There’s no need to stress out over your annual review with the help of these tips.
Success is amazingly common. What’s scarce is success that doesn’t fizzle to failure … or fade within several generations. You want to succeed sustainably.
If you’re anxious to avoid short-term failure, there’s a cautionary tale in the legendary lottery curse. Folks win, then the curse promptly transitions their lives into train wrecks.
In the early TV era of the 1950s, this reversal of fortune was epitomized by the popular show “The Millionaire,” in which a super “Richie” gave away a million dollars to normal folks who usually became miserable quickly.
Over time we have watched rock stars flame out on drugs. Or beautiful young women marry for money and become morose.
Examples of slower, but bigger fades dot America’s corporate landscape, including failures like Sears Holdings recent bankruptcy. Sears was America’s pre-eminent retailer and sixth-largest stock 50 years ago.
Of the top 10 stocks back then, only Exxon survives as a leader. The others are hugely smaller or gone. They were, in order of size: IBM, AT&T, General Motors, Eastman Kodak, Exxon, Sears, Texaco, Xerox, GE and Gulf Oil. Four largely disappeared.
Even super-sized success stories from 20 years ago can fade fast: America Online (1999’s 11th largest ), Lucent (#7) MCI World Com (#16) and Yahoo (#25). Other storied names can also collapse: Blockbuster, Digital Equipment, Helene Curtis, and Toys R Us.
Hence, you can’t count on your employer, even if you work for the government. My father-in-law hated working for Uncle Sam. Post-Great Depression he did it solely for security. But since 1990, the total civilian federal headcount has shrunk 12 percent (including enterprise workers like in the Postal Service). It keeps wiggling downward.
Yet some names endure, becoming near-permanent icons like Coca-Cola, DowDupont and Merck. What makes them different? Simply, it’s a culture that remains restless, striving to change, to be the best and to grow.
That’s your goal! To endlessly build your future.
For that you need two truths: First, make sure your employer is like that. And if they aren’t, move to one that is. How hard is your employer really striving to grow? How much effort and money do they invest each year into truly new growth oriented initiatives?
My father asked, “What are you doing your competitors aren’t doing yet?” It was among the most brilliant lines I ever heard. It changed me. It speaks to putting yourself ahead of the curve or staying ahead. If your current employer isn’t seriously striving for future growth, you should shift to one that is before it’s too late.
The second truth: You must make yourself indispensable – which has two components. Once you’re done with college and working, you need to be permanently learning. You can do it informally online. But keep building your human capital. Google endlessly about anything and everything that touches, even peripherally, on what your firm does, and beyond the functions you perform there.
Then, at work, keep volunteering, for everything and anything. Raise your hand repeatedly. Make your boss and boss’s boss know you are not about what you “can do,” which is about your capacity, but what you “will do” which is above, beyond, and more than that sorry sap next to you. If your firm does shrink, you will be among the last 20 percent they let go, giving you time to maneuver to a more futuristic employer.
In our future, anyone who isn’t eager is meager. Great attitude and activity will always equal success. Complacency now equals eventual failure. Sustainable success is only yours to build.
Ken Fisher is founder and executive chairman of Fisher Investments, author of 11 books, four of which were New York Times bestsellers, and is No. 200 on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Follow him on Twitter: @KennethLFisher
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
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