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Count the cost of your success

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Ask any successful person how they achieved their position, and you are likely to hear a story about how they started from the bottom of the company or were fired or laid off or worked a few jobs before they moved up the ladder.{{more}}

Unless an accomplished person was born into wealth, that person has probably paid a price for his or her success.

That’s called “paying your dues.” Too often, we see only the end product of someone’s years of professional work; we do not see or understand the struggles and sacrifices he or she had to endure to accomplish those goals. Their journeys always seem so easy when their achievements are already on display. Before wishing you become the new manager, project leader, writer, or CEO, ask yourself if you are willing to make the commitment and follow through to reach that goal, if you are willing to pay your dues.

Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

Count the cost. Before you embark on any goal, you need to count the cost. What will this goal cost you? Will it cost you time from your family? Will it cost you finances that need to be invested to educate yourself or to run the business? Or loss of friends or co-workers who may no longer understand you? Will you be ridiculed by associates, who berate you because you have “such lofty dreams”? Would you lose privacy, if you seek a public position? Almost any position will cost you, and you need to decide if you are willing to pay. Be prepared also for some unexpected costs that can interrupt or attempt to derail your plans.

Map out a plan. Once you’ve calculated the cost, determine your plan, your strategy. Let’s say you want to be a senior vice-president. Can a person currently in the position guide you? Will you need to go back to school? More than education, will you need to get more experience under your belt? Are you even in the right company to realize your dream?

Be patient. Don’t expect to be an overnight success. One of the biggest problems in paying dues is lack of patience. Six months in a position is probably not enough experience to make you an expert. But, don’t abandon your journey prematurely, solely because you fail to embrace the cycle of sowing and reaping. Having an impressive degree, fresh out of university, does not necessarily give you reason to become CEO – unless you start the company yourself!

Be resilient. Every successful person has stories about the number of times they failed, got rejected, or endured criticism before achieving their goal. You have to decide early in your quest that you will do whatever it takes. For some people, that’s working two or three jobs to get to the next level or tolerating a boss they would rather not work with just to get the experience. Whatever your circumstances, your resilience during each step will build and instill the maturity and wisdom that will eventually sustain you.

Be bold. Paying your dues does not mean, even after you’ve toiled for a certain period of time, that someone will have pity on you and give you your dream. You still have to be bold and ask for what you want on a consistent basis. The person who is consistently bold finds that success often comes knocking on their door.

Expect progress. If you are not seeing progress, you are not paying your dues – you are just wasting your time. Now, great things do take time, but you must see some occasional, at least incremental signs that your efforts are not in vain. Gain a better understanding of how things work, so you can accelerate your progress. You might find it appropriate to modify your plans once in a while. Don’t be afraid to adjust your thinking and your plan in order to see progress, because sometimes, it’s not the plan that’s the problem – it is the planner.

Karen Hinds is “The Workplace Success Expert.”
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