 

And it goes on and on. As you grow in your craft, you might need more skill sets. 

The world and its inhabitants are constantly evolving. Evolve or fade into extinction. Your call.

To the million-dollar query: How do you know you are succeeding or successful?

“Success is often a function of who is willing to suck at something the longest”

– Mark Manson

How To Measure Your Career Success 

Knowing where you stand, where you’re going, and where you want to be is vital.

To do this:

Compare yourself to who you were

Forget the noise. It’s the steps you take forward that truly matter. 

But, it’s not just a daily race. It plays out over years, like five to ten down your career journey.

Measuring progress over the years gives you a clearer view of your journey’s trajectory and an appreciation of the bigger picture in your personal and career development. 

A longer timeframe lets you track substantial improvements and avoids the pitfalls of getting too caught up in day-to-day fluctuations.

Like a pixilated picture, you can only appreciate it if you look at it from a distance.

Think in decades, not days. That’s the right perspective.

Track your time spent on daily tasks 

Time’s the hottest commodity. It shapes paychecks, hiring decisions, collaborations – you name it.

Take my early days in photo editing. One image ate up over an hour. Now? I can often nail it in 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the task.

Keep tabs on your task times. But, don’t race so fast that you skimp on quality.

Track down how your career has shaped your values

Writing sharpens my thoughts and enhances communication. Photography boosts awareness and empathy.

Your career and life are interconnected.

A superhuman state is achieved by seamlessly integrating culture, psyche, biology, spirituality, and work.

Financial Security

Let’s be real – who doesn’t need money?

It’s essential for a good life, taking care of family, and tackling financial hurdles. Also, a cure for money anxiety

Money is what people pay for your value. 

When folks are ready to pay top dollar for what you offer, it’s a nod that you’re ace at your game, and your craft’s on the upswing. 

But it’s not a hallmark of success (as the price you get paid is dependent on many factors such as your location, race, gender, negotiation skill, etc.). So, be cautious when measuring your success with money.

Job Satisfaction

Imagine a job that’s not only exciting but also adds purpose to your life. It’s more than just a regular job; it’s a blend of who you are and your career – a real game-changer.

When your work feels like a natural part of you, that’s when you truly excel. You find yourself reaching greater heights.

Professional Growth and Recognition 

Career success is an ever-evolving path, a round with fresh challenges at different levels. 

As you progress, you might find joy in high titles, nods from peers, or breaking new ground in your field. These can signal your trajectory is correct.

Impact on Others

For many, success comes through impact – leaving a mark in fields that matter, being a mentor, and sprinkling positivity. 

It’s not just about the individual journey; it’s about the ripples you create in the world around you. 

So if you get more people and buzz around your instrument, it’s a sign that you’re killing the show. 

Remember, sizing up career success isn’t a quick task. It’s a lifelong expedition. Navigate using the wisdom above, adjusting your route as you grow and refine.

And the measuring stick that truly counts is your values. Gauge your path by what brings fulfilment, challenges you, and makes you better. 

Pause! Breath. You’ve come a long way. Drink some water if you may but hope you are following. 

Another crucial question to toss in the mix: What about your career and your happiness?

Will Career Success Bring You Happiness

Happiness is a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s a shape-shifter – meaning it varies from person to person. But, often, it’s a side effect of something good or fulfilling.

For instance, nailing a career goal can flood you with joy and satisfaction.

Yet, the problem is the cause-and-effect dance. You’re happy when you achieve. 

But if you are honest: How long does the high from a new car, phone, promotion, or relationship truly last? Not too long before it melts into “meh.” This is the hedonist adaptation

Hence, your career’s success won’t unlock constant happiness, despite the satisfaction it brings. 

Happiness should come before success. It should be one of the things fueling your success.

  • Be happy about what you do. 
  • Be happy about the process and effort you put in. 
  • Be happy about the pain and sacrifice that comes with your game. 

Genuine happy people don’t always seek external validation their career success might bring. 

Conclusion: Don’t stop, Keep Going, You Are Almost There 

Admit it, you’re drawn to those who fearlessly create and follow their path. Guess what? You can be that too. You can become someone you admire.

But this isn’t a stroll in the park. Doubt, fear, anger, sadness, confusion? They’ll show up. You might even stray from your path. But, that’s okay, as long as you find your way back. It’s no linear journey.

But here’s the scoop: protect your vision, especially when the road gets rocky. The payoff outweighs the pain.

Here are some related content you may find helpful; 

David Ifeanyi is a mindful SEO content writer, photographer, and photo retoucher with over 3 years of experience. 

His works help people value themselves and their experiences more. Over the years he has inspired countless people to embrace their uniqueness and become better versions of themselves.

David has worked with several brands, including Tobi Digitals, ReelCliq, and Black Aperture. And has been a huge player in the growth of Pawns Digital Agency.

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