09/14/2012 05:38 EDT | Updated 11/14/2012 05:12 EST

The Slacker's Guide To Success -- Step Eight: Doing It In The Real World

2012-08-17-KenRabowSGTS.jpg This is the eighth installment of The Slacker's Guide To Success, based on my work with teens, young adults and their families. The introduction can be found here. The other chapters are available here.

You can study, you can practice, you can philosophize all you want, it means diddly until you test it out there in the "real world." If you have followed the previous steps to success you have learned to transform yourself beyond your safety zone, learning to seek out what makes you happy in a disciplined, organized way with proper support from mentors, friends and family. Now comes the next step for a young adult searching to find their success in life:

Putting three toes in the water. Why three? Do one thing and it works (or doesn't) it could just be "luck." Do two things and it can still be an anomaly. Do three things and now you have a pattern. True, naysayers can poop on pretty much anything but if you get three consecutive successes, I say: "Yahoo!" If you get three straight failures, remember Edison took 10,000 wrong tries to find the right filament, creating the incandescent bulb.

Picking a new pond to swim in. Choose: university, college, a business or a fourth choice. Create a 12-week test and bring your recent successes into a new "real life" situation. You can do almost anything if you do it with passion and are willing to slog through the occasional grinding that accompanies learning any skill, course or trade.

University or College: pick a subject that you would love to learn more about. Something you could see yourself doing for the next 10 years and liking it. Go to three schools in your area, get their syllabus, meet with the registrar and pick three classes: two core-related and one easy and fun class to test our your learning chops on.

Entrepreneur: pick something you love doing. See who makes a living selling that product or service. Go volunteer to work there for a 12-week period. It might be in sales, or promotions or stock-boy but make sure you know where you want to end up in 12 weeks.

Read: "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie (HTWFAIP). The best book I found to teach the basic skills on how to "sell" yourself and getting people to want to help you by being genuinely interested in them.

Recap: Pick three subjects of interest for one semester or a 12-week mentorship and use the tools for success to do the work (and homework required). Find people who are passionate about that pond and get to know them. You can learn so much from passionate people who succeed.

One of the most important tips for the real world: Secretaries hold the keys! Always be respectful of the people you first meet wherever you go. Very often, these people know who the best person you should be talking to is.

Take a moment to learn their names, use it in a natural way two or three times in the conversation; find out why they chose to work there and what they like about it.

Avoid interrogating! Listening is the best way to converse. However, as "the lost chapter" in HTWFAIP taught us: there are some people who are just plain never going to give you the time of day or be kind. So, don't be shy if you are not getting anywhere to respectfully ask to see a more senior person. Sometimes that is enough to get the front line person to help you, sometimes it gets you to the next level. Don't forget to enjoy the pond. It's new and you benefit by embracing every opportunity you take to grow. May the three toes guide your steps to adventure!

"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention than to any other talent"... Sir Isaac Newton

For Ken's free newsletter click here. For a podcast of this article click here. Graphics by Nick Robinson