The official motto of the US Air Force is “Aim High…Fly-Fight-Win.” With exception of the latter part, this is easily applicable to your professional life. I learned this lesson early in my career when I had my first sales job. Ironically, there was a period in my career when I could have benefited from the sage career advice I dispense daily as a head hunter today. I made some questionable career moves, including a stint as a financial adviser.
Although it ultimately wasn’t the right career for me, I learned a lot in that role including the importance of diversification, the ability to deal with and overcome rejection, and how to sell. As any salesperson knows, a sales role is an occupation highly dependent on hitting numbers, metrics, and goals. You are only as good as the last deal you closed.
In my first year of production, I sat in on a 1-1 with my branch manager to discuss my progress. The firm had minimum performance goals, but anyone focused on meeting minimums did not have the right mindset to be successful. Although the firm dictated what you needed to do to keep your job, it was up to me to set my production goal for the year. After careful consideration, I set my number, which was on the high end but feasible if I kicked ass and some good fortune swung my way. I felt good about my target. It was optimistic, but achievable.
Without skipping a beat, my manager incredulously replied, “why not go higher?” Up until then, I never considered or appreciated the nuance of that question. He continued to utter a phrase that I will remember throughout my career: “Jim, you can only go as high as you aim. Aim high”
The simplicity and veracity of this statement is quite profound. You will only go high as you aim. When it comes to your professional career, how high are you aiming? Are you artificially constraining your goals based on what you believe is realistic, achievable, and within reach? Little did I realize I was artificially capping my own potential. Ever since that day, I have made it a point to aim high and approach every opportunity in life (professional and otherwise) with fearlessness, optimism, and the expectation of killing it every day.
I’ve taken on challenges that I might have questioned or second-guessed otherwise. The net result is that I’ve had my fair share of rejection, misses, and disappointments. But I’ve also had even more successes and wins, knowing without this mindset I would not be where I am today.
If you find your career and parts of your life wanting, I encourage you to not be fearful, shoot for the stars, and simply see what happens. I guarantee, you have absolutely nothing to lose yet so much to gain.