It takes courage for many of my clients to admit, even to themselves, what they truly most want—things they may not believe, at least for them, are possible. I’m continually amazed how easy it is for incredibly talented people to doubt their ability to achieve their dreams while wholeheartedly believing other people have what it takes to be successful. Fortunately, there are tangible, incremental steps we can follow to achieve our dreams—we just need the courage to take them.
Tom’s Story: Realizing a Dream
I once worked with a very successful product manager, I’ll call him Tom, who had started his career many years earlier as a product support specialist. In his first job, Tom spent his time providing excellent customer service to a very fortunate group of clients. While he clearly enjoyed this role, he dreamed of creating the types of products he currently supported and of being a master at this. Tom applied for many product development jobs but wasn’t given the chance to interview based on his lack of experience. Feeling discouraged, he began to doubt that he’d ever achieve his goal.
Then one day he decided to reach out for career advice to a product manager whom he admired at his company. This took courage, as he didn’t know the manager well and didn’t want to impose. Fortunately, the manager was very welcoming and shared information that proved extremely helpful in advancing Tom’s career. The most beneficial? This sage advice:
- You must be willing to go outside your comfort zone again and again to achieve advancement—career breakthroughs happen one step at a time.
This leader also supported Tom’s application to enroll in a part-time MBA program at a prestigious university. Tom leveraged school projects as opportunities to approach and seek advice from several executives within his firm. In addition to learning from leaders he greatly respected, Tom also began to get tapped for exciting corporate initiatives that gradually advanced his career.
When I met Tom years later, he had just created a new product that the group’s president was touting as one of the firm’s top innovative achievements—a fulfillment of Tom’s vision of success.
As he reflected on key experiences in his journey—both pleasant and painful—Tom saw each as an essential building block in the development of his creative expertise, as well as the self-esteem required to handle the attention he received after achieving his dream. He attributed his success to finding the courage to breach his comfort zone—again and again—one step at a time.