Monday, January 7, 2013

Finding Success All At Once

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One of my rituals at the end of each year is to go through all the bloggers and tweeters I'm following and to drop some that haven't given me enough value in the past year. Nothing personal, but there are only so many hours in the day, and this gives me the freedom to add a few new people throughout the year to help keep my horizons expanding.

One of the new people I'm trying out in 2013 is Dorie Clark on the HBR Blog Network. She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service. It's still early in our relationship, but so far, I'm liking much of what I'm reading.

I recently tweeted one of her posts: Build Your Reputation the Rachael Ray Way. I'm not a Rachel Ray fan, but in the post Clark effectively uses Ray's rise to fame to make some important points about the discipline and dedication that is almost always correlated with success. There are, Clark says, three key steps, greatly implying that they must be done in sequential order.

1. Skills development comes first. Become at least adept and at best an expert in what you choose to do.

2. Build your platform next. Once your skills have been honed, you must put yourself out in the public eye and begin making a name for yourself.

3. Embrace luck — and make your own. Finally, you must seize opportunities as they present themselves to exponentially grow your reach and impact. Small bits of luck fall into everyone's lap. The most successful people work harder than anyone else to leverage those small bits of luck into big wins.

It's a good post, but I'll be honest. The thing that struck me as I read it was that, in the world of associations, success frequently comes not when these steps are done in order, but when they are done all at once.

Think about it. When was the last time you were able to build a competency within your organization to a high level of adroitness before you were forced to put that competency into action in service of some pressing priority? And when was the last time you were able to strategically capitalize on an golden opportunity because you already had the skills and platform you needed to leverage it?

In fact, if your experiences are anything like mine, than these steps come most frequently in reverse order if they come in any order at all. First, opportunity presents itself. Then you extend yourself publicly to put yourself into a position where your organization can respond to it. Then you pull an all-nighter trying to figure out how you can rise to the challenge without looking like a fool.

The funny thing is that we've all done that. In many respects it's what separates successful people and organizations from the run-of-the-mill. Very few of us have the luxury Clark seems to ascribe to Ray--the luxury of development followed by exposure followed by opportunity. If we're going to succeed in today's association environment, we have to be able to mix these things up and put them into whichever order the situation demands.

By the way, if anyone has suggestions for some high value bloggers and tweeters I should give be trying out in 2013, I'm all ears.

This post written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author that explores a new generation of leadership issues. For more information, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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