The following was originally posted on Quora, by Dolly Singh, as an answer to the question, “What are the Best Kept Secrets of Successful Business People?” It’s been re-posted here, in its entirety with permission from the author.
Have you ever known someone who seems to be able to get everything they want? The ones who seem to breeze through life effortlessly, making up their own rules as they go along, unaffected by the mundane realities of everyday life?
Are some people just “luckier” than others, their roads already smoothly paved, helping them achieve their goals? And others are “unluckier,” with barriers cropping up for them out of nowhere, preventing them from achieving their goals?
It’s a slight variation on the age old question: Do we create our destiny, or are we victim to it?
As most age-old questions go, the answer isn’t simple, and more than likely lies somewhere in the middle. But no matter your lot in life, you can make the most of what you have by not letting what you can’t do interfere with what you can do; and by taking note of some of the habits of the ‘lucky’ people in our lives. Are there skills or attributes that enable some of their good fortune?
These people clearly have an ability to effectively court the opportunities and relationships they want in their lives, and when observed closely they do seem to use similar strategies and principles in their pursuits.
These Principles of Courtship can apply equally to both personal and professional endeavors. Whether you’re looking to land an amazing career opportunity, a key client, or that amazing friendship or relationship, following this basic set of principles will help you court the right opportunities, both in 2014 and beyond.
Principle 1: The Art of Pursuit
Effective pursuit is about observation, assessment, and calibration.
Any good pursuit begins with doing your homework. You must know your goals and standards before you can hope to live up to them.
For example, if you see a company you want to work for, learn as much as you possibly can about the company’s history, current status, and future goals. This knowledge will give you credibility as you engage with the company and its network. The more detailed and thorough your effort at this initial stage, the stronger the foundation you will have built for the rest of your capture plan. Inadequate effort in this stage is why thousands of interview candidates each year fail to effectively answer the simple but critical questions of “What do you know about our organization, and why do you want to work here?”.
Similarly, before you consider starting a relationship (serious or casual), you should know who you are getting in bed with (pun intended), as those choices directly impact your health and safety. ‘Luck’ or success in this case is defined as a relationship in which both parties want the same things from one another and are adding positive energy to one anothers lives.
First, focus on activities you personally enjoy. Then, branch out and try new activities you might find interesting. By focusing on yourself you’ll increase the possibility of meeting someone and you’ll likely learn more about yourself through the experience. Once a potential trustee emerges, check for red flags: Pay close attention to the nuances in their behavior, as well as their reputation among others and how they treat people close to them. In these details and subtleties often lay the keys to making your pursuit successful.
Observe the situations closely, assess yourself and the surrounding context, calibrate your capture plan accordingly.
Principle 2: The Impact of Energy
Confidence is the closest thing in this world to magic.
The human brain is amazing. Its complexity and magnificence is unquestioned in science and religion alike; it synthesizes complex information and seemingly unseen cues to make dozens of decisions each instant without any awareness from us. These unconscious interpretations made by one human brain, in turn, become unconscious signals which impact the awareness/brains of others around them, setting off profound but nearly invisible domino reactions in every human exchange.
What drives these unconscious decisions? The same force that drives the rest of the universe: Energy.
A person’s energy impacts her mind, both conscious and unconscious, in profound ways. That energy is conveyed in everything about her being, and that energy has a profound impact on every human being she encounters. You’ll notice that many of the people we see as “lucky” share this commonality: They are confident in themselves and their cause, and that belief allows other people to feel drawn to believing in them as well.
The best way to alter our subconscious impression of energy is to consciously increase our confidence level. Confidence is not just a feeling, but rather reflects on our internal, core perceptions of ourselves — specifically, our value and competence as human beings. Confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy. To become a more confident person, you cannot continue to what you’re already doing; something has to change.
Even the world’s best public speakers did not come out of the womb knowing how to speak. They challenged themselves, took risks, and got scared. But instead of backing away from uncomfortable (but good) opportunities, they walked into them, fear and all.
Conversely, those who live with self-doubt also form a self-fulfilling prophecy with their internal negativity/darkness translating to their life and relationships; and many times they focus on blaming outside factors. Outside factors are inherently out of your control, so by placing blame there, this prevents a person from ever truly progressing to a healthier state.
Leaders are just normal people who habitually seized opportunity. You’ll gain expertise only when you step confidently into new territory. Act confident to become confident. Eventually, the more we practice at things, the better and more confident we become. We all have fear, and we all have causes we believe in. It’s our choice which one we allow to win in the end.
Another important key to confidence is remembering to take care of yourself! If a sports team fails to nourish and support its star players, it certainly shouldn’t expect to win any championships. Likewise, if you’re not taking out time to nurture the person who looks back at you in the mirror, then it will be more than just you who will suffer.
So before you start your path to a new career or new relationship, stop to do a gut check and find out where your confidence is coming from. Find out what truly defines you, why you are here, and whether you’re capable of doing what you came to do. By taking to to nourish your body and to know who you are, your energy and confidence will grow, preparing you for and more joy in professional and personal relationships alike.
Principle 3: The Wisdom of Surrender.
Never use the good to chase the bad.
Take time to re-evaluate every so often, not only on how you are making progress on achieving your goal, but also whether your goal is worth the long-term investment.
During the first few weeks and months of any new engagement, the first months of a new job, a new client, or a budding romance, it’s critical to stay aware of your larger-scale needs and goals. Relationships or engagements where you are slowly being drained of energy in the early stages are not likely to blossom into the kinds of situations that lead to long-term prosperity.
Do not ignore red flags. Your time is one of the most precious resources of your life. Ensure that you’re getting what you need from all engagements, and those engagements are actually adding value/energy to your life. Your most closest relationships should leave you feeling both energized in your confidence level and challenged in your own character development. If it’s not, then if the problems are not identified and addressed, that relationship will have a negative on impact on your life.
People who value themselves don’t stay in relationships that deplete them of energy and joy. As human beings, we are limited. As with money and time, we have only a limited amount of energy to give. In order to have the greatest impact on the world, we must guard our energy, keeping on eye on how it is spent and how it is replenished.
Principle 4: Be the Driver of your Success.
To achieve success in personal and work relationships, define what success is. Then, bend the world to match that definition.
Set measurable, transparent, and, more importantly, agreed-upon goals for the relationship. You must be able to define and articulate what happiness or success would be, so that all parties are moving toward a common place. Any relationship without clear, on-going communication from each party doomed to never achieve it. It is crucial to express to one another and understand one another’s expectations, needs, and definitions of success in the relationship.
Let’s say you started a new job. After the first few months, you’ve decided you like the team and organization, and you want to continue to invest in the opportunity. In this case, you should take some time to identify where you’d like to be 12 months into the role, and should have professional, and on-going dialogue about it with your superiors. A good leader’s job is to enable your success, and unlock your potential, but they can only do so if you know your goals, and if you are taking active steps in achieving those goals as they align with the company.
In new personal relationships, be direct about what you want. If you are looking for casual fun, great — make sure your partner knows. If you know you’d like to be married within the next couple of years, great — make sure your partner knows. Having all parties understand (or better yet, agree upon) one another’s goals is a requisite to any healthy relationship.
Define success in your own terms, and then actively drive others toward that definition of success.
Principle 5: You Get What You Give.
In a highly interconnected world, the foundation you build today will define your success tomorrow.
Look for ways to provide value to everyone you can on a daily basis. These actions, if consistent become behaviors which are highly desirable and never go unnoticed forever. People who create value for others accumulate goodwill and respectability. That goodwill and respectability translates to introductions, which build your network over time. Your network, in turn, opens the door for introductions and opportunities for you to pursue.
In personal relationships, especially as as social media blurs the line between our personal and public lives, reputation is more important now than ever. The world is large enough that, if you’re honest about what you really want, chances are you can find someone else who wants the same things. Honesty and respect are what most people want in relationships, so in order to get it, we must be ready and willing to give it.
We all face personal and professional challenges, and regardless of what we see in the lives of others, none of our roads have been paved perfectly smoothly. Those who appear to be “lucky” in their lot in life are usually those who see every challenge as an opportunity, and consistently seek out ways to turn weaknesses into strengths. It is the energy with which they approach these challenges that begets their success.
By understanding these principles of courtship we can all have a better shot at making the most of the opportunities we have today, as well as pave the way for the opportunities of tomorrow.
Dolly is a supermom and currently acting Head of Talent at Oculus VR. She’s the former Head of Talent Acquisition at SpaceX where she played a critical role in hiring some of the world’s foremost super-nerds and growing the company from 200 employees to over 3,800. She prides herself on helping new entrepreneurs/start-ups and their investors build wicked smart, hyper driven teams designed to disrupt paradigms. You can read more about her and check out all her brilliant Quora answers here.