Find Success in Three Simple Steps

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Becoming successful, whatever that means to you, doesn’t happen by chance.

There are endless paths to the top. Even so, hearing what successful people have learned on their journeys can help you along yours.

Kate White, former editor of Cosmo magazine and the author of several bestsellers, recently gave a talk about success to a group of women. White first called attention to common fears about success, including the fear that it won’t last and the fear that being highly successful requires so much effort or work that there is no time to enjoy it. Those fears can prevent many people from even reaching for their highest goals.

White offered the three strategies that worked for her. Here, for inspiration, is her advice.

  1. Go Big or Go Home- White said she first heard the phrase from a young woman who was talking about Saturday night, but realized it applied to our work lives as well. When she started at Cosmo, the magazine traditionally put models on its cover. She wanted to change that, but was told that there were not enough women in top positions for monthly covers. She ignored them, and started a new tradition. “Always ask,” said White, “Could I do this bigger, bolder, better, and could it be more bad ass?” Standing out from the crowd often means breaking the rules.
  2. Stop Worrying About What Other People Think –Women spend far too much time thinking about something in advance and ruminating too much about it afterward. “We have a soundtrack that can be negative in our heads,” she said. “Guys don’t have that soundtrack.” Worrying about how we are perceived hurts women the most in their financial lives. Women are afraid to appear greedy. “You have to know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” White advised women to ask for opportunities and to negotiate. Know how much you want to earn–X–and when you get a job offer, for example, White said “say you are thrilled, but you were hoping for X.”
  3. Don’t Forget to Drain the Swamp –This advice comes from the the old Southern expression that goes something like: when you are up to your neck in alligators, you forget your goal was to drain the swamp. The idea is not to get so caught up in day-to-day details that you forget your larger goal. Keeping the bigger picture in mind is particularly difficult if you have a busy, demanding job, but it is essential to reach your goals. “I build in time every single week,” said White, “and that made all the difference.”

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and, among others.