Career Success and the Proximity Principle

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How can you take control of your career? Ken Coleman, host of The Ken Coleman Show and author of The Proximity Principle, offers a guide for discovering and seizing the right opportunities.

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I was stuck in a job that I couldn’t stand. 

I wanted out in the worst way. 

Not because I wasn’t making enough money. I was.

Not because I hated my boss. I didn’t.

But because I wasn’t doing what I was meant to do. And I could no longer convince myself otherwise.

Every day, every week, I experienced the slow death of boredom, counting down the clock to Friday, dreading Monday. 

It was no way to live.

My story is hardly unique. It may even describe you.

And if you haven’t yet started your work life, it might describe what you fear most.

But I have some good news, a way for you to take control of your future. 

I know this idea works because I used it for my own career and have helped countless people use it for theirs.

The idea is called the Proximity Principle.

It’s deceptively simple:

In order to do what you want to do you have to be around the people who are doing it and in the places where it is happening. 

That’s the Proximity Principle.

So, how can you put the Proximity Principle into practice?

The first step is to seek out five types of people. Each one has an important role to play in helping you move forward toward your goal — your dream job. 

One, “the professors.” 

I don’t mean actual professors, but people who know their stuff. They are scholars of your desired field; they love to teach, and they are willing to teach you.

Two, “the professionals.” These are the people who have made it. There’s a reason for that. Read their biographies and anything they’ve written. Watch them on YouTube. Emulate them. They’re your model — what you aspire to.

Three, “the mentors.” — individuals who care about you and want to coach you. Mentors are not the same as professors. These are people who will take you under their wing; who will tell you hard truths you need to hear. They will offer guidance and accountability. Whether they say you’re doing great or failing badly, you know they mean it.

Four, your peers. They, like you, are trying to make it. They, like you, are placing themselves in the right places, around the right people. Peers will challenge you to realize your potential. They will push you, and you them. This is healthy competition and it’s good. 

Five, “the producers.” They are similar to the professionals, but the producers are builders first. They take risks, start companies, create jobs. More than anything, they produce opportunities. One of them may be for you.

Okay, that’s a lot. You’re not going to gather this team overnight. It will take weeks or months or even years. And this is just the first part of the Proximity Principle. I said it was simple -- I didn’t say it was easy.

So, let’s move to the second part of the Proximity Principle: where you need to be.

One, start where you are. You don’t have to drop everything and move to the big city right away or maybe ever. Everything you need to begin is more than likely in your current zip code. You just have to look for it. Seek every opportunity to track down the people you need to meet. They may be people you already know or people the people you know, know. You get the point.

Two, you need a place to learn. Take the classes, get the certifications, apply for the apprenticeships or internships that will get you closer to the job you want. 

Three, you need a place to practice, a place to convert your education into execution, a place to test yourself before you “step out on stage.” This is where you’ll hone your craft. There’s very little risk involved at this point, but there’s also no substitute, no shortcut, for spending the hours necessary to develop your skills.

Four, you need a place to perform, a place where you can gain real-life experience doing the work. Practice is one thing, but you need to be able to perform under pressure. For a comedian, this could be an open mic night; for a salesperson, a tradeshow. Whatever job you’re pursuing, there comes a point when you simply have to do it. 

Five, you need a place to grow, a place where you can get better at what you do and move forward in your career. Whether it’s a city, a suburb, a mountain, or a farm, it must be a place with opportunity for advancement in your chosen field. 

Five types of people. Five places you need to be. 

That’s the Proximity Principle: the right people plus the right places leads to the right opportunities.

One relationship leads to three more; an internship turns into a full-time job; closed doors open.

Suddenly, you find yourself getting lucky. 

But it wasn’t luck, it was design. Your design. 

I’m Ken Coleman, host of The Ken Coleman Show and author of The Proximity Principle, for Prager University.