What do you need to do to reach your milestone? You already know.
Goals, dreams, aspirations, and future accomplishments are in your sights, yet, so many of you let insecurity and uncertainty prevent you from taking necessary action. That very mindset plagues me as well. However, a commitment to persevere can motivate you to conquer one milestone after another.
Disclaimer: You won’t find any tricks in this writing which identify shortcuts to reach milestones any easier. You’ll only find principles to help you along the way. It’s your job to work hard so you can look back on that daunting task that proved challenging and know with pride that you earned that milestone!
If you take shortcuts, the personal satisfaction from hard-earned accomplishments feels hollow. The sensation of pride is robbed by knowing that you didn’t put your full effort into the task. Or worse, those shortcuts lead to your downfall.
To watch someone’s downfall from taking shortcuts to reach his milestone, just watch the ESPN Films: 30 for 30 documentary titled Big Shot.
This businessman in his early thirties was so eager to join the ranks of the business elite that he deceived many so he could own the New York Islanders hockey team. He played the system and willingly misled the NHL, other owners, and the banks so he could project an image of success. Yet, his fraudulent behavior eventually exposed his true self which led to prison time.
Do What You have to Do
Now if you want to feel inspired, watch the documentary titled Drew: The Man behind the Poster. You’ll recognize this illustrator’s work if you saw movies in the 1990s.
His hard work, determination, and commitment to follow his passions allowed him to create some of the most iconic posters of our time. Just think of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, or Back to the Future, and chances are that you’ll have a mental flash of one of his posters.
Drew Struzan understood his talents, priorities, and dreams well enough to sacrifice his ego, money, and even food during his development years. He strived to become a true professional. In Drew Struzan’s words, “Quite simply, I just gave up eating. ‘Cause that’s a waste of money. So I spent my money on paint instead of eating.”
As Thomas Jane said about Struzan in the documentary:
“I think you don’t become a master artist like Struzan without putting in those hours and dedicating that time and really, really doing what you have to do.”
In the documentary, Drew describes that his struggles during his development years allowed him to follow his passions confidently to one day get phone calls from top movie directors like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg whom merely asked Drew, “to deliver his magic.” That sounds like quite a milestone to me.
Principles to Remember While Pursuing Milestones
Thump Thump… Thump Thump… Thump Thump Thump Thump Thump… “Congratulations! A preliminary analysis of your test results shows that you were successful in achieving the passing standard established by the CFP Board for the CFP® Examination.”
My journey started last November and concluded this November by reading the above statement. Over a year of studying tested my willpower, commitment, and discipline so I could eventually feel the proud moment of passing this certification exam.
This wasn’t an easy process and it drained me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. After hard work that led me to pass this difficult exam, I’m proud to say that I can apply next year to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ once I complete the experience requirement for this prestigious title!
Themes emerged on my journey that taught me how to accomplish a milestone. To differentiate a milestone from a goal: a milestone is a significant event in one’s life while a goal could be to floss every day this week.
Let me explain some principles which will help you accomplish your own milestone and describe how they helped me tackle mine.
1) Understand: Why?
What do you truly want by embarking on this journey? It’s important for you to recognize the purpose of your desired milestone. The purpose allows you to remain motivated and committed when times get tough. If the milestone really is significant, you’ll definitely experience some challenges. Then it’s your time to shine and persevere because you understand why you’re willing to push through.
When I experienced struggles, I always asked myself, “What kind of financial guy do I want to become?” In a crowded industry, there exists every type of persona and style. Stockbrokers, futures traders, financial planners, chartists, and the jargon can go on and on.
I knew that I wanted to understand personal finance with a deeper level so I could help my clients with their overall finances. By passing this exam and putting in the years of experience, I would be recognized by the CFP Board as someone who understands financial topics, taxes, insurance, investments, retirement, estates and the financial planning process. By becoming certified, I feel confident that I know what I’m talking about and I can truly help my clients.
- Define your core motivation that makes you want this milestone.
2) Earn It!
What did you do to accomplish a previous milestone? It didn’t come easy and you worked hard to reach the fondly remembered result. You earned it!
Now, imagine that feeling after you complete your task at hand. That sounds motivating, doesn’t it?
I wanted to see that “Congratulations!” on the computer screen and pass the test with my first attempt.
To hold myself accountable, I started to tell people about the test. This way, people expected me to pass. Or if not pass, give it my best effort. If I kept the test a secret, I would only disappoint myself if I didn’t pass. Now there was more on the line.
That last month proved stressful, yet I knew my effort wouldn’t be the reason if the test didn’t go the way it should.
By wishing for a desired result, you relinquish control. By striving for a desired result, you deserve the outcome.
- Own your task and understand that you’re the one who will reach that milestone or not.
3) Recognize Effort
Studying hard and understanding thousands of concepts proved challenging. Instead of the only goal being a passing grade, I decided to add an extra incentive. My fiancée and I had plans to visit San Diego for Thanksgiving and I added a trip to Disneyland as a reward for passing. I communicated this goal to my mom and she wisely said, “You’re being too hard on yourself.”
Her statement triggered me to self-analyze. My goal of passing was still a priority, but I took a step back to recognize that the effort needs to be rewarded too. After centering my thoughts and reflecting, I realized that I never studied so hard for a test before.
It’s easy to get ambitious and do everything you can to accomplish your milestone. However, you must stop and acknowledge the progress that you made along the way. I realized that I understood so many concepts much better than before my studies and that excited me. Chances are that you developed some new skills through your efforts.
- Impress yourself with how hard you work while reaching your milestone.
4) Execute with Confidence and Patience
A milestone has a defining moment and it’s your job to prepare for that moment. Athletes prepare for championships, NASA scientists prepare for landings. You need to do whatever it takes to become confident when it’s time to execute!
Test day came and I sat down in front of the computer screen, took some deep breaths, and started to answer each question carefully. During the test, I remained patient and made sure I wasn’t being tricked by not understanding the questions. At one point during the test, I thought, “I got this.”
I knew that all my hard work allowed me to think that.
I later felt cheated after the exam because there were only 170 questions which meant many other subjects that I worked so hard to grasp weren’t tested. By having that feeling, I know that I deserved my accomplishment because I didn’t just prepare for the test, but I worked hard to understand the material that will prove useful in my career.
- Do whatever it takes for you to think, “I got this!”
Relief and pride immediately consumed me. All this effort led to a passing grade, which means I know what it takes to be a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Now the countdown begins for me to fulfill the experience requirement.
My commitment to pursue this goal, through the ups and downs, led me to feel proud knowing that I accomplished a very difficult task.
As a reward, my fiancée and I went out to dinner, enjoyed a good burger, received a complimentary drink from the bartender, and then went to see a movie. A relaxing night was needed after all that adrenaline that I experienced for the last month dissipated where I now needed some serious decompression.
However you choose to celebrate the occasion, make sure self-reflection and some pats on the back are included to acknowledge your hard work. Even if the outcome wasn’t the ideal result, you tried, which is different than just sitting on the couch and watching TV.
- Milestone reached, and more importantly, you earned it!
What Will You Accomplish?
If you’ve completed a major milestone, you understand that hard work helped you achieve your desired result.
If you feel like you’re about to embark on your own journey to reach a major milestone, understand that it’s up to you. Your willpower will be tested. Your discipline, commitment, spirit, and even your sleep schedule.
There might not be a perfect time to start, but you can start chipping away and then your commitment level will rise when you truly want that milestone.
Now, I challenge you to identify a certain milestone in your reach that you can start pursuing today. Get ready to learn new things, push through obstacles, and enjoy the self-satisfaction from knowing that you earned your significant life event.
As Walt Disney said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
To give thanks: My family and friends for your cheerleading. My workplace for your support and ability to answer my questions. The Kaplan Schweser program and their instructors for your detailed education and test preparation materials. A certain Houston family for letting me stay at your home while I attended a study session in your city. And to my amazing fiancée for your continued encouragement and love which helped me during my frustrated days. I couldn’t have done it without you and we can now celebrate by going to Disneyland!