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Photo by Denise Faddis

Forget Luck. Be Accountable for Your Own Success

Written By Bart Cleveland | Feb 26, 2015

I really hate photographs of myself. I am simply better looking than what the camera records. The problem is the lighting, the angle, the focus, the exposure – anything but me.

It can’t be me.

Such vanity is how many approach evaluating their careers. They blame outside forces rather than personal weaknesses. They blame a lack of quality in their portfolio on poor opportunities. They blame not working at a quality company on bad luck. In short, they don’t accept a brutal truth about the advertising industry: great companies don’t hire potential. They hire people they believe will make them better. If you’re nowhere near your career goal, self-deception is most likely your problem.

Here’s how to overcome it.

Be okay with not being there – yet.

There are comedians that grow old and terribly unfunny. It’s not age. It’s satisfaction with where one is standing. Take on the attitude of constant improvement and your skill growth will go into overdrive. Get a lot of feedback from those you trust to be honest. When you hear a chorus of “wows” you may be ready to reach out for that dream job.

Get someone “up there” to show the way.

Trial and error is a slow way to learn and this business moves fast. Connect with people that have accomplished what you want to accomplish and ask them for input on your work. Most won’t respond because they are busy, but some will, and what he or she offers will help you accelerate much faster.

Work harder than you’ve ever worked. A lot harder.

If you get lucky and land at a great agency it’s because you made your luck. You worked hard every day to get better. If you’re not doing well, chances are you haven’t been giving everything you have to succeed. Focus on being better. Put in extra time everyday for a year and you won’t need luck.

Be selfish.

Don’t confuse this with being arrogant. There’s no excuse for that. Remember though, you have more potential than you know. It can only be realized if you focus on what you need to do to succeed. Your job will be filled with compromises. Your portfolio can never be. If you don’t have good opportunities in your job, give yourself opportunities. Build a book that represents who you want to be, not what you’ve done in the past. When it comes to success, you need to look out for yourself.

Take a look in the mirror. Really study who’s looking back. Decide to make the best of what you have. There are a myriad of late bloomers in the history of success. So whether you’re a little slow out of the blocks or you’re a lap behind, reach deep down inside and find that little voice that says, “I am going to win.”

Bart Cleveland has developed branding for a broad range of companies, including: Coca-Cola, The Ritz-Carlton, CNN, DuPont, International Paper, Carter’s Baby Clothes, Applegate Organic Meats and James Hardie Siding. In 2012, Bart founded Job Propulsion Lab to help people entering advertising plan and manage successful careers.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.