For years now, I’ve thought about my own success and that of my friends and family.
I want everyone around me to find success, which I define as having enough money/income to set your own schedule and do work you care about.
I think this is what we all want.
This is no small feat to achieve, though today it is more attainable than it’s ever been in human history.
I’ve been doing it for 13 years now, ever since I started my first business back in Florida.
As I’ve pondered this, and compared the way I live my life to those around me, I try to think about what I do differently than those that stay stuck in the same place year after year.
I am not an egotistical person. If I were, it would be easy to convince myself I’m smarter than everyone else and that’s why I can do what I do.
But that’s a lie. And I’ve seen many examples that disprove it: there are plenty of people far smarter than I am that are not successful while on the other end there are plenty that may be lacking in the brains department doing much better than most. (Of course, I’m talking in broad generalities here, but I’m sure you understand what I’m trying to say.)
I don’t want to get into the many differences in intelligence, and how it’s not something a simple IQ test can quantify, though it does warrant a deeper treatment.
Instead, let’s assume there is a baseline for intelligence that you must posses to build the kind of success I’m defining above.
Keep in mind, I’m not talking about an aggregate IQ measure of intelligence, which I think is a flawed model, but rather I’m assuming there is a baseline in some of the fundamental domains of intelligence, like people skills, self-awareness, marketing, sales, etc.
Now back to the kind of success I’m talking about: autonomy and control over your income, time and future.
Those that figure out one thing and become very good at that thing to build a level of success would be an exception. (And those that become social media famous can attribute this “success” to luck and little else. Yes, I stand by that assertion.)
So if you need to be good, or at least baseline, in different domains, what would those be?
This is a hard question to answer. So I’m going to distill it down to the few most important things I think matter. Disclaimer: this list is based on my own experience and are my personal interpretation.
1. You need self-awareness.
You must understand yourself because that is how you learn, adapt, and make decisions that move you forward.
Again, some people fall into happenstance which allows them to pursue a single objective to find “success,” but they are outliers.
For the 99% of us, we are going to have a mountain of obstacles to overcome, which is best overcome by first taking in data and then using that data to make better decisions moving forward.
2. You need a certain mindset.
There is overlap to this and self-awareness, and in most cases, they complement each other.
That said, there are still certain first principles of thinking you need. I’ll keep this list short; each deserve a deeper treatment on your own time.
- You need a growth mindset. You must see the possibilities rather than only the obstacles. If you fixate on how you perceive things are, you become blind to how things can be. And seeing how things can be is how you make them so.
- You need a problem/solution mindset. Each thing that gets in your way should be approached as a problem to be solved, and not just solved this one time, but solved for good so that it doesn’t come up again.
- You need systems thinking. To truly level up in life, thinking in systems is paramount. This goes with the problem/solution mindset since you usually need some kind of system to prevent problems from recurring. You also need systems to increase productivity so you can free up time to do other things.
- You need to understand people. You have to sell to them, lead them, educate them them, get them to care, and so on.
3. You need consistency.
If you can’t show up day in and day out no matter what, you won’t achieve success.
This last one is probably the most important since you can overcome a lack in the first two principles if you just show up every day, given enough time. And showing up, what I’ve found over the years, is the one that humans struggle with the most.
Humans, as animals, aren’t naturally designed to think long-term. Our ancestors lived in what’s called an “immediate award” environment, meaning they woke up, went into nature and sought food. They had to be supremely in the moment to best protect themselves against the many threats in the wild, all while being open to any opportunities. Thinking about next week or next month wasn’t really a thing they did.
Over the years, I’ve seen countless new projects, efforts, businesses, plans, and cool ideas. I would guesstimate it is 9 out of 10 times people don’t even start, let alone start then quit.
And for those that quit, most quit far too early.
Seth Godin has a great book on this topic called, “ The Dip. “
The basic idea of the book is most people quit in the dip portion of a project, and as he shows in the book, it’s the dip that usually comes just before success.
In some cases, things get worse before they get better. Other times, things stagnant longer than one is prepared for.
And in all situations, most people quit too soon.
Had they stayed the course, more often than not, they would have found success.
I deeply believe that.
Let’s try to summarize all this:
Be open-minded, learn and adapt, and keep going.
There you have it: three first principles of success expressed in one sentence.
I would say these are the MOST IMPORTANT principles of success.
Fundamentally, this is all people need.
Instead, they get sucked into spending thousands of dollars and countless hours going to events, taking courses, reading books, listening to podcasts, and otherwise trying to find some “secret” to success.
While these can be worthwhile endeavors for personal development, the reality is THERE IS NO DAMN SECRET!
No guru or expert is going to save you the massive amount of time, struggle, learning, and showing up you have to do to build something from nothing.