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.