The reason many people underachieve in their careers is because they do not realize how long it takes to achieve mastery in a given field. Extensive research into the area of career success suggests that it requires about five to seven years of hard work for you to move to the top of your field. This means five to seven years of focused, concentrated, determined hard work on yourself to get better and better in the key areas responsible for your personal development. And, I am sorry to say, there are no short cuts.

Sometimes people say to me “Five to seven years is a long time to achieve mastery in my field.” This is true. But, I remind them that the time is going to pass anyway. Five to seven years from now, five to seven years will have passed. The only question is “Where are you going to be five to seven years from now in your field?”

Personal development through hard work. The good news is that if you start now, make a plan and work hard every day, five to seven years from now you can be in the top 10 percent of people in your field. Through personal development, you can become one of the highest paid and most respected people in your field. You can enjoy the results and rewards of a top performer if you make the decision to apply yourself.

Remember this: Nobody is better than you and nobody is smarter than you. If someone is doing better than you, it only means that they started their personal development earlier than you did. And whatever anyone else has done, you can do as well. There are no limits except the limits you place on yourself.

The very fact that others have been able to excel in your field — after having started off without experience or skills — is proof that you too can excel. Your job is to get busy working on yourself and commit to lifelong learning. Resolve today to develop the habit of personal excellence, and focus all your energies on joining the top 10 percent of professionals in your field. Once you do that, your entire future will open up in front of you.

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Brian Tracy is the CEO of Brian Tracy International, which specializes in business training, and the author of the best-selling Psychology of Achievement. For more information, go to www.briantracy.com.