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The Best Success Tip I Ever Learned: Go Do It

The Best Success Tip I Ever Learned: Go Do It

My grandmother was a working woman’s pioneer back in the early 1900s and a tough cookie. I learned valuable lessons from her, not the least of which was simply “Go do.” It didn’t matter if you didn’t have the qualifications, confidence or circumstances to back you. Her advice was to Just Go Make It Happen.

That mantra inspired me to go after work I wanted in untraditional ways. I got published in women’s magazines, got hired at an award-winning city magazine, and scored ghostwriting gigs for celebrity books with no official training, experience or a college degree. I also helped found and sell a successful business. All based on my grandmother’s mantra, “Go do.”

[Related: The Best Career Advice Women are Not Getting]

Here are 4 success tips I picked up along the way of going and doing:

1. Push your way in.

Meaning with clients or any opportunities you want. The first time my work was published, I wrote a random article, sent it off to Cosmopolitan and got the shock of my life—they bought it. The second time, I pitched an idea to another national magazine. An interested editor called to ask about my writing background and turned me down when I said I had none (the Cosmo article hadn’t come out yet). That’s when “Go do” kicked in. Before she hung up, I blurted out: “Let me write it on spec, get it to you in ten days, if you don’t like it, you’re free to use my idea...” (On spec means they don’t have to pay if they don’t like it). She agreed, and then panic set in because now I had to deliver. After poring over dozens of the magazine’s articles to get the tone and structure right, and adding cool sidebars she didn’t expect, it sold for more than $1000.

When you think something’s impossible, go after it anyway. But make sure you do four things:

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare
  • Provide value
  • Make your offer too good to refuse.
  • Over-deliver.

2. Go after the opportunity you want even before you feel 100% qualified, and figure out the “how” later.

Research shows women will only apply for a job/project if they meet 100% of the qualifications, where men will apply if they meet 60%. If you can be bold enough to go for it, do your research, teach yourself what you need to know and show you’re committed to excellence. Make yourself more valuable than those with way more qualifications. It happens all the time. As J.K. Rowling has said: “Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”

This I’ve done repeatedly. Taken on work I had no business taking because I wasn’t ‘qualified,’ then scrambled to become an expert quickly. You win because you get the work and they win because you overcompensate for your lack of experience and work harder than someone else might. This is a secret of many successful women, including former New Jersey governor Christie Whitman. In interviewing her, she shared several interesting stories of doing exactly that. I also recall reading that Tina Fey, when asked to be head writer for SNL, felt unqualified and terrified but took the job anyway. Her motto was that the fun is always on the other side of a ‘yes.’

[Related: The Entrepreneurial Spirit: Keep Feeding It]

3. If you don’t go after the thing you want, someone else will.

You’ve probably experienced this, where you had a great business idea or business name, and didn’t move on it right then. The next week, you find someone else did. These “ugh!” moments have happened to me dozens of times. But it also applies to life. The first time I learned the lesson, it was senior prom time and I was plotting and planning for months about the exact moment and way to ask a crush to the senior prom. The day I was going to make my move, another girl swooped in first. All that plotting and planning down the toilet. Lesson? When you want something, jump in or you’ll miss it.

4. Extraordinary is mandatory.

Most business owners just do what’s expected and stop there. But when going after the clients or projects you want, this is a must. It sounds too obvious, so why do so few people do it? Think of the businesses in the past year who’ve provided you outstanding service and customer service. It’s probably just one or two, when you’ve patronized hundreds. And it's likely you remember who they are. The 10 percent or fewer who go beyond are usually at a higher level of success than the others, while the others wonder why they’re not so “lucky.”

Just by going one or two steps above when it comes to providing value, you get more clients because people talk about you, and customers are loyal. I learned this on a smaller scale as an intern in the 90s. I was one of several people hoping to be the lucky replacement for the outgoing assistant editor. The others had great resumes—prestigious universities and training—while I was a college dropout at the time. But I really wanted that job and worked twice as hard, twice as many hours, put out quality work and got the job.

'Go do' means you don't need to wait for an invitation to go after what you want. But be ready to go beyond what others do. That means prepare, provide value, make an offer that’s too good to refuse and over-deliver. That can be all it takes to set you apart.

Robyn Post is a financial coach, journalist and founder of Her work has been published on Reuters,, Philadelphia Magazine and other national and regional publications.

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