WHAT EXACTLY IS SUCCESS
As a mentor I often come across people seeking short cuts. The question people are itching to ask me is how they can achieve success – and fast. If they can define it, they can grab it. Yet as a value, success is elusive, shrouded in myth, leaving many striving towards an unattainable goal. In researching my television series, ‘Learning From Leaders’, I discovered that great leaders share a set of values that have very little to do with our common perception of success.
Perhaps the most common myth about success is that it equals money and comes at the expense of others. In a dog-eat-dog world, you have to step on people to reach the top. Indeed, the many millionaires and occasional billionaire I have met, constantly strive for more – more money, power, fame, stuff. It’s never enough. Yet paradoxically a business making nothing but money is poor. A truly rich business provides value for its people. Take the late Steve Jobs who said, ‘Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful... that’s what matters.’
So how do we start to pin down what success is? There are the usual, worn definitions, some useful: success is the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals; doing ordinary things extraordinarily well and doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting, the trying, not the triumph and ultimately reaching for the highest standard within ourselves. Success is all these things and more but here are some of its essential components:
Work hard: success is one percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration.
Persevere: KFC’s Colonel Sanders made 1008 sales calls before a restaurant bought his fried chicken recipe. Be ready for the long haul because you are often closest to success when ready to give up.
Be present: 70 percent of success is showing up.
Take risks: don’t wait till conditions are perfect, start now.
Overcome fear: double your rate of failure and learn from it – fear regret more than failure. The hardest part about being an entrepreneur is that you’ll fail ten times for each time you succeed.
Plough your own furrow: don’t be misled by traditional definitions of success. The fastest way to succeed is to appear to be playing by everyone else’s rules while quietly playing by your own.
Commit: there is no ‘I’m trying’ – do it or don’t.
Visualise: it makes your goals more tangible. If you can’t see clearly where you’re heading, you’ll end up some place else.
Be unreasonable: don’t be the reasonable man adapting to the world, persist in adapting the world to yourself and don’t worry if people say you’re ignorant or over-confident.
Get off your arse now: don’t wait around – we have two ends, one to sit on and one to think with. Heads you win, tails you lose. All such instruction is useful, valid and wise so long as we understand what we are aiming for.
The problem is there are numerous misconceptions about success that can throw obstacles in our path:
It’s complicated: No it’s not - once you keep it simple, you can move mountains.
It’s a destination, not a journey: Wrong. See success as a far-off peak that you will have climbed when you’ve bagged your dream job, made a million dollars or be travelling the world with your soul mate and you’ll stop there and never go on to achieve anything greater. After all, there’s no point at which you can say, ‘Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap.’
Have practical goals: it’s been drummed into so many of us that it’s unrealistic to aspire to be a rock star, supermodel or astronaut. But don’t plump for mediocrity – those crippling, self-imposed restraints need challenging because your wildest dreams are within reach. The level of competition is highest for realistic goals because most people don’t set high enough goals for themselves.
Wait till the time is right: Nothing happens if we do this. Never wait around and let potential problems deter you.
Success is a matter of luck: Sometimes people gain success so fast that it looks as if it fell into their lap but, as the old saying goes, ‘The only place you’ll find success before work is in the dictionary.’ Striving for success without hard work is like trying to reap where you haven’t sown any seeds. A recent YouGov survey I commissioned, confirmed what I had always suspected, that for most people happiness not wealth defines success. Any true definition of success involves making a difference and giving back as much as you receive. It’s not that successful people are givers but that givers are successful people. After interviewing 20 inspirational London- based leaders for my television series, I gleaned numerous insights that I have tried to distil into to ten key lessons:
- Know what ‘enough’ looks like - it’s more important to make a difference to others than to accumulate ‘flash nonsense’.
- Value family, friends and spouses above all else.
- Never stop learning, growing and constantly seeking to become a better version of yourself.
- Be a ‘people person’ and invest in the people around you.
- Focus more on the now than on the horizon because the journey is the destination.
- Be self-aware and make conscious value-based choices. Believe in yourself and focus relentlessly on your strengths.
- See failure as staying down, not falling down. Expect to fall over numerous times but don’t give up.
- Be grateful and humble and want to make a difference. Integrity and authenticity are essential values.
- Be focused and driven. A determined, hard-working attitude attracts luck.
- Have fun! Money can’t buy it and you’ll have fun only if you nurture your relationships.
Success is a choice and begins by refusing to be constrained by your environment. If you don’t like your situation take a leap of faith and change it. Success is a habit that emerges from the way you act, think and feel. It’s the culmination of all the small things you do daily that build towards your goal. Your future depends only on what you’re doing here and now but don’t judge today by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you’re planting. If it looks hard, remember that success is not the key to happiness - happiness is the key to success.