Four smart ways to forge your own path

When it comes to my own future, I tend to approach everything with an extremely calculated, highly logical step-by-step procedure. I usually plan, revise, predict, and always act deliberately based on the information that I have (I’m rather left-brain dominant). Because I’m uncomfortable making decisions or taking action before evaluating every possible scenario, I’ll make a thorough assessment of risks versus rewards.

This approach helped me climb the ranks at one of the most up-and-coming companies in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Here’s some advice on how to forge your own path:

1. Weigh the pros and cons. …and the pros, then the cons, then some more cons, and the pros again. After you write down everything you can think of, let it simmer for a while and then drill it down even more. While you do need to “go with your gut” to a point, “feeling right” isn’t going to pay the bills or push you forward in life. Be sure to weigh the long-term pros against the initial cons; your future is the most important goal to keep in mind (rather than immediate satisfaction).

2. Sacrifice (while you still can). Right after I graduated from college, I faced a decision: go straight to work as a consultant for a large corporation or intern for a small San-Diego based company that focused on developing mobile software to deposit checks from your phone. After considering the short and long-term implications of both, I ended up accepting the internship because I knew that, despite the product’s success or failure, the exposure to the tech industry plus working with a small, experienced group of individuals would be more beneficial than an immediate payout.

Luckily, I was at a point in my life where the bigger paycheck at the expense of uninspiring work with fewer chances to grow wasn’t the primary factor in my decision. Don’t be afraid to take a similar risk early in your career.

3. Know your worth. Everyone has to make sacrifices in their professional lives—but with limits. No one respects people who don’t budge in their convictions or are overly flexible to the point of endless indecisiveness. Only you can truly understand what you value and what you need to do to maintain a happy work/life balance. If you aren’t happy in life, you won’t perform well at work and it’ll be obvious to everyone around you.

Personally, I find happiness in practicing martial arts. Without it, I’d be a walking stress case in and out of the office. This means that I have to calculate the cost of my hobby when determining my bottom-line livelihood requirements.

Make sure that you account for your passions when negotiating your salary. If you want to be able to afford a gym membership, a produce subscription service, or the occasional weekend getaway, keep it in mind when determining your worth, but don’t let money become your top priority in life. Remember that you should work to live, not live to work.

4. Join organizations and groups. By “join,” I mean actively participate. Admittedly, this takes time and effort, but it does pay off. I would suggest taking on a leadership role if and whenever possible. Not only does it feel good to give back to your community, but you’ll benefit from the relationships that are built and nurtured over the long term. I spend hours each month gathering donations, planning events, and advising young start-ups in my area of expertise— but I don’t just do it for fun. I do it because I’m invested in the relationships that I cultivate over time. You’re not likely to find a mentor or valuable business connections if you don’t put in time and energy.

There are no limits to how high you can climb when you approach your career with a strategic plan. By being invested in your own future, you are sure to exceed even your own dreams and goals. And if you’re already established in your career, ask yourself this: what tips do I have for other people aspiring to establish their own dreams and goals?

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