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The power of leverage

Get ahead with time, achievements, connections and more

The simple concept of “leverage” has the power to get you more time, better fitness, career or business success, financial control and relationship satisfaction. Despite these benefits, however, most of us don’t utilize the power of leverage as much as we could. Understanding how leverage works is the first step in expanding your opportunities, satisfaction and overall fulfillment.

Just what is “leverage” anyway?

We could turn to the tried and true leverage definition, but we mostly hear the word “leverage” used when discussing financial concepts like investment and debt.

Someone who wants to buy a home or a business leverages the cash they have by adding others’ (typically, the bank’s in the form of a loan) cash to it. The buyer’s cash may have bought them a mobile home but not the four-bedroom, two-story they desire, so they leverage additional cash to meet their financial goal. People using leverage get far more for the share they put in. If leverage didn’t exist, mobile home parks would cover residential areas far more than they do today.

Because leveraging means to expand rewards for every outlay, this term can apply to all kinds of concepts beyond debt and investing. Consider how it is used in the Forbes article, “10 Powerful Women Who Played Team Sports.” There, Forbes writes that:

– Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman of Kraft Foods,

– Mary Schapiro, Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission,

– Ellen Kullman, CEO of DuPont

. . . and more all leveraged their time on the basketball court, lacrosse field and more to learn critical lessons about teamwork, tenacity,success and failure. In other words, they did more with their experience than become better athletes and win games. They internalized how to make a team run, how to come back after defeat and how to work diligently to achieve success. They got ahead in their respective fields because they transferred athletic training concepts to the workplace and, eventually, the chairman’s office. Whether or not you played sports growing up, you can leverage different aspects of your life to your professional advantage.

5 things you can leverage for maximum achievement

1. Leverage time
Authors get rich advising others how to get more done in a limited timeframe. When you have a million things to do, however, does any tip or insight solve it?

One does: get more time when you group several similar activities that have the same goal. If you’re cooking one meal, preparing for the next night’s dinner makes sense. After all, you have the knives and cutting board out and you’re working with your plastic wrap. You can read more about leveraging time by tackling similar activities back-to-back (or, “chunking”) in this post.

Another way to leverage your time is to delegate tasks to employees, assistants, children or outside businesses. What can you put off your plate so you can focus more on what really matters? Assess where you bring the most value to your business, family or career and invest your energy in the tasks requiring those sophisticated skills. A personal assistant, student intern or errand runner can carry out the rest. Make it clear at the outset that you retain control over whatever project you assign so that you’re credited for it.

2. Leverage achievement
While you may think that achieving a goal you set out to accomplish is enough in itself, consider whether you can spread this limited win to other areas of your life.

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps leveraged his swimming achievements by negotiating endorsement deals worth $10 million annually from sponsors like Speedo, Ping and Wheaties. While his recent DUIs and other misdemeanors have lead sponsors to drop him, his net worth of $55 million should keep him in goggles and swim caps for the rest of his life. How can you leverage your business achievements? Can a recent award or recognition land you a new deal, higher salary or a speaking engagement?

3. Leverage connections
Does the thought of leveraging connections (friends, peers, colleagues) sound manipulative to you? Actually, we’re not implying that you buddy up to people in a networking group in the hopes of getting business, freelance work or a job from them at all.

Instead of seeing them as a superficial way to get what you want, you should view connections are critical because they jump you ahead on the learning curve in many areas. First, connections let you know about available jobs before they even hit the job boards (the ones you would have spent hours researching).  A connection may even be able to provide an introduction to a decision-maker at your target company. Getting past gatekeepers may have taken you hours in research and phone calls. Your connection handed the phone number over immediately and possibly encouraged you to mention his or her name.

Connections help to widen your knowledge base and skills as well. Others in your circle pass on information about conferences, books and other educational opportunities that reveal the latest and greatest in your field. Because you can’t be in several places at once, peers can act as scouts for you, without even intending to. Sharing information to help you gratifies them. Additionally, connections work both ways. There could be valuable opportunities or information that you pass on to your connections that they might not have known about otherwise.

Finally, connections won through networking groups can save you money. Networking group members understand that they act as the go-to person for questions in their field. They even look for chances to demonstrate their expertise. Give them that opportunity when you ask them for the legal, medical, tax or other advice that would have cost you $250 for 60 minutes hiring someone. Leveraging your connections keeps you from making costly financial, legal or marketing errors.

4. Leverage your talents and skills
While having talent is fantastic, even a lucky break, everyone has a story of the one who squandered it. Talent without hard work doesn’t get far. High school students identified as gifted in high school struggle and even rebel when professors start requiring them to work for their grades in college. Individuals who take their talent for granted and fail to invest in it miss the lucky breaks that come along in anyone’s career.

Leverage your talent and acquired skills by continually adding to them. The graphic artist can learn a new medium, the negotiator a new tactic for a different industry. You never know when an opportunity will arise to use this new aspect of your skill set. Improved skills bring value to your business, workplace and relationships. Colleagues and supervisors pay attention when you take initiative to work on already impressive skills. This willingness to learn also reflects a realistic and even humble acknowledgment that you still have room to grow. Who isn’t impressed with that inclination?

5. Leverage your education
Like the three athletic women CEOs in the example at the top, you, too, can get ahead by leveraging a time-limited experience into another era of your life. Your education may have ended, but have you explored the benefits it still offers? Most colleges and universities present lectures, retreats and even travel opportunities closed off to the general population. Taking advantage of these opens you to the cutting edge in research and experiences brought to life by experts. How did you polish your foreign language skills during your semester abroad? What did you learn about community through your time in a sorority or fraternity?

Career counselors know well the networking opportunities your past education and current, possibly vibrant, local alumni chapter offers. Often, a career counselor’s first advice for job seekers revolves around reconnecting with college alumni associations and connections. They know recruiters and business owners look for anything to connect with a job candidate. Exploring the common experience helps them evaluate whether they’re a fit for the company or not.

Leveraging your skills and resources to unlock new opportunities for yourself isn’t opportunistic – it’s crucial if you want to succeed in the professional world. Begin to maximize your potential today by leveraging the tools you already have at your disposal.

Header image © lsmagilov/shutterstock | Article image © Pressmaster/shutterstock

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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