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Ken Coleman: The Proximity Principle

That’s really what The Proximity Principle is all about. Have you ever noticed you become who you hang around with? If you hang with readers, you’ll read. If you surround yourself with people training physically, you will too. We even talk like the people we hang around.

Change is always possible in your life and in your career, but that change always depends on you.


I was lost and completely frustrated. All I could think about was the distance between where I was and where I wanted to be. Then it came to me. My dream was real to me and only me.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!

That first step toward a dream job is always the scariest.

Finding opportunities to do what you love is as simple as getting around the right people and being in the right places. This is what I call The Proximity Principle.

What Is The Proximity Principle?

Proximity simply means to be near or close to something. When you are closer to something, it is often easier to access that thing, isn’t it?

That’s The Proximity Principle. In order to do what you want to do, you have to be around people who are doing it, in places where it’s happening.

The beautiful thing about The Proximity Principle is that it works. And it keeps on working for as long as you work it.

To put it into practice, you can start by asking yourself two questions:

Who do I need to know?

Where do I need to be?

The People

The Proximity Principle works. Every. Single. Time. It’s not magic. It’s a discipline that yields results. The right people + The right places = Opportunities.

Finding people who can make opportunities happen for you is the easy part. The hard part is getting some of their time and convincing them to help you on your journey. To get a yes, don’t be an opportunistic jerk. Look for people you can both give help to and get help from.

On the path to your dream job, there are two major limiting beliefs that stand in your way: pride and fear.

Pride shows up in the lie that we are self-sufficient. Ironically, pride keeps us from being ambitious.

Fear is normal. There are two kinds of fear that limit us: the fear of rejection and the fear of failure. Both are liars. Don’t let the fear of rejection keep you from asking. The second kind of fear that limits us is a fear of failure. This often starts with the question: “What if?” “What if” usually leads to another question: What will people think?

Often, success happens not despite failure, but because of failure.

I’d go so far as to say that you can’t succeed unless and until you fail. Failure is what helps us learn and grow, so we shouldn’t let our fear of it keep us from trying.

As you begin your climb, there are five specific types of people who can help you along the way:

  • Professors instruct in the field you want to work in.
  • Professionals are the best of the best in their field.
  • Mentors offer guidance and accountability.
  • Peers accompany you on your journey.
  • Producers create jobs, hire and build teams, and generate opportunities.

The Professors

A professor is simply a teacher — someone with the skills and experience in the field you want to work in.

I believe that there are three key qualities that make up great professors:

  • They Are Knowledgeable
  • They Are Passionate
  • They Push You to Grow

Even the best professors aren’t going to seek you out. It’s your job to seek them out and stay connected with them as you climb — and sometimes even after you climb — the mountain.

The Professionals

Robin Williams is considered a genius not because he could tell other people’s jokes, but because he found an approach distinctly his own. That is exactly the mind-set you need when you watch the professionals in your industry. Study what makes them the best. Imitate it. Then make it your own.

Professionals have key qualities that make them the best at what they do:

  • They Are Experienced
  • They Study Other Professionals

When learning from professionals, you want to focus on doing three things:

  • Learn Their Tricks of the Trade
  • Develop Your Own Method
  • Understand that Wisdom Comes from Experience

Research the pros who excel in your field. Decide which pros you’d like to connect with. Identify alternative ways to learn from the pros you can’t meet with in person.

The Mentors

Pick up the biography of almost any successful person, and you’ll find that their accomplishments were supported by a mentor.

In my experience, there are three key qualities that make up every great mentor:

  • They Are Accomplished
  • They Are Understanding
  • They Are Caring

The beautiful thing about lasting mentor relationships is that you’ll eventually see so much personal growth in your life from the guidance and encouragement you receive that it’ll challenge you to mentor others.

The Peers

Typically, peers are your equals. At work they’re your coworkers. At home they’re your siblings. They’re the people walking alongside you in the same stage of life, pretty close in economic status and age. So with the law of averages in mind, take a look around and ask yourself these questions: Who am I spending the most time with? Who is challenging and championing me?

As you begin to get intentional about finding the right peers, there are three key qualities you need to look for:

  • They Have Shared Values
  • They Have Drive
  • They Speak Truth

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

The Producers

I like things to happen; and if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen. — Winston Churchill

Producers are high-achieving professionals, which usually means they are busy — really busy.

There are four key qualities producers provide that can help get you in closer proximity to your dream job:

  • They Share Knowledge
  • They Provide Connections
  • They Offer Opportunities
  • They Give Direction

Access to producers helps us understand what we need to do to be successful.

When you first connect with a producer, one thing you absolutely don’t want to do is ask for a job. Articulate where you want to go in your career and listen closely to the advice and feedback they offer. Make a list of companies and organizations in your desired field, then find out who the producers are. Determine exactly what you want to learn about their industry, then write down a few key questions you’d like to ask them.

The Places

Climbing a mountain must be done in stages. As you begin your climb, think of these stages as the places that will get you in proximity to your dream job. Each place prepares you for the next.

As you get in proximity to your dream job, there are five places you can expect to encounter on your climb:

  • The place where you are. Everything you need to get started is right in your very own zip code.
  • A place to learn. This is where you’ll obtain the education, certifications, and knowledge you need to be successful.
  • A place to practice. Education becomes experience at this stage.
  • A place to perform. Moving from practice to performance happens here.
  • A place to grow. This is the inner ring of proximity — within striking distance of your dream.

The Place Where You Are

The Law of the Zip Code is simple and liberating. It states: everything you need to get started is within your reach. You don’t need to move across the country or even rent office space. You can simply start with what you have.

The truth about The Proximity Principle is that if you have enough grit, you can always find an opportunity to get started right where you are.

A Place to Learn

Doing some research and training on the front end will do one of two things for you: it will either affirm your passion or steer you in another direction altogether. None of your research will be wasted if it helps you determine next steps.

If you’re committe, you’ll find a way to get the education you need to get into proximity to work that matters.

Finding a place you can learn will give you access to the culture of a profession. What do I mean by that? The culture of a profession is simply all the things that make up a workplace: the people, the mission of the place, employees’ attitudes and the way they work together, the company morale, even down to the feel of the place when you walk in. Gaining access to a company’s culture can help you clearly understand how what you want to do fits into the industry as a whole. As you learn about a role you are interested in, this will either confirm your direction or push you to change direction to a role you are better suited for.

A Place to Practice

In your place to practice , you’ll start to convert education into execution No matter what field you’re pursuing, a place to practice is essential.

Here’s what you’ll gain from the hours of practice you put in:

  • Real Experience
  • Feedback
  • Freedom to Fail
  • Wins

Success often happens not despite failure but because of failure. Failing is an essential part of practice. Naturally nobody wants to fail, but if you view your place to practice as an opportunity to safely fail, taking those risks will be easier.

Along with practicing in a place that encourages failure, it’s helpful to practice in a place with little pressure, in a place where the stakes aren’t so high.

And keep in mind, practice generally doesn’t pay well, it usually isn’t glamorous, and those reps don’t come with a corner office. It requires discipline, passion, and a commitment to your craft to work through this stage of your journey, not to mention setting aside pride and fear. But once you get experience and begin to build your skill set, you’re going to start seeing your hard work pay off with opportunities and open doors. Then you’ll be ready to start looking toward the next stage of the climb: finding a place to perform!

A Place to Perform

Your place to perform might not be ideal, but it should always be in the field you want to be in with people doing what you want to do.

You’ve simply got to show up, give it 100 percent, and add value to the people you work with and the place you work for. When you do, you’ll learn or gain three things to help you on your climb:

  • How to Handle Pressure
  • When to Pivot
  • Confirmation

A place to perform is a vital step toward getting that job you’ve dreamed about. It’s the space where you really begin to grasp the attitude, effort, and aptitude to turn pro. And it’s the place you finally get to put your skill set to work and move closer to the summit.

A Place to Grow

Alignment of Values If you find a company you’re interested in, do your homework. Take the time to carefully investigate their core mission.

The second key to growing as a professional is surrounding yourself with high-achieving peers who perform with excellence and challenge you to do the same.

The third and final key element you should look for in your place to grow is a clear path forward.

The Practices

These are essential to helping you finish your climb to the summit. You’ll work on:

  • Creating a Web of Connections
  • Making Your Connections Count
  • Seizing the Opportunity
  • Adopting a Proximity Mind-set

Creating a Web of Connections

When it comes to connecting to job opportunities, most of the time it’s not just who you know, it’s who they know.

Mark Granovetter is a sociology professor at Stanford University. His main focus of study has been the interactions of social networks. In his article “The Strength of Weak Ties,” which was published in The American Journal of Sociology, Granovetter used the term weak ties to describe people who aren’t in your inner circle.

Making Your Connections Count

Everyday there are people out there working harder than me to get the job I want. It’s up to you to put in the effort to get where you want to be!

“We do what we got to do, so we can do what we want to.” Get ready to do what it takes!

Being audacious also means you bring value to the connections and relationships you build instead of solely approaching them from a transactional standpoint.

Adopting a Proximity Mind-set

Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.

What does success even look like? It’s really not that difficult. When you approach your work with a positive attitude, exceptional effort, and a winning disposition, that’s when you know you’ve adopted a proximity mind-set.

Your passion for what you do can have a lasting impact on the people around you, but in order to make that kind of impact, you must first know your role.

Once you know the exact expectations for the job, you’re in, you need to fully accept that role — no matter where you are in your climb up the mountain.

You don’t have to wait until you’ve reached your dream job to maximize your role.

Conclusion: Pressing On

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!

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