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The Key Ingredient for Success

By Philip Humbert

At one time or another, all of us have wondered about the "secret" to success. We've all seen some young person get the big promotion, or someone with less talent or less education end up as the star of the show. At those times, it's natural to wonder if there isn't some mysterious "secret" that we've over-looked.

Well, there isn't.

One of my heroes, Jim Rohn, said, "Success is the natural result of practicing the basics and following the Fundamentals." He would usually go on to list perhaps three or four common-sense principles for success. He'd remind us to set clear goals and measurable outcomes, and to focus on them. He'd talk about the simple act of "showing up"— keeping our promises, being on time, under-promising and over-delivering. But mostly, he'd remind us of the value of hard work.

Hard work has never had much going for it. Few people enjoy working hard, especially when there are alternatives like quitting early, working slower, or hiring someone else to do the messy parts. Even simple procrastination seems to be more popular than working hard and persevering to the end.

But the fact remains that work is the necessary ingredient to make things better.

As I recall my college physics from long ago, work was defined as using energy to affect objects. There always had to be some kinetic energy, and that energy had to impact a real object. In order for "work" to occur, heat had to make water boil or someone had to use their energy to stack a pile of boxes. Energy plus movement equaled work.

That may be technically incomplete (I'll let the scientists supply what my memory lacks), but it captures the essence of transforming our lives.

We have to get up, get dressed, and get something done. We have to pick up the phone and call someone. We have to make a sale, pound a nail, design a circuit, write some code or in some other way create value. In that sense, work is both the necessary ingredient to improve our lives, and it is something of a miracle.

To celebrate Labor Day in September, I often use the ancient story that says God created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh day. I note that the story lists many things God created, from the "heavens and the earth," to the animals and finally, humans. But then, in commemoration of Labor Day, I note that God left the final details to us. He gave us the honor of completing creation by inventing and building all the stuff around us. Our homes and offices, our computers and telephones were not directly created by God. They were invented and manufactured through human effort.

And the inventors and builders tend to get rich!

We are coming up on the end of January. The first month of 2015 is almost gone. The year is about 8% over. So here's the question: Are you 8% of the way to reaching your goals for the year?

Most of us have things we want to achieve this year. For some, they are very specific and detailed. Some of us have flow-charts, budgets, and written schematics for every step of the way. For others, the goal is a vague sense of direction or desire. But human beings want stuff, and most of us want life to get better. We want better health, more money, better relationships. We want travel or adventure, education, fame or power.

Whatever you desire, you'll have to work to make it happen. Yes, luck and happenstance will play a role, but as many have noted, "hope is not a strategy." You are unlikely to "stumble" into wealth, fame or happiness. When people stumble, they usually land on their knees. Often with their face on the pavement. I recommend a strategy with a better likelihood of success.

I recommend focused, disciplined, organized work.

Get up early. Make a plan. Organize the steps, the tools, and the resources you'll need. Budget your time and energy. Then get to work. A client in Australia recently gave me a wonderful new phrase. She has lots of important work to complete in the next couple of weeks and she wrote that her motto is, "Head down, tail up." I hadn't heard that before, but it made me laugh and it reminded me to get to work.

Head down, tail up. Achieve your goals. Create the life you want.

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