Want to be Successful in Your Work? Answer These Four Questions

Christian Knutson | Comments | August 29, 2013

There is an enormous body of knowledge published with a million different tips, tricks, or shortcuts to position you to kick-it on the job.  The problem is that it’s impossible to assimilate all of this information and then, more importantly, do something spectacular with it.  Reading the material provided by others (yes, like me) who have a notion of what works through observation and successful application of some number is great.  That is great, if you face exactly the same environment, personalities, opportunities and failures that the provider faced.  But you won’t.  You’ll face your own version of life and for that you need to develop your own version of tips, tricks, and shortcuts to kick-it on the job. To be successful in your work you need to know what makes you tick.

I’m not surprised that most people can’t answer the following four questions with out a lot of pain:

What are my strengths?

What are my weaknesses and how do I minimize them?

What are my top three desires and what am I actively doing to make them a reality?

What is my competitive advantage?

When I recently asked these of several people in my network I received everything from facial contortions to hostile defensive responses.  The fact is: you can’t be confused about the answers to these questions. You definitely can’t resort to faces or anger because others do understand what makes them tick.  And they’re the one’s who are successful, less stressed, happy, and better positioned to get the right positions in a competitive environment.

These aren’t questions that you only prepare for when you’re about to face an interview board.  Knowing the answers at all times provides you with a confidence level that’s difficult to replicate.  Think of it this way:  the four questions give you the four points of your compass.  With these four points you can chart not only a course for success; but a vector for success.  The course comes from having a rough idea of the answers and provides only a direction.  This is good, far better than wandering in the wilderness. Knowing the answers to these questions, however, gives you a vector, which means you have both a course and a magnitude.  It means you have depth, amplitude, altitude, momentum, inertia, energy…whatever you want to call it…to drive you along your course.

Sure, you can be successful in your work without knowing the answers to these four questions.  But that’s a lot like going on a long road trip without maps, a gas tank that’s half full, and bad brakes.  You have a good chance of getting to your destination, but you won’t be prepared for the obstacles in the environment that may keep you from reaching your objective.

Whereas the average individuals “often have not the slightest idea of what they are, of what they want, of what their own opinions are,” self-actualizing individuals have “superior awareness of their own impulses, desires, opinions, and subjective reactions in general.”  Abraham Maslow

Chris Knutson, P.E., PMP is a leadership and strategy coach, practicing engineer and program manager. He is co-founder of The Engineering Career Coach, a company providing engineers and engineering companies core skills, leadership, and lifestyle design services enabling them to execute their vision. Chris is a retired U.S. Air Force civil engineer officer with over two decades of active duty service leading engineering organizations and multi-million dollar programs around the globe. Learn more about his work and access more resources at The Engineering Career Coach.

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