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Whether it's taking a daily ritual from expected to extraordinary or discovering the wonderment and beauty of anew travel destination, J.R. McCabe elevates the everyday with timeless taste and comfortable confidence.
In the more than two decades of my professional career I’ve never taken the traditional path, played by the rules, or let the short-sightedness of others stand in the way of my dreams. Sure, at times it has cost me, but looking back – at every turn no matter where I landed – I had incredible experiences and opportunities that never would’ve shown up any other way. Here are my seven rules for standout success:
#1 Do your Homework
The key to achieving anything you desire is to investigate, study, and immerse yourself in the world of whatever it is. When I wanted to transition from politics to journalism I didn’t blindly apply to news stations. I asked people I worked with, who were at the top of their game, to introduce me to folks they knew in news. Sometimes it was a direct connection, sometimes it was a friend of a friend of a friend. I didn’t walk into those meetings asking for a job. I walked in asking for information, expressing my desire to learn and gain their perspective on the industry and how and where they thought I would fit based on my skill set. What I gained from those “informational interviews” was a crash course in New York television news — the lexicon, the lay of the land, and most importantly I saw with my own eyes the real-time, fast-paced day-to-day landscape. When I finally landed an interview after eight months of preparation, I was confident and could hold my own with the news director, despite having no prior experience in television news.
#2 Develop a Written Plan
Having the goal in mind is not enough. You’ve got to have a plan that builds and supports the foundation for that goal. When I decided to go to law school I charted every step of what it would take to become an attorney within four years. From the early steps of studying for and achieving a solid score on the LSAT, to obtaining a judicial internship in the court system, to the months I would need to set aside after graduating to study for the bar. That written plan was my lifeline during crunch times when things got overwhelming, because it took what seemed like a gigantic endeavor and laid it out into smaller daily and monthly steps right in front of me that I could easily accomplish.
#3 Do Trial Runs
Similarly, there is nothing better than a trial run to have you hitting the mark every time. I’m not big on “fake it till you make it,” as it leaves you void of any foundation, which leads nowhere. However, once you have a foundation — a solid written plan — you should always do trial runs. A trial run puts you in the energetic and head space you need to be in in order to become the person you are dreaming of becoming. A trial run can be anything from an internship, to a mock interview, to dressing the part, to physically traveling to and/or staying in the place where you want your dream to manifest. When it comes to the bar exam, one of the biggest indicators of whether someone will pass or not is whether they’ve taken the practice bar under near same conditions (time, format, etc.). Many applicants dismiss the trial run out of fear of what a low score just one month away from the real thing will do to their confidence or because of the time and mental fortitude it takes to carve out two full days to do it. Huge mistake. The practice bar I took relieved all the built-up anxiety from studying, so on game day I had a little angel on my shoulder saying: “You’ve already done this . . . just a walk in the park.”
#4 View your Talents as a Tapestry
Two of the biggest keys to success are self-awareness and self-discipline. There may be ten things you’d be great at, but that doesn’t mean you’ll find success in all of them. I’ve learned that even though I am interested in, excited about, and even find some level of achievement in something it doesn’t mean that is the sole professional path for me.
I love to write and sure, as I was writing my two novels I had dreams of becoming a full-time writer, living in an idyllic New England town or in the European countryside — complete with a roaring fire, tea in fine china, and a breathtaking view outside my creative studio window. But I have not allowed my desire to find commercial success as an author impact my ability to find achievement in other professional areas, most recently the law. Nor has it dissuaded me from continuing to spend time writing down every idea, impression, and intuitive impulse I have related to future books.
Critical to my success was recognizing that my talents were a tapestry, with the common thread of writing. My tapestry is filled with passions, purpose, and power. Writing is my passion and purpose and where I find my power. But success as a writer is no longer solely packaged in the picture of seeing my books in bookstores. I also find it in the joy of completing a sharp legal brief or legal letter, in crafting a moving missive to a friend, or in a blog post that resonates with the reader.
#5 Stay the Course
There are many traits that will get you far in life, but nothing beats perseverance. It’s easy to dial down your dreams when you hit roadblocks and it seems there is no way they will come true. In fact, there’s always a handful of folks in the gallery who will tell you: “It’s okay it didn’t work out,” “It’s better this way,” “Everything happens for a reason,” “That was just not meant for you.” The minute you settle is the minute you start to slice away at the possibility of who you can and are meant to be. Don’t let the short-sightedness of others hijack your dreams. Stay the course.
#6 Embrace the Nos, they Lead to Yes
When I was trying to break into news I got rejected from every position I applied to for nearly a year. I was turned down for a news assistant position. The reason — overqualified (even though I’d never worked in news!??). Four months after that I had two really good rounds of interviews for a political producer position at the same station and was turned down for that as well. The reason – an internal hire took the spot. Finally, almost eleven months after my first interview, that same station called me and asked if I would like to come in to talk about an open reporter slot. After three interviews I was offered the job. A week before my third and final interview a friend of mine said to me, “No offense Jenn, but going from unemployed to being on TV in New York with no prior experience is kind of unheard of. I wouldn’t get your hopes up.”
What I ultimately wanted was to be a reporter, but I was willing to accept producer roles because I thought that’s the path that would lead me there. I was wrong. When you are faced with rejection recognize that it is just a course correction putting you back on track to the truest and rightful path of your dream. Embrace the nos, they lead to yes.
#7 Give your Dreams Room to Breathe
Sometimes the drive and focus to achieve a goal can be so intense that it works against you. Perseverance is one thing. Obsession and tunnel vision is another. I learned I got hired at the White House when I got home and listened to my answering machine (remember those?) after a fun day at the beach with friends. Prior to that I had been sitting by the phone. I got the call about coming in to interview about the reporter job on the one day in months that I decided not to send any resumes, schedule informational calls and interviews and instead went to see a new exhibit at the Met. I found out I was chosen for a coveted internship with a NY Supreme Court judge when I checked my phone on the way out of a yoga class. The email notification that I passed the bar arrived while I was baking scones for the Sergeant.
Effort is never wasted. When you’ve given all you can give and nothing seems to be materializing, take a break. Allow your goal to germinate in a beautiful sacred space all its own. Balance will not only keep you from burning out but will often bring the welcome news you’ve been waiting for all along. ✨