Think for Yourself—and Get Promoted!

Think for Yourself: Practical Tools to Help You Get Promoted

I like to learn from others, but I absolutely love to think for myself. There’s an immense sense of satisfaction I get from figuring something out on my own.

Like discovering a new way to reach a goal or solve a problem. Or gaining clarity around a challenging situation. Or even just reconsidering something I know to be true from a different perspective.

The best is when answers seemingly come to me out of nowhere. When an idea pushes me awake in the middle of the night (and I stumble in the dark to write it down), or a solution reveals itself on a long walk with my dog (and we run home so I can write it down).

But sadly, I can’t always count on aha moments like these. More often it takes hours, days, weeks or longer for me to think through difficult problems and complex situations before coming to any useful conclusions or realizations.

Which is why I’m always on the lookout for practical tools that can help me figure stuff out faster. To think better.

Think for Yourself with Think Aids

If designed well, tools that make me think can be a thing of beauty. I fondly refer to them as my think-aids:

    • Frameworks that help to simplify complex subjects.
    • Principles that cut through the clutter to uncover universal truths.
    • Visual models that capture the essence of an idea without the need for words.

During my career I was introduced to countless think-aids to make smarter business decisions.

I often used them to drive deeper learning, speed up analysis, and identify key insights around complex topics or questions. They helped me filter out unnecessary information and focus on the most important factors or fundamental truths.

Business Examples

For example, I frequently used the tried-and-true SWOT analysis to help inform my marketing plans and develop the best strategies based on the market environment. Or when I was defining product launch activities, I would often reference the Pragmatic Marketing framework to ensure I covered all my bases.

One of the think-aids I used several times was The First 90 Days. It outlined a model for leaders to hit the ground running after taking on a new job and helped me focus on the most essential actions versus getting overwhelmed and pulled in a hundred different unimportant directions.

But the value of well-designed think-aids isn’t limited to business. They can apply to just about any complex situation or challenge, or help you personally be more effective and successful.

It might be a simple nudge that reminds us of what we already know in a very powerful way. Like how the visual model of your life in weeks by Tim Urban immediately puts your life in perspective and drives you to think about how you spend the rest of your finite, precious time.

Or a thought-provoking concept that drives us to make behavioral changes. Like how the Pareto Principle, which says 20% of your efforts produce 80% of your results, inspired me to zone in on what matters most to get promoted.

What Makes a Think-Aid Good?

Of course, not all tools are created equal. Some are clearly better than others. Anything that promises a quick fix is likely something to be wary of (think get-rich-quick schemes).

In my experience, a good think-aid is one that helps filter out the unnecessary stuff to focus on what’s most essential around a specific topic or issue. It may provide ideas to consider, but it’s not explicit with actions to take.

That’s the beauty of think aids: they lay out a direction, like a north star, to help you work it out yourself. They make things simpler, but not necessarily easier.

Simple, But Not Easy

For example, let’s look at what it takes to retire early: a weighty topic with so much advice coming out the wazoo.

But one of my favorite financial bloggers (ESI Money) shares a simple 3-step framework to achieve financial independence: 1) earn as much as possible, 2) save as much as possible, and 3) invest to grow your wealth.

Pretty simple right? Simple, but not easy.

The number of actions you can apply to this framework are endless. Or as ESI Money explains, there are almost as many ways to achieve financial independence as there are moves in a chess match.

To grow earnings, you could start a side hustle, rent out a room, get promoted, etc. To reduce spend, you could clip coupons, shop at discount stores, buy used vs new, etc. To grow wealth, you could invest in real estate, stocks, bonds, startups, etc.

The purpose of the ESI framework isn’t to prescribe these actions or dole out expert advice. It’s to show where focus is needed to achieve financial freedom: Earning, Saving, and Investing. The site shares ideas to help in each focus areas, but the specific path forward is left up to the reader to decide for themselves.

The result: a solid think-aid to achieve financial independence.

How to Get Promoted with Think-Aids

Similar to achieving financial independence, I believe the best approach to advance your career is to think for yourself.

Not follow pieces of advice that may or may not have worked for someone else. Not listen to so-called experts tell you what to do.

My intent with Finally Promoted is to share think-aids—practical tools that can help you think differently.

I want to show you how to think it out yourself: manage your career your way and choose your own chess moves.

To help you zone in on what matters most to get promoted, but to leave the specific action planning up to you, the expert!

Where to start? Learn more about the Promotion Principles.