Less than 10 years after college, Jeff Bezos found himself at a career crossroads. Stay in the business world, and play things safe at a high-paying job with a hedge fund, or go for it all. Going for it all meant pursuing his dream of starting an online bookstore. An online bookstore?! He was laughed under the table by his friends and family.
Bezos decided to pursue his dream, and the rest is history.
Amazon is what it is today because Jeff Bezos was willing to ask himself this very important question:
Is this life what I really want?
Who could have blamed him for going after a demanding career, but one that would be a “sure thing” for someone of his intelligence? No one. But he knew deep down that it wasn’t what he really wanted. He wanted his dream. He wanted the big prize. Better to aim high.
We find in life that we can play things safe, or we can bet on ourselves and give it a shot, even when we don’t have a safety net. There’s nothing worse than doing something wrong, not enjoying yourself while doing it, but hanging on because you think it’s “the right thing to do.”
I know. This one sentence, at times, came to define a lot of my professional life. Maybe you’re going through the same thing now, or perhaps you’ve survived the storm.
The world’s most successful people turn to fundamental questions that guide their thoughts, habits and decisions. There are no secrets. Just deep, conscientious thought that goes into incredible success stories. Read these three questions below, handpicked from the life lessons of some of the world’s most successful people.
1. What am I doing that is allowing me to have a positive, transformative impact on others?
“I can tell you from experience, the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.” — Jim Carrey
I bet there are more people than you think — who are in your life right now — whose lives you can influence and perhaps change forever. You may not think they’re open to it. But maybe the truth is, you’re not yet open to it. Begin by asking yourself what you can do to change your environment for the better. This is what Jim Carrey asked himself.
He realized his gift he wanted to give to the world was laughter. He went after it with all of his might and became one of the most successful comedians — and actors — in the world.
How can you be more positive and more adventurous in challenging yourself to do more for others, while simultaneously improving your own circumstances? The more you think about this and use it to guide you, the more likely you will feel compelled to take action and do things for the benefit of others. The results will add amazing richness and value to your life.
2. What short-term “losses” am I willing to accept to reap amazing, future gains?
Following your heart, crushing fear and having an intelligent plan to lead you is the best path forward. This means that you take on greater risk. This never, ever seems easy. And some people will outright ignore this path because of situations and circumstances for where they are in life. Trust me, I know.
As the father to two young children, the idea of dropping everything and going to pursue some dreams simply isn’t practical. It would be foolish and shortsighted. The key word being, “some.” However, a couple years ago, I decided to go for it all and pursue my career as a speaker, writer and executive coach.
I decided to take some short-term losses in profit to build the life I’ve always wanted. No regrets.
I absolutely had to take some chances that friends, colleagues and even some family scoffed at. I didn’t care. Because I trusted my intuition and the deep, intelligent thought I gave my situation. The longer you “kick the can” down the road, the longer you ignore the wishes and dreams of your heart; the longer you live someone else’s life, which is NEVER a smart decision.
When you go for your biggest dream(s), you likely won’t experience immediate success. You will fail. Make mistakes. You will probably lose money. It happened to me. It happened to ESPN — the omnipresent sports media network. According to Inc.com, if it weren’t for borrowed money, lots of hope and a dream, they never would have come to be.
“In 1994, (Anheuser-Busch VP) Michael Roarty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “We gave them $1 million that first year. And if we hadn’t, they’d have gone under.”
They had to lose money to make money. And now, they’re on top of the sports media world.
3. What is my risk threshold to help me overcome fear?
Playing things conservatively isn’t always a bad idea. It’s not necessarily bad advice for a moment, a season or perhaps even with your finances, at times. But an overall risk-averse approach to your life leads to boredom, disappointment and an increase of fear. Simply put — it leads to failure.
The reason it’s hard to detect is because the conservative approach doesn’t reveal itself to be failure immediately. It’s a drawn out, elongated process that pulls you away from what you desire most. It disguises itself as the “right” approach, but in reality it’s ripping your inspiration right out of you.
Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, is an example of a woman that stared fear down and took enormous risks to build a successful business. She learned a lot from selling copy machines and doing door-to-door sales. She recognized that if she wanted to succeed, she needed to understand exactly what her customers wanted. So, she asked them.
She overcame the fear of staying stuck right where she was. She realized, to have the life she wanted, she needed to tread into territory that she had never been. And keep going, without a script in hand.
Doing good for the benefit of others.
Losing the battle to win the war.
Do you see the themes? Perhaps a better question for you is, are you willing to ask yourself these questions to find out just how successful you can be?