What exactly is success and who really decides who is successful? Success, as we have stated several times before, is subjective and something that depends entirely on what you think is important in your life.
Although it is subjective, it can sometimes be a little irritating how society is fixated on external attributes such as power and money. But that will have to be another discussion. Forgetting for a moment the question of defining success, there are nevertheless some timeless wisdoms as to what principles one should live by in order to have the best chance of achieving one’s goals – whatever they may be.
Here are some success factors that may be worth considering:
1. You are responsible for your life
I’ve written before about the importance of taking responsibility for your own life and this cannot be stressed enough in a society where it has become the norm to blame your own shortcomings on everyone else but yourself. Everyone feels aggrieved about everything and it seems especially grateful to blame the authorities, politicians and everything to do with the society you live in for not getting what you want. Society is not faultless, of course, and it is good that there are committed people among us who point out the flaws.
Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.Farrah Gray
In most cases, however, the life we live today is the result of all the conscious and unconscious choices we have made so far in life. Choosing to influence one’s own life by planning, setting goals and even gradually implementing them is something that all people should learn as early as possible in life.
2. Be persistent
Patience is perhaps one of the traits most lacking in us humans when compared to previous generations. Nowadays we are used to everything happening immediately. If we can’t afford something today, there is always the option to buy on credit among the plethora of financing options available. In social contexts, there is no need for much planning anymore because we are expected to be available 24/7 since we all have mobile phones and email.
This is part of the amazingly rapid technological development that has taken place over the last decades and has changed our daily lives dramatically. However, what it has also done to us is that this convenience has caused many to become more impatient and to lose some of the patience needed to succeed.
Most of those who have succeeded at something, whether they are entrepreneurs, athletes or anything else in our society, can attest to the fact that it takes a long period of hard and focused work to succeed at something. While for some it may seem like overnight success, for most it is far from the truth. Most have a long period of preparation and hard, unpaid work behind them before they succeed.
It could be said that persistence, perseverance and the ability not to give up in the face of adversity are some of the most important qualities for achieving success. If you are not convinced of this, just read the biographies of some of the most successful people. If there’s one thing you can learn from their life stories, it’s that almost everyone has their own story of failure before they broke through. So there is no given template for what the setbacks we face look like; they are as unique as our personalities. It is how we respond to these setbacks that determines how successful we will be.
On this and several other points on the list, I can recommend the book How to get from where you are to where you want to be by Jack Canfield.
3. Learn from your mistakes and never give up
As a continuation of the above point, this should be emphasized. If there is one skill worth learning early in life, it is to learn from your mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable for anyone who wants to learn new things. The most successful people are likely to be those who are most inclined to try things out and consequently those who will make the most mistakes in their lives.
What these people have in common is that they don’t let these mistakes stop them from continuing to try. Instead, they learn from their mistakes and become stronger and wiser over time. One thing that is closely related to this is to stop fretting about things that happened earlier in one’s life. This only leads to a fear of failure and thus missing out on future opportunities.
4. Focus on your interests
What do you enjoy most and what do you long to do in your spare time? There are study guides in most schools, but very few of these focus on anything other than traditional occupations. When there is something you are seriously passionate about, whether it is a hobby or whatever, it is important to take these feelings seriously and explore the possibilities of making money from it.
In today’s society, it is easier than ever to start a business. Of course, this makes competition tougher, but people who have an inner drive and interest in something will always succeed at some stage. You just have to believe in yourself and not listen too much to those who say it’s impossible. There is no one but oneself who can know what those interests are.
5. …Above all, focus
In general, having many choices has been seen as a positive thing. The freedom to choose has always been the ultimate sign of democracy and well-being. Expressions such as “let all the flowers bloom” and the like have become increasingly popular in the school system and other parts of society to celebrate a system in which individuals are given the freedom to choose from among the things that best suit their interests.
We live in a society where, historically, choice has never been more plentiful than it is today. Just look at all the choices one faces when buying electronics or even during an everyday visit to the grocery store. Add to this all the technological tools and social media that provide us with a tremendous flow of information in real time.
There is no shortage of entrepreneurs and ‘life coaches’ celebrating these developments and the opportunities they bring. At the same time, however, there has been a debate that we tend to become paralysed by all the choices and that even the smallest of decisions in everyday life leave us confused.
Thus, having too many choices in life can rather be a curse for success because it paralyses us. Even for well-being, a growing number of studies have shown that the number of choices we face every day makes us more unhappy than we have ever been. One of the most widely read books on the subject is called The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz.
Thus, one of the most important prerequisites for success in a society where the problem is an abundance of opportunities and information is the ability to focus and sort among what is essential to one’s own goals. Although talent has a certain importance in some industries, it is a fact that hard and focused work is in most cases essential for success. So the ability to focus is and will be the most important type of talent, whatever you start out with.
6. Talent is overrated, hunger determines
Interest and motivation are more important than intelligence and talent. The world is full of talented people who still don’t succeed. On the other hand, it is much rarer to find people who, with determination and motivation, fail to achieve their goals. The problem with talented people is that they often get too much for free too early in life. Something that means they never really seriously learn the importance of hard work to succeed in this life. So don’t let doubts about your own abilities get in the way of achieving your dreams.
Success requires a lot of hard work in any field, which means that talent can actually do more harm than good to an individual. Indeed, it has been shown that talented individuals wasting their careers is more the rule than the exception. There is little explanation for this other than that they have not learned the importance of hard work for success.
It may seem a little far-fetched to think along these lines for many of us when we have already given up our dreams of becoming another Bill Gates or Usain Bolt. That said, there is much to learn about the hunger and will to succeed for each of us. For despite limited talent, most of us have the potential to achieve many of our other dreams if only we are prepared to fight for them. There are enough success stories in this world to prove it.
7. Money does not make you happy, but it does create freedom
Anyone who has money as the only measure of success is unlikely to be either happy or successful. Nevertheless, money is extremely important because it creates the conditions to realise one’s dreams in peace and quiet. A person who has to constantly think about his or her financial obligations will never be completely free to fulfil himself or herself.
It is therefore advisable to wait until the financial conditions are in place before purchasing the home of your dreams and other material things. Borrowing can be done, especially at these interest rates, but forcing yourself to work to afford to live can, at worst, lead to a stress that kills your creative side. Some people are triggered by living under pressure, but in the long run it can become a burden that is difficult to manage.
8. Be proactive and take action immediately
Passivity and waiting for the perfect moment to start realising your dreams breeds a sense of powerlessness, stress and self-doubt. By being proactive and taking action right away, you feed your creative side and you immediately start thinking of solutions to any problems that stand between you and your dreams. Most of us have probably had this feeling of ‘creative flow’ at some point in our lives, a stage when ideas are flowing and anything seems possible. This so-called momentum can only be created through diligence and hard work and, above all, by not waiting for the perfect opportunity to present itself.
Even if clear objectives, good planning and a strong belief in yourself are a good foundation to stand on, nothing will happen if you don’t take hold of things and, through your activity, make sure things move forward. In virtually all inspirational literature there is a strong belief that the universe rewards big plans and big thinking. It also leads many people to go through their entire lives planning what to do when they have time.
You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a clubJack London
The only problem is that there will never be a perfect time to carry out one’s grand plans. At all stages of life, time is a scarce commodity and if it’s not about time, it’s about resources – more often than not, money.
The biggest threat of all, however, is convenience. It’s so much easier to just dream away and plan for tomorrow, whereas getting to the next stage of your plans almost always requires you to move beyond your comfort zone. Once you get started on something and get into the habit of acting rather than reacting, you’ll notice how things fall into place. Obstacles that seemed insurmountable before you got started can suddenly become inspiring challenges on the way to your goal. By actively working on your goal all the time, you will become aware in a completely different way of the things happening around you that you can take advantage of.
Take something like buying a home. How many people cared what the interest rate was before they started negotiating with the bank for a loan? Many might not even know what an interest rate was. This is true no matter what you start with. By actively grasping things and getting into the game, you quickly learn how things are connected. Without your own involvement, things tend to float along without all the more involvement. You become a passive bystander, unable to assimilate the knowledge that is available.
I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.Pearl S. Buck
One of the things that separates successful people from the “average” is in many cases activity, the habit of getting to work on things immediately without waiting for the right moment or the right mood. Once they have drawn up a plan, they set about putting it into practice. Even if neither the plan nor the execution is perfect from the start, they learn from their mistakes, make the necessary corrections and keep going until they achieve their goals… or something much better than what they dreamed of when they made their plans.
So it’s about building an “action-oriented” habit based on tackling things without delay and learning along the way. It is important to prepare yourself as best you can through literature and by discussing with others who have already experienced something similar. However, you can never plan in detail for everything you will encounter on your journey. Most things can be learned by experiencing them for yourself.
It is one’s own commitment and passion that will help one overcome temporary obstacles and this commitment and passion only comes through getting into the game seriously.
For more inspiration on this and the following point in particular, I recommend the book The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz, which is thus available for free online.
9. Hang out with the right people
This point may seem a bit harsh to some. What about the right people? Aren’t all the people around you entitled to your full attention? The fact is that our lives take us in different directions and sometimes this can lead to those friends who were once an indispensable support becoming a burden. If you find that you are hanging out with people who deep down don’t wish you well and are resentful, you should seriously consider whether it’s worth hanging out with them.
There is no obligation to hang out with people you have known all your life if you don’t feel you are getting anything out of the “relationship”. Your time here on earth is valuable. Make the most of it by spending time with people who will help you in your endeavors instead of breaking you and your dreams down.
We are what we eat is an old truth that most people can relate to. We are fed lots of advice every day over what we should and shouldn’t eat to get healthy and lose weight. However, what we feed our brains is usually not as vigilant. In American literature, the term “mind food” has often been coined to describe this.
There is nothing so crippling to initiative as an environment filled with cynical comments and gossip. Regardless of one’s own beliefs, this has a direct impact on one’s own initiative and risk-taking. In an environment characterised by schadenfreude and interest in scandal, it becomes a matter of minimising risk to avoid becoming a target for malicious gossip.
Therefore, one should be vigilant about who one associates with and make sure to choose those people who can provide one with the right kind of Mind Food on a daily basis. The type of information we consume in our interactions affects our habits, attitudes and personalities. Our environment shapes us and has a decisive influence on how we think. It is not without reason that we are said to become the average of the people we associate with.
The person you are today and the person you will be in five, ten or twenty years’ time depends largely on the people you associate with. That is why we cannot afford to surround ourselves with negative people who make us limit ourselves and our thinking. You know for sure that you will change over the years and how you change depends largely on the people you associate with.
Therefore, make a decision today to let your environment work with you towards your dreams not against you. Don’t let sceptical and belittling comments limit you, but make sure you associate with people who support you in your dreams instead.
10. Get inspiration from role models.
We all have our role models. They don’t necessarily have to be in the area in which you want to succeed or even possess all the qualities you aspire to. The most important thing is to identify certain success factors in these people and find inspiration in them.
I myself can be inspired by a successful athlete and the methods they use to succeed, even though I do not have very high ambitions as an athlete. It is the perfectionism that often exists in athletes that appeals to me. This is true in everything from how they set goals, to how they monitor their progress.
11. Develop healthy habits.
We’ve all heard of so-called “super people” who sleep 4-5 hours a night and still manage to keep up the pace of work throughout the day. I have no doubt at all that this would not be true. For most of us, however, ignoring our body’s signals is not very smart. I also belong to the category of people who like to extend the day by waking up really early. If you make sure to get to bed early, it’s no problem, but sleeping only 5-6 hours a night usually pays off in the long run.
Even in other respects, it is important to care about how you live. There is no job or anything else in this life that is so important that it would be worth neglecting your health. A healthy lifestyle makes you feel much better and also helps you stay positive throughout the day. Not revolutionary news perhaps, but if you feel that you lack both the will and the creativity to achieve something in your everyday life, this is usually the area to look for explanations.
12. Respect the value of money.
This advice may seem a little old-fashioned, given the attitude to borrowing in today’s society. At a time when interest rates are lower than ever, mortgage repayment has long been the rule rather than the exception. It’s certainly understandable given that many grew up with role models like Donald Trump who essentially advocate leverage as a way to get rich.
However, one should understand the difference between personal finance and business. In business, one should take risks in order to succeed. However, when it comes to personal finance, it is important to have the right approach to money. The recent trend in money management to reward oneself prematurely through the use of credit cards and high interest loans is the ultimate proof of a lack of respect for money. Having leeway when it comes to cash is not just vital for businesses. For individuals, too, it can make the difference between a life of poverty or prosperity.
13. Go against the flow
This is about learning the art of questioning the society we live in. All inventions have started from the thoughts of individuals. Even when it comes to investing, it is a known fact that those who go their own way are the most likely to succeed. Even in this case, it is very much about not getting too comfortable and not acting too much according to how others do.
Most of us have enough intelligence to make successful decisions even in a complex environment. It’s a matter of daring to trust your gut and not being afraid to go against what is considered normal. This is also very much the case in investments. Avoid herd behaviour if you want to be a successful investor – or successful in anything in life.
14. Be humble in every situation
One of the easiest ways to determine the degree of wisdom in a person is to observe how they react to both success and defeat. It is easy to be humble in success, but it is in defeat that a person’s character is seriously tested. However, this should not be merely a game for show, but a person who has come to understand the course of life understands that the difference between success and defeat lies in the small details.
Therefore, one can rarely afford to be cocky even when everything seems to be going one’s way. Be happy, but never satisfied is a famous quote by Bruce Lee and also one of my favourite quotes because it sums up very well what life is all about. You should be happy with what you have and live for the moment, but always strive to develop.
15. Dare to make a fool of yourself
How will you be remembered in 100 years? Probably not at all. If you think of the most prominent writers and entrepreneurs of the 19th century, how many will you think of? That’s right, not too many. We have a limited time here on earth and it’s too short to keep going around wondering what others think of us.
Probably fear is one of the biggest single reasons why people are afraid to try new things. Above all, it is the shame of admitting failure to those around us that is one of the biggest problems. We all want to appear confident and good in front of our peers, so it can be difficult to dare to tell people about our plans and goals for fear of what will happen if we fail.
There is only one way to avoid criticism; do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.Aristotle
Another reason less talked about is the cynicism and negativity that exists among many of us and has a crippling effect. To get out of this negative spiral, in addition to upgrading one’s interactions, as in the above point, it is also a matter of simply putting things in context and doing the things needed to change oneself. If you have an unfounded fear of criticism, it may be a sign that you are associating with the wrong people and, as a result, have become infected yourself.
It is easy to blame others in these situations. But before you do, you should first ask yourself the following questions, which are found in the above-mentioned book The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz:
- Am I spreading rumors about other people?
- Do I always have good things to say about other people?
- Do I like to hear about scandals?
- Do I judge others solely on the basis of rumors?
- Do I encourage others to bring rumors to me?
- Do I often start my conversations with “don’t tell anyone else”.
- Do I keep confidential information to myself?
- Do I feel guilty about what I tell others?
- You probably know the right answers to these questions. Before accusing others of cynicism or bias, you should first examine yourself and your behaviour.
Once you have done this, you are in a good position to worry less about what others think and more about what you will do to achieve your dreams.
16. Don’t listen too much to others
Don’t listen too much to other people’s advice. This also applies to self-proclaimed life coaches who abound these days, including on social media (it also applies to this text). While it’s good to draw inspiration from other people and their routines, you have to realise that we all have different life situations, different personalities, and different genetic make-up. What suits one person may suit another very badly.
As an example, I can take my own daily routines, which I mentioned a little earlier in the text. Although I have always been a morning person, this has also sometimes gone to an exaggeration. Sometimes I wake up as early as 4 or 4.30 in the morning, eager to tackle the day, well aware that many of my role models in the business world have claimed that they can get by on 4 hours of sleep.
Over time, this has proven to be a very poor strategy. Indeed, there are few things in life that kill creativity like lack of sleep. Moreover, lack of sleep also tends to make the smallest of problems insurmountable – which in turn contributes to general pessimism and dejection.
Instead, I nowadays advocate others to really invest in their sleep. What you gain in time by sleeping too little, you lose in productivity and efficiency during the waking hours of the day.
17. Be proud of yourself
In conclusion, walk through life with pride and a proud attitude. This ties in partly with the first point. Ultimately, no one is in charge of your life but you, even though adversity often leaves you with the feeling that there should be someone to take care of you.
When you have setbacks and feel lost in life, it’s easy to despair and it’s also easy to become depressed. It also makes body language automatically signal that you are a loser. I hate the word loser. I think you should never use the word to describe another human being because it is among the most degrading things you can call someone.
But no matter what life throws at you in terms of challenges, you should always strive to walk with your head held high and your posture proud. Then, most of the time, life tends to resolve itself because you then exude the winning instinct that makes people gravitate towards you. Nobody likes people with a negative attitude towards life and people who complain about everything in their lives.