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Top 100 Under 100: Pacing Yourself for Long-Term Success

This morning as I opened my email and sorted through the various industry e-publications to which I subscribe, a headline caught my eye:

"Top 40 Under 40 in Direct Marketing"

As I read through the list of 20- and 30-somethings who have achieved great accolades in their various roles, I wondered how many countless others worked tirelessly to earn a position on this list, only to fall short - or to have their efforts go unnoticed.

I'll be honest, I think it would be cool to be on this list someday. But let me take a step back for a moment.

Don't these kind of lists set unrealistic expectations? Don't they highlight the early bloomers and ignore those who have labored their entire careers for such success?

Why try to achieve so much so early?

My entire life I've been labeled as a fast-burner, or a bit of an over-achiever. I finished high school at 16, consolidated a 4-year Bachelor's degree into 3 years, landed my dream job, bought a house, and married the man of my dreams all by the time I was 21.

Over the next several years, I was privileged to have received a few promotions, earned an MBA, sat on the board of directors for a nonprofit, founded a community outreach organization, volunteered locally, and gave birth to two beautiful daughters. And I'm still in my mid-twenties.

So what?

I don't say any of that to brag. I'm just one of the billions who has worked hard to fulfill a purpose, using God-given abilities. What I want to highlight is a cultural problem - an underlying theme that has crept into our thinking, and is beginning to saturate our motives.

Our culture is infatuated with youth and glorifying the young.

We pay more attention to appearance than the aged.

We honor winning above wisdom.

We value entertainment over experience.

And we show preference to those who are stylish rather than those who are seasoned.

We've got it all backwards.

Winning in the short term is not the same as winning in the long term. We've all heard stories of people who start out strong then falter after a short time. In work, in marriage, in friendship, and in other life commitments, it's all about long-term success.

You have to begin with the end in mind, and you have to pace yourself for success. Here's how:

  • Don't expend all your energy in the first leg of the race. Learn your pace and stick with it. 
  • Do what you're good at. Don't worry about the inevitable distractions along the way.
  • Understand your limits. Pushing yourself too hard will lead to injury and setbacks.
  • Find encouragement. Surround yourself with people who believe in you.
  • Focus on what's important. Leave the rest aside.
  • Don't quit. Keep at it. You're going to make it.

Ultimately, be consistent. Practice the art of persistence. Don't give up before you cross the finish line.

And don't worry about making it onto the list of the top 40 under 40. When it comes to the things that matter most in life, just aim to be in the top 100 under 100.

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