Not to toot my own horn, but some people think that I’m fairly successful. I don’t have everything figured out (that’s for sure!) but I do believe that I have some things figured out that a lot of people struggle with. As I think back over my life, there have been certain decisions (or success factors) that I’ve made that have made a huge impact on my present circumstances and I wanted to share them with you.
They’re not really secrets, unless you consider the secret of reflection. Did I know ahead of time that these factors would cause me to be successful? Not in every case, no. However, there have been decisions in my life that were made very consciously at the time in order to have success in my future.
Success Factor #1: Choosing to be Highly Educated
I firmly believe in higher education. There has been studies showing that the more education you receive, the more money you will make over the course of your working life. I remember reading a long time ago that even you are a shoe salesman, if you had a degree you would will earn considerably more than the salesman with just a high school education. All I knew when I was younger that I didn’t want to do manual labour or work a minimum wage job. I wanted options and that’s what an education provides you.
I’m the youngest of six children in my family and was the first person (on both sides of the family) to attend University and get a degree. I remember being in high school and getting good grades (they weren’t the highest, but they were good enough) and deciding that no matter what I had to do, I was going to University. None of my siblings had gone to University before me, although one sister did attend a secretarial college program.
That one decision – to go to university and get a degree – has made a major impact on my life.
It’s not just the exposure you receive to new ideas (although that’s huge) or the friends that you make during university (those gradually go away over time) or what you learn during university (how many of us are using the degree that we paid so much for?).
The biggest thing that I gained from my university days is the belief in myself and knowing that I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to. Completing four years of higher education gave me the confidence I needed to be succesful later on in life. No matter what happens, no one can take away that degree from me. Believe me, having that in your pocket can make the difference between you being hired and the next person. In today’s competitive environment, why would you give yourself a handicap like not being educated?
After the four years of university, I also completed a 1 year after-degree certificate, 2 other certificates completed during night school, and a 3-year college diploma program. This is in addition to the various other certifications and courses I’ve taken over the years. Believe me, I know what it’s like to be in a classroom. Leaving home at 18 to attend a university in another province really opened my mind to new possibilities for my life.
It took me 7 years to pay off my student loans. I will never forget the last payment. Even though it was not fun making those monthly payments, the sacrifices were worth it. It set me on my path of success.
Take away: If a lack of knowledge is holding you back from your success, do what you have to do to gain that knowledge. If that means higher education, enroll. If it means taking a night course, sign up for it. If it means paying out of pocket for software or books, then buy what you need so that you can gain the necessary knowledge. Do what you have to do in order to succeed.
Success Factor #2: Reading a Lot of Books
Another one of my ‘secret’ success factors has been to read a lot of books. And, I mean A LOT. I’m an avid reader and am constantly buying books on a variety of topics.
I once read someone that you should be investing 3% of your salary into yourself and I have no problem justifying my buying of books. It’s an investment in myself and I’m worth it.
You never know what impact that one idea or that one tip will make on your life. Reading a variety of books exposes you to new information and new ways of thinking. There are reams and reams of information available – one person can’t know everything, so why would you not read and learn as much as you can?
I could never understand those people who say that they don’t read and don’t enjoy it. Maybe they haven’t found the right genre yet and need to explore more. If you are only reading blogs, you are missing out on so much. Yes, a lot of information is available online, but there are still plenty of information that is not available on the net. There is no substitute to reading a physical book, in my opinion.
Being able to read pretty fast is a corollary benefit to reading books and enjoying them. The faster you read, the more books you can read. The more books you read, the greater your pool of knowledge.
One book that I read, David Bach’s “Smart Women Finish Rich” resulted in a $20K increase in my salary. It opened my eye regarding money and how much I was settling for. I took action as a result of that book. Is reading worth the time, effort and money involved? I would say a resounding Yes!
“The only thing worse than not reading a book in the last ninety days is – not reading a book in the last ninety days and think that it doesn’t matter.” – Jim Rohn
Take away: Why are you not reading books? If you don’t like reading, then find a genre that you enjoy. Read a variety of different books so that you are gain exposure and can take advantage of all that is available to you.
Success Factor #3: Realizing That ‘No One Was Coming’
It’s sad how many little girls are brought up to believe in Prince Charming and are expecting to be taken care of when they grow up. When Prince Charming isn’t so princely or charming (or doesn’t even bother showing up to the ballroom!), the resulting crush of reality can be very hard. If you’ve been brought up in an environment to believe that you are not valued and you do not have any skills, then you had better gain the skills necessary to support yourself.
Consciously knowing that it was up to me, and no one else, to make any and all necessary changes in my life freed me in so many different ways.
You are not able to play the victim or have a pity party of one when you take full responsibility for your own life. All decisions that I make are decisions that I have to take ownership of and I also accept the consequences of them. Good or bad.
When you really believe that ‘No One Is Coming’ to save you from your current situation or that it’s not up to your parents, your siblings or anyone else, to better yourself, it motivates you to figure things out. You have to figure things out because you have no one else to rely on. It’s only you. There is no one else. Other people can try and offer their advice and guidance, but ultimately your happiness and success are up to you.
Realizing that it was up to me to make a better life for myself meant that I needed to 1) become educated in order to 2) have marketable skills and 3) become knowledgeable about finances so that I can 4) figure out how to do things (and pay for them) on my own which resulted in 5) the confidence and belief that even though I may not know everything, I can learn about any subject and figure it out as I go along. I do know some things that other people don’t. I’m able to share with you what I have learned so far in my life on this blog
Success Factor #4: Taking Calculated Risks
When I graduated from university, I couldn’t find a job as it was the height of the recession. At the time, I didn’t know that we were in a recession, all I knew was that I couldn’t find a job and that things seemed to be bad financially for many people.
A few of my friends found jobs and some were unemployed like me. After a while I got sick of being unemployed and realized that ‘No One Was Coming’ to rescue me and offer me a job. I made the decision to to back to school and picked a more marketable skill this time around. After another 3 years (on top of the first 4 year degree), I graduated and immediately was offered several positions.
I could have picked the safe position and stayed in my hometown. I could haved lived at home and be like everyone else in the family – safe and secure with everything that was familiar to me.
When I received the offer from Toronto (a major city far away from my hometown), I was really scared to accept it. After all, I only knew one person who lived there. How would I afford to move there? Where would I live? Could I do the job? What if I was mugged? It’s amazing the fears that cross your mind when you don’t know any differently
Living in Toronto wasn’t originally a possibility for me, it hadn’t even entered my head until I was offered the position. But once I was offered it, I knew one thing – if I passed on the job offer because I was too scared to take it, I would regret it for the rest of my life.
It’s easy to see now that taking this one calculated risk has led me to my current success. If I didn’t take the position in Toronto, then I wouldn’t have the confidence in myself and my abilities that I gained while working on Bay Street in the largest city in Toronto at two of the biggest financial companies in the country. If I hadn’t moved, I wouldn’t have been exposed to so many different people, situations and opportunities. I took a calculated risk and it made off. Taking this one risk has given me the confidence to take other risks in my life, as well. Things don’t seem so scary the more times you face your fears.
Take away: If you are scared to do something, that is no reason not to do it. Don’t let the fear of the unknown affect the decisions in your life. Take some calculated risks so that you don’t live with regret.
Success Factor #5: Educating Myself About Finances
Growing up as the youngest of six children meant that there wasn’t a lot of money to be spent on frivolous items, especially when only one parent worked outside the home. Having to wear hand-me-downs and not being able to afford the things that my friends didn’t think twice about buying made a huge impact on me when I was growing up.
When I finally graduated the second time with a marketable skill and started earning real money, I immediately knew that I had better get educated about my finances. I wanted to earn more (so that I could pay off my student loans) and I wanted to keep more of what I was making. After all, by this time, I knew that ‘No One Was Coming” so if I didn’t figure out what to do with my money, then I had no one to blame but myself. Reading that you need to pay yourself first and that women live longer for men resulted in me saving 12% of my salary. I made sacrifices in order to save this amount of money each year.
Luckily for me, the company where I worked had a mandatory retirement policy which automatically enrolled me in their group retirement fund. Once I started receiving statements and seeing the funds grow each month I made the connection – the more I saved, the more money I could put towards my retirement. I started reading books on finances and visiting financial blogs to gain the knowledge that I needed to learn the basics. Over time I took more advanced courses on finances, which meant that I was able to understand securities and the financial industry more.
The more I learned, the more actions I took with my money. I’m not intimidated about money anymore as I’ve seen the results from educating myself about my finances.
Take away: Learn the basics about money and your finances. It’s true that no one cares about your money as much as you do. The earlier you start taking care of your money, the earlier it can start to take care of you!
Thanks with sticking with me to the end of this post. I know that it turned out to be longer than I was expecting it to be, but I wanted to share with you the Top 5 Secret Factors that have resulted in my present-day success.
When you think back over your own life, what success factor or decision do you think has had the biggest impact on your life?