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Tips for Cert Success: Finding Your Purpose

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of posts about preparing for certification exams written by CBT Nuggets’ trainer Anthony Sequeira. Check the blog each week for his latest installment.

A dear friend and life coach let me listen to a couple of his Tony Robbins’ CDs regarding Time Management. Tony’s system is called RPM. I quickly returned them and invested in the entire package — including the classically bound planning worksheets. Yes, imagine me planning my days and weeks and projects in a written workbook! What I discovered was that the Tony Robbins course made an immediate and profound impact on my life. Not just my work life, but in all aspects of my life: family, fitness, and fun. I suppose it’s only fitting that I found such inspiration in the work of Tony Robbins because more than once I’ve been labeled the Tony Robbins of Technical Training!anthony-certtips_BLOG

What does RPM have to do with my first tip on your IT Certification pursuits? What an excellent question, please let me explain. At the heart of the RPM system, you ask yourself three main questions. What do I Really want? Why do I really want it, what is my Purpose in achieving it? What is my Massive action plan to get there? It is amazing how we can decide we want something in life and then start down a path to achieve it without really thinking about why in the world we want that particular thing to begin with.

For your first tip, I want you to always take a moment (hell, maybe even take 60 moments in a row) and think about why you are about to go through the hard work of succeeding in a particular IT certification goal. Not doing this can really lead to frustration and disaster, and perhaps even an abandonment of the goal after much wasted time, money, and effort (brain power).

Think about it. To really succeed at something and enjoy that journey to success, you need to be excited and passionate about the goal and the journey. How possibly can you be excited and passionate when you have no real concrete ideas on why you want to achieve the goal in the first place?

Here is my own very personal example. In early 2013, I decided that I would pursue my second CCIE designation from Cisco Systems in the area of Security. What a great way to compliment my existing CCIE designation in the area of Routing and Switching, I thought. After all, you cannot throw a dart at a newsstand and not hit an article pointing out the great importance of IT security.

So with great excitement, I launched into the pursuit headfirst — watching videos so painfully boring they almost seemed comical, spending hour upon hour staring at rental rack equipment, and reading, reading, and reading some more.

I flew off to RTP in North Carolina and failed at an attempt at a lab version. I then studied up on the “new stuff”and drove over to Cisco Live Orlando to fail at a newer version of the lab. What in the world was happening? Why was this all sudden so hard? Why was I not enjoying much of the study sessions?

As you might guess, at this point, it was mainly due to a lack of purpose. I had never clearly defined my purpose for this goal. In fact, an employer at one point asked me why I was engaging in such a lofty pursuit and I sat there dumbfounded; my weak response a muttering of something that had to do with industry respect. How lame. Fortunately, I had already attained industry respect in my field as both an author and trainer. It just was all I could possibly come up with at the time.

I strongly encourage you, before you launch into that next (or first) IT certification pursuit, to sit down and physically write out all of the wonderful reasons that you have for attaining that cert. Is it to finally master certain technologies? Is it to boost your resume and land that position you keep seeing posted? Is it a way to quantify your love of a certain field of IT? We all might have different motivations and that is fine — as long as the motivations are really there and will help drive us. When we focus on the P in our RPM plan, we can literally gain speed and enjoyment of the process.

Did I indefinitely postpone my pursuit of CCIE Security you might ask? You bet I did, and with the added time and resources was able to specialize in mastering another incredibly hot IT area, Data Center for CBT Nuggets. Might I revisit the CCIE Security pursuit? Well of course, and that would be when I can very easily and clearly articulate why I MUST achieve it in the first place! This step of finding your purpose may or may not seem obvious, but whatever you do, please do not skip it.

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