The ONE Decision That Can Change Your Course Forever

By Donald J. Strankowski
Ascend Career and Life Strategies, LLC

An ongoing commitment to lifelong learning and professional development can change your life—period.

Not all that long ago, I struggled mightily with confidence, self-esteem, and negative attitude issues to the point of where I was a very average performer in every area of my life.  I had no goals, a poor attitude, and realized a meager income.  I had trouble with relationships, both personal and professional, and was performing way below my true potential.

All it took was one idea to influence my decision to make a change.  After floundering in a new sales position with American Greetings Corporation for a few months, a new sales manager, Tom, was hired to oversee the district I worked in.  After working with me for a few days, Tom saw in me a “diamond in the rough” and challenged me to perform at a much higher level.  Tom told me that his dedication to self-development has made all the difference in his professional career.  He thought I could generate a higher income and reach my sales quota—if I changed my thinking.  He challenged me at a time when I didn’t think I was capable of performing at a level any higher than where I was currently at.  This one “push” changed my life forever.

Because I put in so much driving time on the job (I covered three states at the time) Tom recommended that I start listening to some audio programs in-between sales calls.  This concept was a far cry from the usual banal radio stations and Motley Crue CDs I was accustomed to listening to.  The programs focused on attitude, setting goals, breaking out of the comfort zone, and developing higher levels of persistence.  Some of the selections were written and narrated by such experts as Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, Dr. Stephen Covey, Dennis Waitley, and Roger Dawson.  Pretty boring material, or so I thought at first, until one day when I realized the difference it was all making.  As I listened to the material and actually started using the ideas, the concepts I was learning began to have a tremendous impact on my performance. 

I started employing many of the techniques and ideas I was hearing on the CDs on my sales calls and my results got better.  I was reaching my sales objectives and making more money.  My mindset went from negative to optimistic.  I was no longer blaming everybody and everything—I took responsibility for my actions and decisions.  My relationships with my employees also improved; I actually started working fewer hours and became much more efficient.  I closed some major (previously regarded as “unclosable”) deals and started leading our district in sales.  The results were tangible, measurable, and even a bit surprising.

I became like an “information sponge,” trying to learn as much as I could about peak performance and developed into a student of self-improvement.  I started listening to more CDs and reading books on subjects like interpersonal relationships, communication skills, programming yourself for success, and overcoming negative beliefs—and my results got even better.  The situation in my personal life started getting better too; my relationships were improving and I was achieving goals I thought were previously unattainable like buying a house and creating a sizeable stock portfolio.  My dedication to professional development in lieu of unimportant and time-wasting activities was making all the difference in my remarkable turnaround.

I went on to have a great career with American Greetings, being promoted a number of times, and later went on to excel in a high-tech sales career.  I also credit the “push” from Tom years ago and the subsequent concepts and ideas I learned from those audio programs in helping me start and succeed in my own business, Ascend Career and Life Strategies. 

Since making the decision to implement a plan for change, I have never looked back. This ONE decision has made all the difference in my life: To stop settling for mediocrity and poor results and take responsibility for my own success by assembling an action plan for self improvement. 

We don’t come into this world with a set of instructions and an owner’s manual, so to achieve what we want, we need to have a plan and a set of tools and strategies that work.  Nobody ever achieves success—in any area of their life—by accident.  It is done by learning from the best and taking action.  Remember that there will never be optimum conditions for changing or improving your situation.  You simply need to step out in faith and, as the Nike slogan states, just do it!  It takes a lot of guts and courage to become a success.    

Learn from the experts and continually fill yourself with mentally nutritious information.  You can achieve this by reading relevant books, listening to audio programs, and attending informative and uplifting seminars.  Program yourself to stay focused and positive even when your conditions and surroundings do not support you.  Surround yourself with positive, goal-oriented people who share your desire for success and will support you in your endeavors.  Gravity is constant in today’s society so program yourself with an unshakable belief in yourself and your abilities.  Prepare for obstacles and set-backs and realize that failure is life’s way of giving you the lessons you need to learn in order to succeed.  To achieve any major goal in life, you only need to be successful on your last attempt.

I also want to challenge you to teach what you learn to others.  Nobody ever reaches their true potential without someone else believing in them.  Tom was there to push and challenge me, who are you challenging and believing in?  Who are you encouraging to reach a higher level and not settle for the status-quo?  Be the one to encourage others as others have encouraged you.  Our accomplishments in life are mostly a result of others helping us along the way. 

For me it took a lot of time, patients, and practice, but the proactive mindset I now employ has enabled me to overcome the self-limiting beliefs and negative mindset that would have stopped me cold only a short time ago.  All it takes is character, courage and enough “want-to” to force yourself to make a change for the better—and if I can do it, I know anyone else can too.   

Email me at [email protected] for a free list of recommended books, audio programs, and seminars to jump start your career and embark on a professional development program.

Donald J. Strankowski Jr. is founder and President of Ascend Career and Life Strategies, LLC, a career management and professional development firm for businesses, professionals, executives.  He works out of Boulder, Colorado and can be contacted at 303-245-7049, via email at [email protected], or on the web at