Every human being wants to be successful. For many, success is measured in terms of power, fame or financial income, while other people measure it in less tangible ways. Whatever your criteria, I've never met a lazy person, so I assume you, too, are interested in success. The question then becomes, "What skills or behaviors will facilitate my success in the shortest possible time?"
For many years, social scientists have tried to measure the "causes" of success, and one of the most frustrating things is the degree to which they have merely confused the issues. Many people have heard that "successful" people tend to be taller, prettier, younger or have some other characteristic over which they have NO control. What these studies don't tell you is that all these factors combined account for less than 10% of the "variables" in success!
Race, age, gender, family history, all of that COMBINED make almost no difference! On the other hand, what's exciting is that the things that DO make a difference are almost entirely under your control! That's amazing – and tremendously hopeful!
In fact, I encourage you to make this note: Focus mostly on things which you can control. Then, focus on things you can influence. And finally, mostly ignore things which you can neither control nor influence. Notice and take them into account, but don't worry about the weather, interest rates or your neighbor's opinion of you. Spend your time, thought, effort and energy on things you can change to make your life better. That can make all the difference!
What things actually MATTER in terms of success? Here are some of my key observations from years of working with unusually successful people:
FIRST -- Personal stability. High achievers usually live quiet, structured, almost "boring" lives. They tend to settle down, have good relationships and mind their own business. They do not fall victim to addictions, fads or impulses. There is purpose and structure to their lives. They get to bed on time, eat well, get a bit of exercise and pay their bills. Their personal life actually supports them in achieving their goals. So get organized, get a good night's sleep and start with a good breakfast in the morning. Boring is good!
SECOND -- Positive Self-Direction. High achievers know where they're going and how to get there. Usually, this means specific, written goals, although many successful people describe it as an "inner knowing" or "sense of purpose." Whether it's a list or a vision, successful people know what they want and permit few (or no!) distractions. They are not tempted by short-cuts or get- rich-quick schemes. They have chosen their direction, purpose, goals or themes in life and like a compass, they always point straight ahead.
THIRD -- Personal Urgency. I am not talking about impatience or rudeness. Far from it! Success people have "all the time in the world." They are patient, persistent, determined and resilient, but they do not waste time. They focus on things that make a real difference. They think in terms of priorities, progress, and action-steps, but they are not rude about it. They do first things first, and are determined to make measurable progress in reasonable time.
FOURTH -- Constant Learning. Successful people are curious and learn faster than other people. They read more, ask more questions, take more classes, try more things. They make mistakes, but rarely make the same mistake twice. No one is born knowing how to walk, talk or write software. Successful people LEARN to invest, invent and create. They have mentors, MasterMind groups, and coaches. They know that practical, immediately-useful knowledge is the key to solving life's problems and achieving their dreams.
The most important thing about these "engines" is that they can be learned! No one is born with a stable life, a sense of self-direction or urgency! These are habits that each of us can absorb and master, often with very little trouble. Success is not about luck or lucky genes; it's about learning appropriate skills, then using them to create the life you truly want. I've often written that a GREAT life is actually easier than living a complicated, confusing or mediocre life, and I'm convinced it's true. Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Play by the rules and learn to win the game of life.