If you’ve ever read some of those short, annotated biography fragments comparing the lives of famous and successful people throughout the ages, and what they achieved at different points in their life, you might start to get a bit nervous – because many of those individuals got some pretty outlandishly remarkable things done at very young ages.
Now, of course, that’s a bit of a one-sided and misrepresentative way of looking at things, because history is also full of great and successful people who only got a late “start” in life, and who only made names for themselves after decades of obscurity.
All the same, probably everyone would agree that if you can become a success from a young age, that’s more desirable than hanging on for decades before getting your “big break.”
There are no guarantees, of course, and life should be lived as an adventure whatever the outcome. Just as a general thought experiment and a bit of a game, though, here are a few tips for becoming a success in business from a young age.
Don’t Underestimate the Value of a Good Degree (But Also Explore and Expand Your Possibilities at University)
If you want to get into certain fields, a degree is pretty much an essential prerequisite to entry. And, even if it isn’t always going to be a prerequisite to entry, it’s often the case that a degree can really turbocharge your ability to end up on recruiters’ radars, and to get your foot in the door.
Of course, getting the right degree is important. A business degree from the University of Alabama Birmingham, for example, will have a different impact on your CV than a degree in classical civilisations.
It might not necessarily be the case that you have a particular career path in mind that you want to go down immediately – or that the career path that you do want to go down isn’t matched to an immediately-relevant degree.
In any case, seriously consider the value of a good degree, and do your research.
Of course, it’s also important to keep in mind that – at university – there are many ways to expand and explore your possibilities, beyond just acquiring a degree in and of itself.
Universities are a great setting for developing your social life, and getting some perspective on the world, and it’s certainly worth pointing out that good people skills and the ability to read a crowd go a long way in professional success in business, more or less across the board.
While at university, you can also join relevant societies – maybe including entrepreneurial groups – and can begin networking with recruiters who are keeping their eye on the upcoming crop of graduates.
If you treat the university experience wisely, instead of just as an excuse to party constantly, you can get a lot out of it and be primed and ready to explode into a productive career as soon as you graduate.
Stop Passing the Buck – Adopt an Ethos of “Extreme Ownership”
The former US Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink, has become quite famous in recent years, largely due to the success of his book “Extreme Ownership,” written with fellow former SEAL, Leif Babin.
The basic premise of the book is fairly straightforward – the two men describe how, in the SEAL teams, the ethos that most reliably led to success on the battlefield, respect from their companions and bosses, and consistency and productivity at all times, was one of “Extreme Ownership.”
The basic concept of “Extreme Ownership,” is that you should never pass the buck, and should always view yourself as the responsible party in any situation. If someone undermines you or does something that you don’t appreciate, the “Extreme Ownership” ethos says that you should spend all of your energy thinking about how to appropriately respond, and how your own actions put you in the situation you’ve found yourself in.
This idea is unappealing, at first, but if approached in the right way it can lead to an empowered existence where you always feel “in the driver’s seat,” and are always focused on being proactive. There must be something to it, because the two Navy SEALs in question run the company Echelon Front, which specialises in teaching these very ideas to senior figures and teams in the business world.
When we are younger, in particular, we often aren’t too keen on an “Extreme Ownership” approach. Give it a try, though, and you’ll likely be far better positioned to guide the course of your life in a productive way.
Your Habits Shape Your Destiny, so Get Used to Developing Good Ones
According to psychologists, a massive proportion of what we do on any given day is bound to be essentially unconscious and habit-driven.
Think about it for a minute; how many of the things that you do an everyday basis do you really give your undivided attention to, and expend a lot of mental energy on?
Likely you brush your teeth and get dressed automatically, cook and eat automatically, travel to school or work automatically, do the same sorts of activities when you’re relaxing, without really thinking about it, and so on.
There’s no getting away from habits – but as the old saying goes (more or less), “beware of your habits, for they will become your destiny.”
According to writers like Charles Duhigg, James Clear, and Scott Adams, a major component of success is nurturing productive habits that constantly pull you in a positive direction.
So, do an inventory of your existing habits, and ask yourself “is this lifting me up, or bringing me down?”
Generally, you’ll find that if you spend a huge chunk of your free time every day watching TV, playing video games, and lounging around, you’re probably not heading in the direction of great career success and fulfilment.
If you want to be successful from an early age, one of the first things you should focus on is absolutely getting your habits in order, and considering each repetitive daily act that you engage in as a vote towards the kind of person you want to be.
So, set up some positive habits. Get up at a decent time each day. Begin going to the gym regularly. Focus on developing your skills. Maybe start up your own entrepreneurial venture.