Off The Grind

Dress For Success?

Career Day

A few years ago, I received a letter from our local high school. It was about their Career Day and the letter invited me to participate by setting up a booth and talking to students about what we do for a living.

This was a great idea, I wanted to do it, and I applaud the school for organizing this event.

Just one thing bothered me — the theme…

“This year, the students will be ‘Dressing for Success.’ Each student will dress up like the career person they want to become. We are looking for professionals willing to let the best dressed student shadow them for a day.”

Let’s see, what do you wear for a career as an entrepreneur?…

~ whatever the heck you want ~

That’s the whole idea of being in business for yourself. So you can do whatever you want when you want to do it.

So I wonder, how are we supposed to have a society of free thinking entrepreneurs and a robust and flexible economy when the schools are sending the message that what you wear is an ingredient for success?

What you wear can certainly be a tactical tool. I suppose if you were on trial for murder you wouldn’t want your defense attorney to show up in Bermuda shorts and a tank top.

But “dressing” is simply not a major component of “success.”

Several years ago I was on the board of directors for the local Chamber of Commerce and I was the only guy who didn’t show up dressed like a penguin with a scrap of cloth hanging from my neck. I looked very out of place and in the short term it probably hurt my credibility. But the ideas I had, and my ability to produce results, changed that quickly. In the end they gave me a nice plaque and wanted to make me president of the board (I didn’t take the job).

Here I am, “dressed for success”

OK, my “nit picking” and having a little fun with this aside, hat’s off to the school for having a Career Day and reaching out to the business community for participation.

And thanks to them for causing me to think closely about what the prime ingredients for success really are. I came up with five.

Of course there are many ingredients to success, but these five probably trump all others…

One — choice… What you choose to be successful at is one of the biggest factors in whether you will achieve your goal.

Success, of course, is never guaranteed. Things happen that you can’t control. What you can control are the odds of success.

If your success target, for example, is being anointed the next “Andsel Adams” you’re going to be bucking some very stiff headwinds.

On the other hand, if your goal is to have a solid people and pet photography business, your odds of success are pretty good.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t “reach for the stars,” it just means that the difficulty of what you choose to do will affect your chances of a successful outcome.

Two — passion… Nothing beats having a passion for what you do. Your attention span, your energy level and your tolerance for adversity are all affected by your level of passion.

Passion, of course, intertwines with choice. At one point, Pam, my wife, and I failed miserably at multi level marketing because we didn’t like the process. Others who are passionate about that type of business, can and do excel.

On the flip side, having a passion for something that isn’t very workable won’t do you any good. “Find your passion and everything else will fall into place,” is deadly advice.

Now here’s the cool thing about “passion” — it doesn’t have to come naturally. It’s great if it does, but if it doesn’t, you can learn to cultivate it. You can nurture it and you can tun it on and off. Super successful people tend to do everything with love and passion — even the things they don’t like to do!

Three — immersion… choice can stack the odds in your favor and passion can provide the “spark,” but it takes knowledge and skills to achieve a successful outcome.

And for the truly success-bound, nothing short of total immersion in the subject will do the trick.

It amazes me how some people have the “passion,” want the success, but won’t immerse themselves in knowledge to the point of having a “mind altering experience.”

I have a passion for business and marketing and my office is packed with books, tapes, DVDs, and CDs, on marketing. I’m constantly studying, totally immersed in the subject (the marketing “passion,” by the way, is one of those “manufactured” passions — I like the results I get, but my interest didn’t come naturally).

Same with my photography (which is a natural passion). I’ll leave no stone unturned to get the results I want.

Four — action… It’s all a lame exercise if you don’t “pull the trigger” and take action.

Frankly, most people stop short of taking real action that leads to the success they want. They’ll choose, have passion, and immerse, but fear and procrastination holds them back.

Five — persistence… The first four principles (as important as they are), are just a “warm up” for persistence.

And what really is persistence? It’s taking action, examining the results, correcting your actions and repeating the process until the desired results are achieved.

It’s not doing the same thing over and over again hoping the results will be different.

Ultimately it’s the “persistence process” gives us the experience and wisdom we need to make success look “easy.”


So, what do you think? Does that have it “nailed” or not? Does the message “hold water” even if it’s delivered by a guy in a T-shirt with his feet up on the desk?

Oh yeah, about Career Day at the high school — I had a trip planned and didn’t get a chance to attend. I wonder if anyone showed up wearing a t-shirt with “Entrepreneur” emblazoned on it?