What Makes You a Success

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February 12, 2021
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February 12, 2021

What Makes You a Success


Mark Twain famously said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Determining what success is in your workplace, at home, and in the community is some of the most important work you can do. This week, resources that will help you determine what success means for you.

The Best Person to Compare Yourself To

Almost every time I’ve taught a corporate training course that’s lasted more than a few days, someone approaches me later in the course with a concern like this:

Other people in the class are making more progress than me. What’s wrong?

Regardless if the statement is true, I work to respectfully challenge the person on why it matters. Whomever you are and whatever your ability, there is always someone better. Since everyone acquires skills at different rates, I encourage people to compare themselves today to themselves yesterday, rather than comparing to others.

As result, I was understandably skeptical when Jon Acuff posted a complete list of all the good things that happen to you when you compare your success to someone else’s. However, after reviewing his list, I’m happy to throw in my endorsement.

What Does Success Look Like?

This is one of the most common questions posed within organizations. In an organizational context, success is the desired end result or business outcome.

Except that it’s not always clear what that outcome should be. Even when success is obvious to the leader, it may be surprisingly unapparent to everybody else.

In the most recent episode of The Look & Sound of Leadership, Tom Henschel provides 11-minutes of coaching for you on how to define success explicitly. A key point? Be sure you actually talk about it.

It’s All About How You Do It

I saw posted online this week, “Hard work always pays off.”

It’s a lie.

Hard work with the wrong strategy does not pay off (unless you learn from your mistakes, of course). A lot of people look for shortcuts – things they will get them to whatever they perceive success to be more quickly.

Seth Godin suggests this kind of approach doesn’t work. Here’s his recommendation on a more challenging , but better way to work hard. Perhaps you’ll also be willing to take the road less traveled?

Place Your Bets

Paul Graham is a well-respected titan from the early days of the internet, turned investor. He sees new ideas all the time from people seeking funding.

In his recent essay, Graham discusses how he pays more attention to the people bringing new ideas to him than the ideas themselves. It’s paid off. He invested in Airbnb, doubting the idea, but impressed with the people involved.

If you’re searching for success, he advises first betting on people, rather than just the ideas they’re bringing.

Am I a Success?

Whenever I hear someone refer to another person a “successful,” it’s often in relation to their financial wealth, position in a respected organization, or other external achievements. While these indicators are often the result of success, they don’t define it.

A few years ago, I was in a mastermind group where the book The Strangest Secret* by Earl Nightingale was introduced. The book is dated and the original audio recording isn’t stellar, but Nightingale’s definition of success is the best I’ve heard:

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.

If you’re doing something that’s truly worth doing and further along today than you were yesterday, congratulations. You’re already a success.

I welcome your thoughts at this link.

Monday’s Show

Begin with the end in mind.

180: Do This for a Productive Week

In this week’s show, I challenge you to consider adding a weekly review in your regular planning process, so you can be more productive. Here’s the audio and show notes where I detail how I do this. I’ve also made available this PDF download of my weekly review checklist. Use it as a starting point for your weekly review.

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