(NOTE: By young, I’m referring to anyone with a pulse and that still wants to add value to the world. This advice truly knows no age limits.)

I’m a lucky man. I was born at the right time in the right place to the right parents under the right circumstances. I grew up relatively poor, putting a fire in my belly for success. I came of age with the Internet. And I knew early what I wanted to do with my life (help others improve their own lives, particularly in the field of health and fitness).

Looking back, there aren’t too many things I’d do differently if I were a seventeen-year-old faced with the future today.

The success formula I followed in the early ’90s will work just as well in 2013 for a young person about to enter college. It will also work for folks in their 20s struggling to find gainful employment, for those in their 30s and 40s that are looking to switch to a more rewarding career, or it will even work for someone in their 50s or 60s that has recently lost their job and needs to start over again.

This advice is the exact path one must follow if they want to increase their income.

You will do so by developing valuable skills in an expanding field and so that you can earn rewards in exchange for adding value to the world. That’s the equation. It’s not rocket science. But each step is required to ensure success.

Accept this One Fact and Your Future Will Improve Immediately

But before we get to your action-taking blueprint, there’s one thing you must acknowledge. If you’re 18 or older, where you are now is your responsibility.

No one is going to solve your problems for you, not the government, not your boss, not your friends, not even your family.

Your future is your responsibility.

The sooner you accept this, the more freedom you will have in your life, the greater control you will have over your future, and the faster everything will improve for you.

Your Blueprint to Success

Recently I received an email from a young, intelligent woman. She’s in her first corporate job fresh out of college, but wants to do what Matt Smith and I do at Early To Rise. She wants to help other business owners build their businesses.

It’s a laudable goal. Helping others achieve financial success is one of the best feelings in the world.

But she has no experience in this field. She, bluntly put, has no value to add to potential clients. She must spend time first accumulating the skills she would like to teach.

That’s where everyone must start on the journey to success.

You don’t just walk into a welding shop without training and demand to be paid $35 an hour to yield a welding rod. You must first study, then apprentice, and then become a master of your craft.

Then you will get paid what you deserve.

This is equally true for what we consider to be white-collar jobs. Whether you want to be a real-estate salesperson, a copywriter, an information marketer selling your products or coaching online, an insurance agent, or a multi-talented entrepreneur like Matt Smith or Mark Ford, your path to success will look the same.

First, you need to identify opportunity.

Second, you must study the masters.

Third, find a mentor – and be prepared to travel far and wide for the right one. In the late 1990s Matt didn’t hesitate to move to Buffalo in the winter, all because he was given the opportunity to work under the right mentor. You must be willing to take action when the opportunity arises.

You must be willing to take your chances.

But this doesn’t mean incurring more debt or going hungry, and it might not require a journey of more than two miles.

After all, you should be able to find many virtual mentors available for free in your local public library. There you will find the must-read books like Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill, Influence by Dr. Robert Cialdini, and Seven Years to Seven Figures by Michael Masterson.

This is where you will begin your studies of selling, the valuable skill that everyone should learn. There is no person, no employee, no role that could not benefit from a better understanding of the sales process and persuasion techniques – even if you only use what you learn to help you get a new job or raise in salary.

Your studies are not complete without practice. You must take action and apply what you learn. There’s no substitute for real world experience. Don’t hide behind books. Get out there and be willing to fail forward. Take action, get feedback on your performance, learn from your mistakes, and do better the next time.

You will eventually become so good they can’t ignore you, as Cal Newport explains in his must-read book of the same name.

That’s your golden ticket – to become so good they can’t ignore you.

“People get paid well for mastery of high-value competencies,” Dan Kennedy once wrote. What can you do to make yourself more valuable to the world?

How do I know this success blueprint works?

We have living proof in our ETR office back in Denver.

The Story of Gary

Two years ago a young, ambitious man traveled halfway across the world to learn from Matt and myself at a small seminar in Lithuania. He was in his final year of law school, but he was unhappy. More important, he saw the writing on the wall, and knew that this career path would not hold at that it once promised for young graduates.

Fifteen minutes of listening to Matt talk about direct marketing and copywriting changed Gary’s life. When he returned to the United States a few weeks later, Gary made the renegade decision to abandon law and delve into becoming a “Mad Man.”

He studied the masters relentlessly, buying old copywriting books and seminars. Gary practiced his craft, even though his first efforts felt amateur and mechanical. But that didn’t stop him from seeking out wise mentors to review his work. With their feedback, Gary continued to improve over time. In under a year he even won a copywriting competition.

At that time, Gary felt he had the leverage he needed to persuade Early To Rise to take a chance on him. He showed how he was dedicated to the craft. He demonstrated how he had built real-world skills that could add value to our business.

Gary was the man with the plan. It paid off. He now does what he loves, he works every day on something he has become passionate about, and he gets daily feedback from mentors (Matt and myself) who are both emotionally and financially invested in him.

I really want to see him succeed, not just because he works for me, but because he works so hard at what he does.

He deserves success. He’s adding value to the world.

And you can too. Don’t tell me you can’t, because you can.

After all, what other option do you have?

You’re not going to quit. You’re not going to give up.

Action takers and value adders rule the world.

This is a sure path to success. No, it’s not easy. Yes, it requires work, sacrifice, and a deep-rooted belief in yourself that you might not think you have. It might even feel like a gamble, and your journey might take you halfway around the world as you seek out greater and better opportunity.

But if you’re here reading Early To Rise, I know you’re up for the challenge. I know that you’ll never, ever, ever give up on what is important to you. I know that you’ve come too far to back down now. I believe in you.

And I want to hear your success story once you’ve achieved your goal.

Let us know how things are going now and how we can help in the comments section below.

Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift to high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com

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