G. Richard Shell’s book Springboard looks what is success and how to achieve it in your life. Before he started his academic career at Wharton Business School, he had spent most of his twenties unemployed, deeply uncertain about who he was and what he wanted to do. These years he said, were “the most important in my life. It was during that intense period of living with failure that I gained my first insights into the meaning of success.”
He speaks of what sociologists have identified as Odyssey years, years between twenty and thirty-five when we set out to discover our own values and goals. Odysseys can also begin later in life with unexpected events like layoff, divorce or as people near retirement.
The work on an Odyssey is to discover what the next stage of your life will hold – to find out what’s ahead, sometimes in the face of conflicting family, cultural or economic pressures. Each person’s journey is different and you can never be sure where it will end.
Distilling the lessons he learnt in his own Odyssey, he seeks to help others clarify their goals and how to progress in achieving them as a springboard for their search to find their personal vision of success. Two big questions in this are:
- What is success?
- How will I achieve it?
His Six Lives Exercise allows you to choose your own life. It is a self-assessment of your success attitudes. For example, if you can choose, would you live a life devoted to happiness or aim at significant accomplishment? Shell helps you think through the trade-offs between choices.
He also explores what success means to different people and what influences our ideas about success. He considers research that show that when it comes to professional aspirations, the meaning in work comes from within you.
Consider how his five questions can help you clarify your goals and how to progress in your Odyssey or journey to success in your life, especially if you are considering the next phase of your career:
- What do you do better than most? This is about your unique aptitudes, passions, and skills.
- What is the source of your confidence?
- How can passion, imagination, intuition and reason help you accomplish your most important long-term goals?
- How do you motivate yourself to achieve success?
- How does your ability to exert influence through credibility and authentic relationships help you succeed?
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