The No. 1 Quality For Career Success

Ask yourself every day, “Am I working like a digger on the railroad for this?”

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Curt Rosengren
Do you want to pursue your passion? Do you want a career that makes you feel alive? Here is a quote that, in one sentence, sums up the secret recipe to making it happen. It’s a quote that gets to the essence of what it takes to create a passion-filled career (and a passion-filled life, for that matter).

There is no way to success in art but to take off your coat, grind paint, and work like a digger on the railroad, all day and every day.    -Ralph Waldo Emerson

[See 14 secrets to career change success.]

Read that quote. Then read it again. In fact, don’t just read it. Print it out and put it somewhere you can see it. Journal about what that means. Ask yourself every day, “Am I working like a digger on the railroad for this?” Find a way to make it a cornerstone of your efforts.

I know that’s not sexy, and it’s probably not what you want to hear. It flies in the face of so much of the self-help advice you hear. “Think positive. Manifest your dreams with the power of intention.” Blah, blah, blah. I don’t have anything against any of those things – in fact, I’m a fan of them – but too often people delude themselves into thinking that they offer some kind of magic wand solution that can magically conjure up their dreams.

[See 8 ways to overcome perfectionism.]

The reality is, unless you’re really lucky, there is no push-button route to a career you love. There are definitely things you can do to ease the way and increase the potential for success (positive thinking and working with intentions among them), but there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned hard, focused, persistent work.

Here’s a question to ask yourself on a regular basis: What am I doing to create the life I want? How hard am I working at it? Could I be working harder? What would that look like? What steps specifically do I need to take?”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m realistic enough to know that for most people, pursuing the path towards a career they love is only one of the many demands on their lives. So I’m not saying, “Chuck everything and focus 100 percent of your hard work on that new career.” But if you are honest with yourself, you’ll know if you are putting enough effort into it.

[See how to break your addiction to fear.]

Is pursuing a career you love a priority? Is it really? Do you want to know what your priorities actually are? Take a look at what you choose to do with your time. Is there anything that is getting prioritized higher than the life you want to create that shouldn’t be? (TV is a huge example of this.) If you say work you love really is a priority, but your actions say it’s not, then one or the other of those need to change.

Speaking from personal experience, as well as from having seen the effect it has had on others when they shift from “ho-hum” to “Hallelujah!” in their careers, the difference between so-so work and work that truly energizes you is enormous. And that difference has a ripple effect across all facets of your life.

The key, of course, is knowing what you're working towards. What do you want out of your career? What do you want to create? What lights you up? What's your big dream?

Once you figure that out, turn it into reality with consistent, persistent action.

After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.