You Really Can Do Anything You Want To

Yes, I know that you really can do anything that you decide you truly want to.

I can honestly say that I have been able to achieve everything I ever truly wanted to. That’s not to say that I don’t have regrets or things that I wish I had done that I didn’t. But I know that the only reason that I didn’t is because I wasn’t ready to commit the necessary time, dedication, energy and get over my fears.I believe that there are two primary reasons that people don’t accomplish what they want to in life and often don’t even try: Fear and Laziness. That’s it in a nutshell.

successNow, please don’t interpret this as the rantings of an arrogant, pompous ass. I am quite aware that I am not perfect. I am just realistic about life.

To give you a bit of background on my life, I came from a “broken home”. The term itself sounds like a ready made excuse for all the failings of my life. I grew up with my mother and sister in a less than perfect childhood. We never had enough money to pay all the bills. We moved often, I was never able to have enduring relationships and as a result, found myself by default, an outsider. Never quite fitting in, but always trying.

This had the beneficial side effect of making me very self reliant as I had no family to coddle me nor sources of easy money or help. I learned that if I wanted to get things and get places (literally and figuratively), I had to find a way to do it myself.

My First Real Job

Probably one of the best things that ever happened to me was deciding that I wanted to make money. When I was very young, I’d mow the neighbor’s lawns for some extra money. Later I worked handing out flyers and other “kid” jobs. When my family moved to the suburbs, I got a high school job at McDonald’s. This is the greatest experience I could have ever gotten and taught me an immense amount of life skills and experience.

Working there forced me to get comfortable dealing with people. This is a HUGE skill to have in life and NOT just for people working in retail or sales positions! I was not only forced for the first time in my life into the very awkward position of starting a job not knowing anything about anything, but I also had to work with a wide range of people with very different personalities and age groups. The cherry on top was having to deal with customers in a very demanding and face paced environment.

It’s funny. Most people go into a fast food joint and just see a “kid” behind the counter and assume that they aren’t that bright or that they don’t know much. I can tell you that many of these people are developing the skills to become the executives and entrepreneurs of the future that your kids will work for.

My family was living in the suburbs and we didn’t have a car. Now there were buses and taxis and you could ride a commuter train into the city to work, but suburban life is far easier with a car. My mother didn’t have the money or interest in having a car as she simply rode the train to work and took taxis and buses locally. The problem for me was that I was going to high school and working in a nearby town. My friend’s parents had cars and would drive us around, but I always hit that awkward moment when the topic would come up as to why my mother didn’t drive me home when it was late, etc…

I also didn’t have many of the things that the “other” kids had. I wasn’t necessarily desirous of these things because I was materialistic. I wanted these things more so that I didn’t have to live with those awkward moments when friends or their families would ask why I didn’t have them. One example was when my backpack would finally wear out and one of the straps broke off. I would keep using it until the other strap finally broke. Then, I would have to do some serious hunting and scrounging to find something to carry my  books in.

I decided a job was the greatest idea ever. Right off the bat, I was faced with a challenge. None of the local businesses hired kids under the age of 16 due to labor laws. I was 14. I really wanted to get a job. The idea that I could work all the hours available to me and make money drove me. So now I needed to find out how to get the job. I went into the store and asked how to get started getting a job there. I was handed an application. I took it home and filled it out, reading it top to bottom. The application said I would need to provide a working card from my school stating I was 16 and entitled to work.

Social Engineering

Social Engineering is the modern term used to describe techniques used to get people to agree with you and sometimes to get them to do things they either don’t want to or shouldn’t. You get them to like you or sympathize with your cause and they ultimately do you a favor or just “help you out”. Sometimes it’s inadvertent on their part. You just ask enough questions while being nice enough not to annoy them until you find out that there IS and exception to the rule or some other loophole they can use to your benefit. Often this works impeccably with customer service. If they say no, you just keep calling back and speaking with someone different until you find someone that says yes. This will almost always work with large companies. The key here is being extremely nice and extremely polite. Beg for help.

I went to school the next day and suffice it to say that with some social engineering (people hacking) I walked out with an official letter that stated I was legal. I headed back over to the store and became employed.

The key to life, I had discovered was not saying “That can’t be done!” but instead saying “HOW can that be done?”.

This lesson has proven amazingly simple yet immensely powerful in the rest of my life since then.

Getting Promoted

After working at McDonald’s for about a year and a half I decided that I wanted to be an assistant manager. By that time, I knew every function of the store and had memorized pretty much all of the operating procedures for all the equipment and jobs.

I became friendly with one of the assistant managers that was on his way up through the ranks and had a very good reputation in the company. I pretty much glued myself to his hip. He gave me an awesome piece of advice: “The best way to get promoted is to start doing the job that you want”. That made amazing sense to me. When a position for promotion opens and they are considering who would be the best person to be promoted, it’s natural that they would pick someone that is already doing the job well. I would stay and work off the clock when my shift ended and help him out in exchange for him teaching me what was involved with running the store. I ended up making the same arrangement with the other assistant managers. They welcomed the deal since they would get an extra set of hands to do their busy work and I would get experience and a good reputation among the managers. I probably worked just as many hours for free as I did on the clock. It worked. Within six months I was promoted to assistant manager.

The real kicker here is that while they thought I was eighteen years old (the minimum age to become an assistant manager) I was actually sixteen years old. That kills me now looking back. I was running a $2 Million dollar a year store on my own at sixteen years old (and doing a damn good job). I prided myself on doing things as close to perfect as possible.

Getting Hired

When you are trying to land that new job you need to see yourself from the interviewers point of view. If you were interview someone, what would you want? Someone friendly, outgoing, easy to get along with, professional, and looking sharp.

BE THAT PERSON!

Think about it, in most cases, the fact that the interviewer doesn’t know you can work to your advantage. This is a clean slate for you. Show them who you can be at your best and stick to it! Even if you had a less than stellar reputation at your last job, that doesn’t matter anymore. They only know what you show them!

Now make sure you cover the basics. Dress appropriately. Make sure your clothes and yourself are clean and look sharp. BE ON TIME! By all means, if you are running late, you may even consider making up an excuse about an emergency you have to tend to and reschedule for another day. If you don’t know these things already, I can’t help you. Basic courtesy and manners goes a long way. You will piss off the interviewer before they even know what you look like by being late.

That out of the way, just try to be yourself, but your absolute best. If you died and were at the gates trying to convince Heaven how good and dignified you are to get in, that’s exactly how you should be on a job interview. As long as the interviewer thinks you are in the ball park as far as skills go, you can sell yourself by having a great personality.

Lastly, don’t put outright lies on your resume. You will get caught and you will lose your chance. It’s ok to fudge some numbers or make things and little better than they were, but blatant lies will screw you, don’t do it.

It’s ok to not know the answer to something. One thing I’ve learned from being on both sides of the interview table is the best way to answer a question you don’t know is by saying “I don’t know, but I can find out!” No one expects you to be perfect, but you will get huge respect by not only admitting it, but following up with a can-do attitude that you are willing to learn.

Get The Girl (or Guy)

There was a girl that I was hugely attracted to in High School. She was a year older than I and in my opinion, perfect in every way. I would go out of my way to say hi to her and even had a bit of a friendship with her. She was exceedingly nice, very beautiful and a pleasure to be around. When I first met her, she had a boyfriend. I thought he was substantially below her standards, but of course, never had the nerve to say anything to that effect to her. I was content just spending what time I could with her chatting between classes or after school.

She eventually broke up with her boyfriend and there were at least a dozen times afterwards that I got within an inch of asking her out but chickened out. All of my insecurities would come raging into my head. “I don’t have a car, how would I take her out? I don’t look as good as that other guy that’s chasing her. She’s way out of my league. If she liked me, she’d show it more.” On and on this crap would beat through my head until I convinced myself I was crazy for even thinking of asking her out.

She eventually got a new boyfriend. Of course, I didn’t think he was good enough for her, but what right did I have to judge when I was too chicken to even approach her on the subject, right?

Fast forward a year or two. I was at a party with some mutual friends. She was there. We all got a bit drunk and started playing “Truth or Dare”. This went around the room a few times and the dares were getting quite risky. It came the girl’s turn and she asked me: Truth or Dare? I thought quickly… I blurted out “Truth!” before I noticed the knowing grin on her face.

She asked the mother of all questions: Who in the room have you wanted to ask out but never did? My God! I’m dying! I turned so red so fast, I was hoping I’d fall unconscious and wake in a hospital, thereby escaping the question.

Unfortunately, I retained my consciousness and just stared in horrified embarrassment. Several awkward moments passed until she finally said, “Well?”. Realizing there was no out, I looked at the floor and said, “You”. I wanted the carpet to come alive and swallow me whole.

She then proceeded to shock the ever loving hell out of me and teach me a life lesson I will never forget.

She said, “Why didn’t you ever ask me?”. I replied, “Would it have mattered? Would you have actually gone out with me?”. She simply replied “Yes”.

My head spun and I was in shock. That was NOT the answer I expected. I was blown away and now embarrassed for a totally different reason. Now I was the idiot that could have gotten the girl but didn’t because I didn’t have the balls to ask. AND it was now totally confirmed in front of a room full of witnesses. It felt wonderful and horrible all at the same time.

No, I didn’t get the girl after that either. She was dating someone else and so was I. But that is EXACTLY the point of this story! Don’t EVER let something  you truly want pass you by without at least trying! If you try you may fail, but you may also succeed – regardless of what you think may happen. If you never try, you will never succeed, I guaran-damn-tee you that!

I have many more experiences that I will share in future posts, but the moral I am trying to convey here is that anyone can do anything they want to if they get past the lazy excuses and the fear. I’d bet that as you are reading this, you can think of several things in your life that you’d like to do and that you knowyou can do, but aren’t. Reach deep down in your soul and ask yourself in the most honest of terms: Are you not pursuing your dreams because it would be too much work? How about because you’re afraid you might fail? Maybe because others might see you struggle and you’d be embarrassed?

If You Knew How Little Others Thought About What You Do, You’d Do More

Read the sentence above again and think about it. Think about people in your life. You’ve seen people around you try something and fail. Did you sit around for the rest of the day thinking how foolish they were? More likely you felt some compassion for them for a few minutes then wondered what you’d eat for lunch.

Even if it was someone you despised, you may have evilly enjoyed their failure for several minutes longer… THEN you wondered what was for lunch.

My point is simple. All the fears you have about what others may  think of you if you did the things you wanted to but stumbled are far overblown. People tend to be very self centered (you spend all day worrying about your issues, not other’s issues, don’t you??) and generally do not spend much time analyzing what YOU do.

The flip side of this equation is that the more you face your fears and TRY, the more you are likely to succeed! The confidence you gain from those successes will embolden you to try more and more things until you are practically unstoppable!

Think about those motivational types you see on the infomercials at 3am telling you how great they are and how they can help you get there. The only real success they have truly had was being able to get over their fears and laziness and DO things. They’ve done enough things and had enough successes (and failures too) that they are now confident to share their failings with you.

It’s easy to tell people how bad you were when you can end it with how great you ARE!

Do something every day that scares you. Before long you will find it is harder and harder to find things that do.

Please let me know if I have made you think… Leave a comment below!

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