The challenge is in front of you. It could be a difficult project at work, the potential to go back to school, leading a new team, a business partnership, or something else which appears promising with no clear outcomes.
What should you do?
There are essentially three options, you can accept, look to change the situation, or avoid it completely. You will see this frequently in life, whether in school, your job, or starting a business. Before you are multiple options, and it can be paralyzing to choose the best option.
People think Alejandro and I are confident in all our business decisions, yet they do not see us weigh options and, many times, make mistakes. We are constantly refining our thought process to make better choices with a desire to be more assertive in accepting, changing, and avoiding important challenges.
Our goal is to help you clarify your ability to accept, change, and avoid large decisions. This week we will focus on when to accept a new opportunity. This can be the most difficult as there are many options in front of you, and with advanced technology, more choices arise daily. How do you accept the best options for your life?
It’s not easy, but you can be strategic to accept those which will bring you the most fulfillment.
From Extremism to Essentialism
One of my main weaknesses is accepting too many challenges. It could be giving advice to a new business owner, helping a non-profit, or telling a client I can have a project done on a tight deadline. If anything, I am the worst person to give a clear definition of when to accept a challenge as I accept more than I should.
Yet, maybe I am a good person to help you as I know when not to accept based on previous poor decisions. Here are some highlights of challenges I accepted which went terribly wrong.
- Going to law school, I ended up dropping out halfway through.
- Teaching high school, wow was that a bad decision for everyone involved.
- Working at a consulting firm (not the one I founded), what was I thinking?
There are plenty more, trust me. Although I did learn valuable lessons from each, I could have learned the same lessons quicker by making better decisions, and would not have been saddled with student loan debt and lost years. On the other hand, I have accepted many challenges which paid off immensely.
- Something as simple as teaching boot camp classes at 24-Hours Fitness taught me to be comfortable in front of large groups.
- Teaching college courses while still in my twenties gave me confidence and helped my public speaking abilities.
- Working for free for 3-years at a non-profit provided marketing skills which would have taken me a decade to acquire at a paid position (free workers have more creative freedom).
- Starting a blog last year has boosted my writing abilities which are fundamental in my marketing consulting practice.
I can easily see a pattern of the good challenges to accept versus the ones to avoid. In a couple weeks, we will discuss in more detail how to avoid opportunities which appear enticing but are bad for you.
Let’s stick with which challenges to accept. Here is a simple test:
Will the challenges increase your skill set, keep you aligned to your overall professional/life goals, and will you add value to other lives?
If the answer is yes to all three subsets of the test, then it passes the first hurdle. After the first question, go ask the three people you trust the most what they think and tell them to be honest. It sounds like a lot, but your life is worth it. Accepting the right challenges can quickly push you to new professional heights, while poor decisions can take away years of your life.
Accepting good challenges is of the utmost importance, take the decision-making process seriously.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” - Reinhold Niebuhr
It is not a coincidence that in Tim Ferriss’ latest book, Tools of Titans, there is a whole section dedicated to wisdom. In that part of the book, Naval Ravikant (CEO and co-founder of AngelList, and angel investor in companies like Twitter and Uber) mentions that in life you only have three options.
Matt already mentioned; you can only accept, change, or avoid. There are no other options. The challenge is to know which one to pick and when to do so.
High-achievers will always face this challenge. There are many success stories that show how not accepting and working on change was the best option.
Stories about not accepting your reality and working hard to change it, such as the movie The Pursuit of Happyness (which is based on a true story).
Yet, sometimes the best use of your energy is to accept and not try hard to make a change. So that you can invest that energy into things that you can actually change.
For example, one thing that International Students have to accept is that it will be more challenging for us to find a job. Period.
Simply put, we are a riskier asset. Not because we don’t have the talent, professionalism, or competence. It is also not because of a high cost since the investment of an H1B Visa (or most Visas) is nothing compared to the average compensation package.
The risk is the lottery. There is no certainty, for the employer, which you will be able to stay. Since we are a riskier asset, the only way to make our value proposition desirable is to provide the return needed so that the risk makes sense.
Companies will invest time and money in recruiting, and they will also train you. You will have to build relationships with your co-workers. What if after all that you don’t win the H1B lottery and have to leave? It’s a risk, so you have to make it worthwhile.
The sooner you, as an International Student, accept it the easier everything else will be for you. I hear so many people complaining that companies don’t want to consider them because of their status.
It is on you to make them consider you! It’s on you to be so good that they can’t ignore you!
Yes, it can be frustrating at times. No matter how positive we are, even though we know that every NO means that we are closer to the YES, and no matter how confident we are in our value, it can’t be demoralizing to receive so many negative responses.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. I can say this with confidence because I have been invited to participate in recruiting processes by those same companies that first told me that they don’t hire International Students.
So what you have to do is accept that it will be a challenge and embrace it. That way you will start working as soon as possible on developing a plan to change the way employers perceive you and your value as a professional.
Bad Decisions are Great Teachers
Excellent results come from good decisions. Good decisions happen because of experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.
This is why success is such a lousy teacher.
To accept or to make a change? This will probably be one of the toughest dichotomies you will ever face. Yet, the only way to get better is to learn from these situations and embrace the learning opportunity.
Sometimes it will be through saying yes too much and you will burn out. Sometimes it will be through not being able to move forward because you don’t want to accept your reality.
The bad news is that the learning process never ends. You will develop experience and intuition to help you, but there is no flawless process or checklist to help you with these situations.
The great news is that you are not alone in this process. We share with you so that you can learn from our mistakes, and from what we have learned and want to share with you.
Learn the art of the slow yes and the quick no so that you can use your time in the most efficient and effective way. Also, learn to accept the realities you cannot change so that you can move forward with a strategic plan to overcome those obstacles.
Having a strong purpose, and a PRIORITY is key to making efficient and effective use of your time and focus. BizLatte has put together a great resource to help you with this challenge. Check out the FREE guide that will help you Identify Your Professional Purpose. Click here, or the button below, to download the guide.
Be Purposeful and stay Caffeinated!
Alejandro I. Sanoja & Matt Avery