The Secret to (My) Success

Another annual milestone is quickly approaching me. 

Usually, I’m not one to celebrate or make a big hoopla when it’s my birthday. Yet, comfortably settled into my mid-20s, I find myself reflecting on my journey through young adulthood.

It’s funny how and where life imparts its wisdom, and I can’t help but feel I’ve gained a thing or two along the way.

In the midst of these reflections, I’ve been engaging in conversations with soon-to-be college graduates, interns, and aspiring young advisors. It brings me back to my early days at 22, navigating the bustling streets of NYC as a newcomer. While each conversation takes a different path, the underlying sentiment remains constant — what advice would I offer to that wide-eyed, naive version of myself if I were to meet them today?

To any recent graduate entering the workforce, whatever your situation may be, my advice would be these four things: 

My four secrets to success:

1. Say “yes” to as many things as possible

When you’re young new opportunities can be bountiful. You’re fresh. Oftentimes, you’re attracted to the big cities where it’s happening. New tech, and new ideas for antiquated systems are flying all around you. All it takes is the right time and right place for your own idea to spark or for someone to ask if you could help with a project they’re working on.

You never know where that one little decision could take you. And if it leads to another fork in the road, take advice number

2.You’re not too good for any task/job

When you’re first starting out, you don’t have many refined skills. You haven’t built the reputation to go all Ricky Bobby on everyone.


Inevitably, you’re going to be asked to do something that you don’t want to do.

Nonetheless, it’s something that needs to be done, and if it helps the team win, you win, too. And if you’ve followed the first piece of advice, you’ll eventually accrue enough skills and expertise that you will have enough responsibilities that you will need to ask for help, too. It’s not wise to make enemies early on.

I’ve worked at Six Flags, a bagel shop for a day, Burger King, Big Lots, Chipotle, a doggy daycare, as an insurance rep, landscaping/construction, and my professor’s financial planning shop. 

I say this not to brag or give you my resume. I’m sure you don’t care about that. But where I’m going with this is that you can learn something from every job you’ve ever taken.

I’m not one to believe everything happens for a reason, but I do believe you can take something away from everything that has happened. Even if it wasn’t the most glorious work, there was some skill or trait that was required to do that job.

Remember it and take it with you everywhere you go. As long as you stay motivated. Which leads us to number three.

3. Do what you enjoy, and enjoy what you do

Most Americans spend more time in their lives working than relaxing. If you’re going to allocate that much time of your life doing something, it shouldn’t be something you loathe. You may not start within your particular dream job/field, but it should be a step in the right direction. If you’re type-A like me, then you know there should be a clear path for how you’ll get to where you’d like to be. If not, make one.

Switching gears, but this should also apply to this tenant. As Morgan Housel wrote in his book The Psychology of Money, “no one is as impressed with your stuff as you are,” no one is as impressed with your title as you are.

I could only introduce myself as Cameron Rufus, CFP, on the day I passed the exam before that got old and everyone else moved on. “Welcome to major leagues… now do something with it.” What people really want to hear is that you are passionate and care about what you’re doing.

And lastly, this sounds preachy coming from a financial advisor, but it’s not always about the paycheck.

At the end of the day, only you have to lay your head on your pillow and wrestle with your own thoughts. And only you have to decide if you’re comfortable or satisfied with those thoughts. I’ve worked with several clients to imagine what it would be like if they left their six-figure jobs to do something they really enjoy. 

Nothing is more satisfying than seeing them go through with it and thrive in their new life.

4. Find a colleague or group of colleagues who you can ask “dumb” questions

Having a spotter in the gym isn’t crucial because you can’t do it. They’re there to make sure the weight doesn’t come back to crush you when you get to the apex of your set. They are the difference between attempting that last rep and stopping there because you don’t want to embarrass yourself.  

You may remember many technical things from your education or self-learning, but you won’t know everything there is to know, especially out in the field.

Having someone you can go to for even the simplest questions, even if it’s just to reaffirm your thoughts, will strengthen those muscles and boost your confidence to rise to the challenge when it comes. 

Asking for help can be hard at first because you don’t want to seem like the only person who didn’t get the joke. But Standford social psychologist Xuan Zhao says, “We underestimate just how willing people want to assist others and how positive they feel about doing so.” Think about it. People like feeling trusted, just as you would appreciate if someone came to you with something that couldn’t come to anyone else about (within reason, of course). 

These are the four principles that I have followed so far in my career. There is plenty more good advice out there, especially for young people. This isn’t just for folks trying to break into finance; however, my colleague Blair wrote this great post specifically for young advisors trying to make it in this field. 

Above all, if none of these resonates with you, I implore you to take the opposite side of these four pieces of advice. 

Planting your flag and building an igloo around yourself will slowly drive you crazy as you watch everyone else around move up and out while you’re stuck in the same place you were a year(s) ago. 

Refusing to do anything that you feel is beneath you will lead to a strong distaste from everyone around you and, eventually, more than likely, unemployment. I’m not saying you have to be a people pleaser and blindly agree with everything anyone says. But part of being young and employable is being willing and able to do the job. 

And lastly, chasing a dollar will lead you to find it only fills a few gaps in your life that only money could solve. 

These have been the secrets to the little success that I’ve had so far. 

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