Just when you thought you’d seen your last “daily habits” article, another classic example of click-bait graces the homepage of your favorite website. I just happened upon one that says I can be more successful if I follow four daily habits of master networkers, like the author.
I checked it out, just for kicks. That’s two minutes of my life I’ll never get back.
The post went something like this: since Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page had mentors, that means the more influencers you know, the better your chances of being successful. Her daily habits include attending industry events and using contact management software.
Of course there’s no logic to that argument whatsoever; Zuck and Page did not meet Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt (two of their mentors) by “networking;” and identifying Schmidt as a “software engineer” (he was formerly CEO of Novell and senior executive at Sun prior to meeting Page) came right out of Wikipedia. Busted.
While it’s true that your network is a great asset, it turns out that you’re not likely to meet the kind of people who will make a real difference in your career by networking -- certainly not the kind of networking she describes. We’ll get to how you are likely to meet them in a minute.
The point I’m trying to make is that habits do not determine, or necessarily impact, how things turn out for you, good or bad.
Want to know what my daily habits are? I wake up every morning, eat every day, and go to bed every night (except when I was in college). Now that I think about it, I do have two daily habits: I have a triple shot cappuccino every morning and don’t drink until my work is done. You don’t want to know what happens after that.
See, nothing to write home about, certainly nothing worth recommending.
There are, however, certain fundamental concepts that may help you to be successful. I have to warn you, they’re not habits and they’re sort of boring, but they are the real deal -- real principles to live and work by. I practice them religiously, as I suspect many executives and business leaders do:
Do your work.
I don’t care if you’re an engineer, an actor or a plumber, work ethic is hands down the most fundamental aspect of a successful career. It means making it your top priority to get the job done and do it right.
Take smart risks.
This one trips up a lot of people, so let me try to clarify. The goal is not to make the riskiest bets or throw caution to the wind. Rather, you want to maximize return and minimize risk, although you can’t have one without the other. In other words, when you find what you think or feel is a great opportunity, you should go for it.
Make good choices.
Likewise, this is a bit vague, but that can’t be helped. Success is all about making good decisions based on the best available information from trusted sources and your own instincts. Just because you read online that it’s a good idea doesn’t count.
Look, if you don’t get out there and work, you’ll never gain exposure, find opportunities or meet people who will end up making a real difference for you. You have to put yourself out there. By that, I don’t mean laying on the couch with a MacBook on your lap.
Let me explain something. Networking is expressly trying to meet people who might help you someday. In 30-something years, I have never done that. Not once. But I do have a pretty awesome network that comes from genuinely enjoying getting to know folks and helping them out when I can. Simple as that.
Work hard and stick with it.
Did I mention that you should work your freaking tail off? If so, it’s worth repeating. I know some say "work smart." I say "work hard and make smart decisions." And don’t forget perseverance. Tenacity is the unsung hero of the business world. It’s what you need to get through those inevitable “Oh crap” moments.
Focus on what matters.
In case you’re wondering, what matters is that you figure out what you love to do (hopefully something marketable) and strive to become better at it than anyone else. When it comes to your career you should focus on what matters and forget about habits, networking, and all the other nonsense you read online.
As I say in my new book, Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur, nobody ever got ahead by doing what everyone else is doing. Leaders lead. Followers follow. You can’t do both. The choice is yours.