… it’s what you do with what you’ve got. – (Leroy Van Dyke)
What is it that we all want? Isn’t it success and happiness? So, it’s no surprise that a reader in Iran is interested in success. Arash (not his real name) is a 35-year-old married carpenter who wants to become extremely successful. That is, he wants to be free from financial worries, free to travel anywhere, and free to do anything he and his family choose to do. To that end, he listens to Brian Tracy audio programs in his car and studies books on success. Arash is asking for help because he doesn’t know where and how to begin. He would like an action plan or roadmap to success that will end the confusion and clearly point out the steps he needs to follow. So, let’s begin.
The Stairway to Success
Step 1. The first step is to understand what is required for success. And what is that? Hard work! You’ve got to work harder than most people if you want to be more successful than them. To emphasize this point, let me quote William A. Ward, “The recipe of success is to study while others are sleeping, work while others are loafing, prepare while others are playing, and dream while others are wishing.” It is essential to realize that success is not a doorway that you walk through, but a staircase that requires effort to climb.
Step 2. After acknowledging that it will take hard work to succeed, you must be willing to make the effort and determined to do whatever it takes to succeed. In other words, you must be committed.
Step 3. You must understand that some difficult tasks are harder to do than others because of subconscious interference. Here’s an example of what I mean. Arash already has the self-discipline to exercise, but when it comes to taking steps for success, he feels powerless to act. Why is that? It is because when he tries to step closer to success, his subconscious digs in its heels, screaming, “No! I don’t want to do that!” Of course, the subconscious doesn’t actually yell at us, but it creates resistance that is hard to overcome.
Why does the subconscious do that? Well, one of its main jobs is to protect us. And there may be some false beliefs embedded in your subconscious. False beliefs such as, it is bad to get rich because all your friends will get jealous and leave you, or it is bad to get rich because money is the root of all evil. If you have such a belief, your subconscious will try to ‘protect’ you by building a powerful wall of resistance to prevent you from succeeding.
Another job of the subconscious is to follow all your instructions, for it is there to serve you. However, as far as the subconscious is concerned, your beliefs are instructions that it is duty-bound to obey. So, for example, if you believe that you do not deserve to succeed or that you are unworthy of success, your subconscious will program you to engage in self-sabotage, short-circuiting your success.
Now, here is the important point. You do not need to know what your subconscious beliefs are or why your subconscious is creating so much resistance. You merely have to expect it, consider it normal, and remain determined to take the necessary steps, even though you don’t feel like doing so. Remain resolute. Your success is too important to ignore just because you don’t feel like doing anything. So, your guiding principle for success must be, “Feel the pain and do it anyway.”
Step 4. Oddly enough, Arash’s biggest problem is that his problem isn’t big enough. True, his family is in debt, but he has a job and is getting by. So, there isn’t a strong enough reason to change. Arash, imagine falling overboard from a ship in a raging storm. Imagine huge waves collapsing all around you, sending you deep below. What would you do? No matter how tough the resistance would be, you would fight for your life, struggling with all your might to reach the surface.
When a fox chases a rabbit, the rabbit usually escapes. That’s because the fox is running for its dinner, but the rabbit is running for its life. Arash, become that rabbit; run for your life. Become that man who fell overboard and struggle with all your might to overcome all the resistance you have to face. When you develop this sense of urgency, you will succeed.
Step 5. The first four steps were really preparation we must do before taking actual action steps. And before telling Arash what his first action step to success must be, let me briefly lay the groundwork. The world’s most powerful country, the United States, finds itself almost powerless on many fronts. Why? Because its massive debt is preventing it from realizing its potential. Similarly, Arash, the debt your family has taken on is distracting you and holding you back. When deciding what goals to embrace, always choose what is most important, not what is most glamorous. Your first goal must be to eliminate your debt, so you will be free to focus on other goals. Work closely with your wife to develop a plan to eliminate your debt within a reasonable amount of time.
Step 6. While you are working on eliminating your debt, study and plan. For example, work with your wife to decide what goals you want for your family. To avoid overlooking important goals, also discuss what you do not want. For example, remembering that you don’t want to get sick, will remind you that you want to have a long, healthy life. After deciding what you want, study what you need to do to reach those goals. Set a timeline, getting an idea of what you can still achieve in 2017, in the next five years, and in the next ten years. What obstacles can you expect and how will you overcome them? What are your strengths and how will you use them? What are your weaknesses and how will you overcome them? How will you prepare for the unexpected?
Step 7. Learn how to recognize opportunities. We often fail to see them because they may come disguised as hard work, problems, or challenges. Problems provide you with the opportunity to learn and grow. The bigger the obstacle, the stronger you will become, so embrace them.
Step 8. Three frogs were sitting on a log. One decided to jump into the pond. How many were left? Did you answer two? Think again. You see, I didn’t say one jumped in; I just said one DECIDED to jump in. It’s not a technical point that I’m debating, but a sad fact of life. For there’s a big difference between deciding to do something and actually doing it. If you wish to succeed, you have to stop dreaming, planning, or deciding and start taking action. Decisions without action are preparations for living without living. We need to act to experience life. We either make things happen or let things happen to us.
How many New Year resolutions did you decide to make that never came to pass? How many items on your To-Do list have just been lingering there, but never brought to life? A decision without action is no more powerful than indecision or no decision. Decisions are powerless unless we follow through. And when we follow through with action, we will be greeted with success. In fact, the etymological meaning of “succeed” is “that which follows,” for success is what follows action.
The Success Toolbox
As a carpenter, Arash, you are familiar with the importance of a toolbox. But did you realize that everyone who wishes to succeed must also have a toolbox? The tools for success are the characteristics or habits we must cultivate, develop, and maintain. Here are some of them:
1. Self-discipline (better thought of as self-leadership). Get into the daily habit of deliberately doing things that you don’t feel like doing. This will develop your self-discipline ‘muscle.’
2. Energy. Because it requires hard work to become successful, it is important to maintain high levels of energy. To do so, lead a healthy life style, get sufficient sleep, and avoid stress with exercise, meditation, and recreation.
3. Focus. Working on your goals is a full-time job. Remain focused on the target and consider this quote by Dr. Michael Ryce:
“Most of us have bought into sin as something terrible and awful. It is something we have been taught to feel guilty and bad about. Sin was originally meant to be positive feedback. The English translation of the Aramaic word, khata, is ‘sin.’ It is an archery term. When you fired at a target and missed the bull’s eye, the scorekeeper yelled, ‘Sin!’ It meant, ‘You are off the mark,’ which, in practical terms, means improper for your energy system or less than your highest and best. It does not mean you are evil, damned or should be groveling in the dirt. The simple implication is to adjust your aim, it’s time to take another shot, time to do something differently in your life! … Evil is ‘bisha’ in Aramaic and is another archery term. Sin is missing the bull’s eye, and evil means ‘off target,’ missing the target altogether.”
4. People skills. We cannot succeed without the help of others, so it is essential that we learn how to get along with others. Here is a short course in human relations.
The six most important words:
I admit that I was wrong.
The five most important words:
You did a great job.
The four most important words:
What do you think?
The three most important words:
Could you please. . .
The two most important words:
The most important word:
The least important word:
5. Faith in ourselves. “We don’t need more strength or more ability or greater opportunity. What we need is to use what we have.” (Basil S. Walsh) You already have the inner resources to do what is necessary to succeed, so learn to rely on yourself.
6. Motivation. “The next time you feel unmotivated, ask yourself, ‘Who’s in charge of how I feel?’ ‘Who’s in charge of my brain?’ The answer of course, is you. You’re in charge of your own motivation. The ability to achieve a highly motivated state is a matter of grabbing the wheel and driving your own brain for a change. By studying these mental states and attitudes, consciously practicing them in your life every day, literally ‘installing’ them into your brain, you’ll become so charged up with motivation and fierce resolve that it would take an army to stop you from getting what you want.” (Tom Venuto)
7. A positive attitude. Always focus on what you have, not on what you lack; look for something to be grateful for, not something to complain about; fill your mind with positive expectations, not worries and fears. Enjoy what you do and share your enthusiasm with the world.
8. Building momentum. Take at least one new step toward your goal each day, no matter how small. Accumulated small steps will add up to a big step and build momentum.
9. Courage. The entrepreneurial spirit is all about taking risks. To develop the necessary courage, get into the habit of stepping out of your comfort zone as often as possible.
10. Follow through. Don’t just plan and take first steps, but follow through to completion.
11. Thoroughness. Develop your character as completely as possible. Remember, among other traits, you will also need decisiveness, determination, persistence, patience, accountability, organizational skills, and time management skills.
Steve Jobs’ 12 Rules of Success
1. Do what you love to do.
2. Be different.
3. Do your best. After all, “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” (John Wooden)
4. Make a SWOT analysis. That is, evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in your project.
5. Be entrepreneurial (willing to take risks).
6. Start small, think big.
7. Strive to become a market leader.
8. Focus on the outcome.
9. Ask for feedback.
11. Learn from failures. In a similar vein, here’s what another business leader had to say, “Would you like me to give you a formula for… success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You’re thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all… you can be discouraged by failure — or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that’s where you’ll find success.” (Thomas J. Watson)
12. Learn continually.
Enemies of Success
1. Procrastination. In order to get what you want, you have to learn to do what you don’t feel like doing. Develop self-discipline.
2. Too much planning and studying and not enough doing and following through.
3. Living beyond your means. To become successful, you have to avoid overspending.
4. Nothing puts a damper on success like a negative attitude. Be sure to remain positive.
5. The inability to get along with others is a guarantee for failure. Spread cheer, not gloom.
6. Searching for people or circumstances to blame instead of assuming responsibility is another way to fail.
7. Knowing we have bad habits, but doing nothing about it condemns us to mediocrity.
Caveats, Suggestions, and Wisdom
1. Although common sense tells us that “Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.” (David Bly) and “The difficulties and struggles of today are but the price we must pay for the accomplishments and victories of tomorrow.” (William Boetcker); nevertheless, we mustn’t assume that hard work is always necessary. That is, sometimes we can achieve our goal by working smarter rather than harder. So, don’t let the maxim that hard work is necessary for success work against you, rather, use it to adopt a willingness to work as hard as necessary while keeping a watchful eye on opportunities to work smarter. After all, the less energy you use, the more that will remain to accomplish or plan more tasks. For more caveats about the belief that hard work is necessary for success, be sure to read Isaiah Hankel’s article in this issue, “12 Success Killing Mistakes Hard Working People Make.”
2. As Cindy Adams said, “Success has made failures of many men.” Of what value is success if you work so hard that you neglect your spouse, family, and your health? Success always comes at a price; just make sure the price is not too high.
3. The monumental obstacles you have to overcome before succeeding may be a great blessing, for as Amos Bronson Alcott has written, “Success is sweet and sweeter if long delayed and gotten through many struggles and defeats.” He also said, “We climb to heaven most often on the ruins of our cherished plans, finding our failures were successes.”
4. “For true success ask yourself these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now? (James Allen)
5. “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.” (Les Brown)
7. “My success just evolved from working hard at the business at hand each day.” Johnny Carson
8. “There is no fate that plans men’s lives. Whatever comes to us, good or bad, is usually the result of our own action or lack of action.” (Herbert N. Casson)
9. “Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. Courage is the only thing.” (Winston Churchill)
10. “No matter what you do, do it to your utmost. I always attribute my success to always requiring myself to do my level best, if only in driving a tack in straight.” (Russel H. Conwell)
11. “Material possessions will rust away, wear away, or depreciate, but your inner resources, character, must never depreciate. In seeking success you must also seek fulfillment. Ask yourself not only what you want to be, but who you want to be.” (Elizabeth Dole)
12. “In helping others to succeed we insure our own success.” (William Feather)
Yes, success is hard work, but so is failure. One leads to rewards, the other to pain, regret, and suffering. Which would you rather have? Which do you choose to have? When will you begin?
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
- Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill and W. Stone
- Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want by Barbara Sher and Annie Gottlieb
- Success: The Psychology of Achievement by DK (Author)
- The Secret Code of Success: 7 Hidden Steps to More Wealth and Happiness by Noah St. John
- Free eBook The Science of Getting Rich (published in 1910) by Wallace D. Wattles
- (11 talks): What is success?