I hate the word success. It conjures up images of celebrity coaches with glimmering white perfect teeth.
Immediately you think fast cars, luxury living and splashing the cash.
Yet, it is what we are all pursuing.
Success in life.
Success in business
I’ve met a number of millionaires and had the honour of meeting two billionaires in my life and I got pondering, what got them to where they are and if there are any commonalities.
Having spent some time over Christmas pondering what is the key to success, reading stories of people, reflecting on the people I have met who have achieved great things and watching a ton of YouTube videos from entrepreneurs, what is the key to success?
Success is a relative term. There are two definitions, the one which people define about a person and the one the person defines for themselves.
The success we should be pursuing is obviously the one which matters to us, not the one which matters to other people. Living to fulfill other peoples expectations is a hiding to nothing.
What is the key to success?
If you spend any length of time observing human beings you’ll notice, despite evidence, we still choose what we believe.
Despite knowing there are no quick fixes, we still try to find one. Despite knowing if something is too good to be true, is probably is, we still go for it.
We know there are no quick fixes, yet somewhere inside us, we hope, we believe there is a quick fix just for us. We don’t act on fact, we act on our own internal beliefs.
Do we believe we can achieve success?
Do we believe we can do what is needed to achieve it?
Despite knowing that success may take years, we still look for shortcuts.
I see this often in my world, amazing businesses with ambitious plans not following through on the plan and then changing to another one. Maybe they don’t believe it and so don’t commit to it.
People get really excited about how LinkedIn can help them grow their business but many unwilling to do what is necessary to make it work. Do they see other people winning at it, YES, why do they not do it, they don’t believe it will work for them.
These are self-limiting or business-limiting beliefs.
Without getting too metaphysical, there is something magical that seems to come together when people have clarity, focus and determination.
Many of the greatest human achievements have seemed impossible prior to it being accomplished. The vast majority of successful people we all read about refused to give up, despite setbacks, frustrations and naysayers.
Yet most of us, if things don’t come together in a short space of time, we give up and move onto something else.
I can remember overhearing a conversation many years ago, between a millionaire and his adviser. I won’t say names because, I don’t think I was supposed to overhear this.
“We determine our own destiny. If we lose it all, we will get it all back again”.
At the time, I dismissed it, but his statement stuck with me. The determination, confidence and clarity was what kept this conversation in my head for the last 19 years.
The marketing and agency world knows this all to well. They know that marketing is, in many businesses, not treated with the seriousness of perhaps finance or operations. Marketing, in many cases, is resigned to doing things which are low priority, yet the marketing team have the power to transform the fortunes of the business.
If you ask most people what marketing does in their company, they will tell you social media, graphics and the website. The real answer should be marketing is responsible for growing more customers and pipeline for the sales team.
What does success look like?
Do you know what you really want to achieve?
The number of people, including myself, who have had one idea of what success was and when you get there realise it wasn’t really what you wanted. You must know yourself and know your business, so you can truly map out what success looks like.
If you want to build a business empire, great, go for it, but you have to accept to build a billion-pound company, you will have to sacrifice a lot to get there.
On Instagram you see so many quotes about the billionaire life, with images of yachts, Bentley’s and tropical destinations. Yet, many people forget it may take 10 years of hard slog, fighting for survival and no holidays to get there.
I want the billionaire life, I want the yacht, I want the Bentley, but that isn’t the full picture. They are the perks of a totally different life.
You can’t map out your success based just on the perks. You need to understand the whole picture. You need to know, accept and live with the ups and downs of the success you are pursuing.
What do I need to stop doing to be successful?
Once you realise what you want to achieve, you must extract yourself from things which are contrary to your goal. Eliminate distractions so you can focus in on the key things you need to do and the milestones to reach the goal.
Old habits die hard. Don’t underestimate the influence that habits have on you.
My business for the last year or so has been in a season of transition.
We changed things dramatically, we changed our routine, business model and client base. This changed our business totally. Yet, often, I think in the old way. My work changed dramatically, so in comparison to the previous years, I don’t feel as busy enough.
Why? Am I working less hours? No.
I have been used to a work pattern which is different to one the one I operate now. Old habits die hard.
What do I need to keep doing?
There is a line between foolishness and wisdom which is knowing when to quit.
Quit too soon and you are a fool.
Don’t quit and you are a fool.
In 1519, Hernan Cortes, a Spanish conquistador, led the expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire. What is mainland Mexico was brought under Spanish rule.
When he landed on the shores, some say he burned the boats, other say he scuttled them. His reason was to ensure that his men would follow him and not turn back. If they stayed on the shore, they would perish, their only hope of victory was to push forward.
There is something to be said for burning the boats.
In the game of chicken, the person who blinks first loses. Life is very similar.
Most of the time our first thought is ‘what if this doesn’t work?’
I struggle to accept the notion that you can have a plan A and a plan B. The reason I say that is because if you pursue something you will inevitably reach a point where one of the plans reaches a point of no return. The point where ‘if we do this, plan B is gone’. At some point you lose the safety net. At that point, we have a choice, go all in on one plan or hedge our bets and compromise.
New habits take just as long to implement too. It can take 6-12 months of uphill struggle before a new habit becomes routine. To see something through you must have determination. You cannot quit at the first problem. You cannot give up when problems come your way.
Often when companies go through culture change, they underestimate the energy and drive it takes to implement the change. The gravity of old culture or habits is hard to escape.
A re-brand doesn’t change culture.
A new mission statement won’t change anything.
Creating a strong value proposition won’t transform sales.
Change starts with a decision but is completed when it is delivered.
The determination to break through barriers or habit, mindset and ‘the way it has always been’ take strength of character and willpower.
Life and business is fraught with issues and problems. Whatever you do you will have challenges. Don’t use the challenges as an excuse to turn and run. Plan B has challenges too. The status quo does have the advantage that you already know those problems.
Whether you look at Branson, Gates, Zuckerburg, Buffett or even Trump, you’ll see the same determination, clarity and focus in them all. Love them or hate them, they have achieved levels of success that we could all be envious of.
But when you scratch a little deeper, you see that they had to fight to establish something which wasn’t certain. They set their minds to achieve something which the majority didn’t expect or think possible.
What does it take to be successful luck or determination? My bet is on determination.
In the highly subjective world in which I live, there is a perfectionist and an opinion on every corner.
In my world I have three threats to getting the job done. I want to talk about one of them because this one in particular transcends my industry and applies to all walks of life.
For years I struggled with what other people thought of me, how I dressed, what I said and what I did were all subjected to the scrutiny of what I thought other people thought. Fast forward to today and I can see how I tortured myself emotionally and sabotaged my future.
I now have removed this from my life and these are my reasons why you should do the same…
At the weekend I was discussing with our neighbors about the way we consume media and how the growth of on demand has created a whole ‘binge viewing’ culture and the change of viewing habits, such as catch-up TV. I don’t know about you, but the majority of my TV viewing is now on-demand or through catch-up. There is no doubt the big screen in our living room’s is here to stay but the big question is, who will provide what we watch on it?
I am sure on a professional network such as Linkedin, very few will have succumbed to ‘binge’ viewing. I’ve found a ‘binge’ viewing session can be quite therapeutic. I am sure I am not alone and there will be many who have had 3 hour marathon watching House of Cards, 24, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.
The question all media producers are trying to answer is how will we receive media for consumption in the future. Just look at the recent news of Amazon relaunching the famous BBC series, Top Gear. 10 years ago Amazon delivering media content would have been a bit of a joke given our habits were very different back then. Diversity of viewing now presents a real problem. How do you know which one is future proof? I don’t believe anybody honestly knows how we will consume media in the future.
Just like all those big media companies, going through the process of change can be quite a painful experience. Being creatures of comfort we like things to stay the same, we like certainty. Change brings uncertainty and forces us to improve ourselves and adapt to a world which is constantly changing. Change brings pain.
What’s happening in TV is happening everyday. Today there will be numerous inventors and entrepreneurs working and thinking of ways to bring innovation to the way we live our lives. Think about it, 30 years ago, mobile phones where available to a select group, the internet was non-existent and in the UK you could watch 4 TV channels. For all those who were the wrong side of innovation, change was lethal.
Change is never easy, for the instigators or the recipients. Instigators have to battle against the status-quo and the recipients of change are forced to adapt which is not always convenient. It can be brutally uncomfortable, but what is certain, is that if you try to resist change, you tend to get run over by it. Those that do well, embrace change and adapt to the new world it creates.
Some of the casualties of change such as MySpace, Nokia, HD-DVD and Woolworth’s all had great USP’s but as times changed their offering didn’t seem to matter anymore. The same thing that killed those famous brands is a massive threat on the horizon for Apple, Google and Amazon.
The warning to us all is that, just like MySpace, if we are not keep up in our fields, we can quickly fall behind the changing environment in which we live and work.
We’ve all had those moments when you just want to throw in the towel. Lots of work with very little results or worse, you realise you don’t know why you are doing something anymore. Sometimes you get work overload and feel like you are drowning in all the things that need to be done or worse, the work you have to do doesn’t challenge you.
These are the moments when we feel like giving up…
Feeling this way isn’t wrong, it’s your emotions, mind and body reacting to your situation. The trouble is when you feel one way, it jades the way you view the world. You cannot process your situation objectively.
Has your idea not worked out as expected?
Has your career taken a turn for the worse?
Do you feel overloaded by the workload your dealing with?
Did the world once seem a place of endless opportunities but now seems full of obstacles?
Thomas Edison once said “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” That is certainly true for him, as he suffered many setbacks as an inventor. Eventually after countless setbacks and disappointments, he mastered the electric light bulb.
What many will not know though is that Edison invented a lot of things which didn’t work and struggled with the growth of his business. He was at his best in a small lab testing and inventing things. After several successful inventions his business grew to a large organisation. He struggled to adapt from being a quirky, unstructured inventor, to the head of a large company. He stepped outside of his skill set.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be a good challenge, but stepping outside of your skill set can be dangerous. You can make unwise decisions, overwhelm yourself and worse not understand the risks you are taking.
Coming back to Edison, he had an understanding of giving up far better than we do. If he had given up on the light bulb, we would probably not even know his name. However, Edison also turned down a lot of options to pursue his light bulb dream.
Here are some of my thoughts on giving up:
Giving up should not be an emotional decision.
Emotions tell lies, twist the truth and serve only themselves. As humans it’s impossible to make decisions without the involvement of emotions. Keep your emotions under control and make decisions when you feel you are a clear head. Make sure you provide evidence for both sides of the argument and make a decision based on what you see.
Giving up should not be a financial decision.
There is a lot of evidence of great achievers going broke or risking everything to pursue their passion. At the time they faced criticism and looked like idiots. They eventually made it, but had to pursue it through painful situations which to anyone who understands accounting, would not make sense. Richard Branson started a business from a payphone, he got into financial difficulties and nearly didn’t make it. EasyJet for many years was seen as a business that could not work, now it’s one of the larger and more successful airlines.
If you decide to give up or not, you should not just consider the financial implications, there are lots of other things to consider, such as quality of life, your life goals and your health. BUT and it is a big but, you must make the decision to give up or not understanding the financial implications.
Giving up should not be a short term decision.
Setbacks happen to us all, if you have had a bad week and feel like giving up, you need to grow some more willpower. Life is complicated and stuff happens. Make sure you take a longer term view than this week, this month. Start looking for this year, the next year and the next ten years.
Giving up should be a strategic decision.
Does giving up help you progress and follow your goals. Will it help you move forward? Enough said.
Giving up should be a move forward.
If you are giving up because of something, it’s probably the wrong decisions. If you are giving up for something, then it may make sense. That wasn’t just a play on words. Are you running from something or running to something?
Don’t give up by default.
It’s really easy to not make a decision on giving up and give up by default. This is the worst kind of giving up because you surrender control to your environment. You let things happen.
Giving up can be good if there are good reasons, but you have to work out if you have good reasons. You can’t be held hostage to emotions or circumstances. Nobody can give you the answer, you have to research it for yourself. You can make a good decision to give up and a good decision to not give up if you weigh the situation properly.
What about you?