In 2003, an animated film hit the theaters and captured the hearts of viewers everywhere. This movie, with a score of 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, not only thrilled our kids, but gave adults a motivating reminder about how to react when life gets tough.
Here’s the premise.
A clownfish named Marlin has lost his son Nemo. As he ventures out into the unknown ocean on his search and rescue mission, he finds a travel companion in Dory, a regal blue tang with a serious memory problem.
Dory, amidst her silliness and flaws, lives her life based on a wise mantra. In one of the most recognizable lines of any film, Dory tries to calm down a flustered and grumpy Marlin with the following words:
“When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.”
As your eyes wandered over the words, you probably read in the sing-song voice of Dory, also known as Ellen Degeneres. The wisdom behind the mantra transcends age levels. I can think back to plenty of moments in my own life where I felt frustrated or confused and needed to just keep swimming.
Many of our students in Career Change Bootcamp feel this way about their career. They hit a mental barrier of some sort, maybe the need for perfection or fear of breaking the rules, and they feel stuck. But progress, even imperfect and slow progress, is essential for reaching goals.
In last week’s post, we talked about the essential nature of celebrating small wins on the road to success. To get these small wins, you have to keep swimming. Nobody knows this better than my new friend, Dan Schawbel.
Over the last few years, Dan’s established himself as a leading voice in career and work trends as well as a NYT bestselling author. When asked how he finds success, Dan says he’s learned to lean into his strengths and just keep pushing.
For instance, Dan has interviewed over 2000 people for his podcast. Guests include Donald Trump, Tony Robbins, Anthony Bourdain, Condoleezza Rice, Rachel Ray, and Steve Harvey. But none of those guests came easily.
To quote Dan, he says,
Sometimes I’ll stand up and point to the wall and say out loud “just keep going, just keep going.” That really is the secret. You have to keep shrugging off the negative, mistakes, and failures and just keep going. Life’s too short to look back. You can learn from the past, but don’t let it hold you back down. Just keep going.
Want to know how long it took Dan to land interviews with those celebrities?
- Chelsea Handler took nine months.
- Anthony Bourdain took three years.
- Tony Robbins and Donald Trump each took over six years of attempts.
If that’s not perseverance, I don’t know what is.
To share another example, Dan’s latest book, Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation drops today. When he was trying to get published, Dan was turned down by every single publisher he reached out to EXCEPT ONE. How easy would it have been to give up after the first rejection? Or the second? Or the fifth?!
According to Dan and Dory, you gotta just keep swimming. Now, back to what Dan said about strengths. If you’ve been listening to our podcast for very long, you’ve probably heard us mention the importance of signature strengths. (If this is your first time hearing this, take a moment to look over this free guide on using your strengths to find career happiness.) Research from Gallup found that if you know and use your strengths, you’re six times as likely to be engaged at work, about 8% more productive in your role, three times as likely to have an excellent quality of life, and six times as likely to do what you do best every day.
I like those odds. In Dan’s case, he realized he’s great at short format interviews. By keeping his conversations under fifteen minutes, he kept his anxiety at bay and increased the chances of getting a “yes” from interview guests.
Along with recognizing his strengths, Dan cut out his weaknesses. For instance, he realized he wasn’t a strong designer, so he now pays a skilled graphic designer to complete these needs. Instead of trying to improve his low points, he focused on honing his own natural abilities.
As you search for a role that fits your unique desires, strengths, style, and salary requests, you’ll probably hit a moment where you need to remember Dan’s advice: Focus on your strengths, and just keep swimming. (Okay, that second one is from Dory. But close enough!)
To hear more about Dan’s experience becoming a leading voice for millennials, press play on the podcast player above.
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