Success is more often the result of hard work than of talent.
When you ask people what they want out of life, the most frequently given response is “I just want to be HAPPY.” I addressed that issue in another article, saying there are six choices you have to make … IF you’re going to be happy.
But the second most frequently given response is “I want to be SUCCESSFUL.” And like happiness, success is within your reach.
As the inventor Thomas Edison discovered, “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.” And Dale Carnegie, the world-famous author and personal development trainer, noted: “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate himself through conscious endeavor.” That’s good news.
The bad news is … no one has ever stumbled onto success. No one has ever been out … taking a little walk … and moseyed upon success. Success is the RESULT of doing certain things.
1. Success is the result of work.
I know “work” is a dirty four-letter word for some people. But I think best-selling author Randy Gage put it quite well when he said, “The only free cheese is in the mousetrap.”
Of course, many people don’t want to hear that. They would rather “believe in the power of their dreams” than work for them.
Well, there’s some truth and there’s some power in having dreams and believing in your dreams, but they’re half-truths. Richard Bach learned that after writing his book “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” and having it rejected by dozens of publishers. After considerable time and effort, he eventually found a company that would publish his manuscript. Bach learned, “You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.”
Unfortunately, all too many people look at “successful” people and think they were “just plain lucky” or they “got all the breaks in life.” In other words, they didn’t have to work for it.
Again, there’s a grain of truth in those observations. Life isn’t exactly fair. Some people have more opportunities than others. But it’s only a grain of truth … not the whole truth.
Personally, I’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds, maybe thousands of highly successful people, and I don’t know a single one who didn’t have to work for it. As leadership author John C. Maxwell observes, “Every worthwhile accomplishment has a price tag attached to it. The question is always whether you are willing to pay the price to attain it — in hard work, sacrifice, patience, faith, and endurance.”
So go ahead. Read all the books on success. Learn all you can about success. Just remember, as James Cash Penney, the founder of the J. C. Penney Company, concluded, “Theory is splendid, but until it is put into practice it is valueless.”
Success is the result of work. And…
2. Success is the result of working harder.
As I speak to organizations around the world, I’ve heard numerous supervisors, managers, and leaders tell their people that they have to work smarter, not harder. It sounds nice, but it’s a lie. The truth is … in today’s crazy, busy, competitive world with an unstable economy … you have to do both if you’re going to be successful.
You have to start by working harder. That’s true in sports. As professional football coach Vince Lombardi said, “There’s only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything.” And as Paul Dietzel, a college football coach, would echo, “There are no office hours for champions.”
It’s also true in business. Author A. Lou Vickery noted, “Four short words sum up what has lifted most successful individuals above the crowd: a little bit more. They did all that was expected of them and a little bit more.”
Amen! That’s why I used to get ticked off when my fellow students would be jealous of the grades I achieved in school. When I graduated near the top of my high school class, when I earned the highest honors for my bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, some students would dismiss my success by saying “it came easy for me.”
Really? I wonder how many of them started studying for their final exams in college five weeks in advance. I wonder how many of them studied 25 hours for every single final in college. And I wonder how many of them would be at the library at 7 a.m. and would sit there and study until 11 p.m. day after day.
My personal motto then … and my personal motto today is … there may be smarter people in the world than me, but no one can outwork me. I know that success is the result of working harder.
Of course, it’s also true that…
3. Success is the result of working smarter.
There are some things you can do to work more efficiently and more effectively. For starters, I recommend three “smart” techniques.
*Master your time. You can never re-gain the time you waste, so make every moment count. A few minutes here and there, wisely used, can make a huge difference. For example, if you save 10 minutes each day by streamlining your morning routine, if you save 10 minutes a day by avoiding big-winded talkers or other distractions, if you shave 10 minutes off your lunch break, you’ll gain an additional 125 hours a year. That’s three forty-hour work weeks to use for anything you want. And you can double the time you save by watching 30 minutes less of television each day.
*Volunteer to fix things. Instead of looking around your workplace and seeing problems, choose to see these “problems” as situations that could be improved, issues that could be resolved, or concerns that could be remedied. Then volunteer to fix them. You’ll soon be recognized as a winner instead of whiner, and success tends to follow winners.
*Focus on your short-term goals (as well as your long-term goals). You’ve probably been told to keep your eyes fixed on the big picture in order to succeed. But if that’s all you do, you won’t be at your best. In his book “The Winner’s Mind,” sports psychologist Allen Fox illustrates the unparalleled importance that short-term goals play in your achievements.
Fox once worked with a race car driver whose career had taken a detour into failure. Fox noticed that when the driver fell behind during a race, his coordination waned and his lap times increased. The driver was never able to get back in the lead.
The problem, Fox determined, had nothing to do with the drivers’ position on the track and had everything to do with his focus. The driver was so concerned about catching up to the leaders that he ignored the cars that were directly in front of him. Once the driver shifted his attention to the cars that were blocking his path, he was able to maneuver around them. He was able to improve his lap time and get back in a winning position, both on the track and in his life.
Of course, there may be times you don’t FEEL like working harder or smarter. Let me remind you that…
4. Success is the result of working when you don’t feel like it.
Be careful of putting too much stock in your feelings. As James Thom so wisely observed, “Probably the most honest, ‘self-made man’ ever was the one we heard say: ‘I got to the top the hard way — fighting my own laziness and ignorance every step of the way.”
In other words, don’t wait for inspiration. Do what you have to do, whether or not you feel like it. As management consultant Cynthia Paine puts it, “There is no shortage of great ideas, just few great executions.”
The truth is … you will have times when you work with your adrenalin pumping. You will have times when you run the race on pure excitement. But most of the time it will take your commitment to carry you through to the end.
Personally, I find affirmations to be highly effective when I don’t feel like working. I find some positive, encouraging, self-motivating sentences to tell myself over and over again. I may quote Robert Moorehead, when he says, “I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in a maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or slow up.”
So you want to be successful? Or more successful? It is entirely possible … indeed quite probable … if you do these four things. And no one said it better than rags-to-riches Les Brown when he wrote his book on how to “Live Your Dreams.”
Brown says, “If you want a thing bad enough to go out and fight for it, to work day and night for it, to give up your time, your peace, and your sleep for it … if all that you dream and scheme is about it, and life seems useless and worthless without it … if you gladly sweat for it and fret for it and plan for it and lose all your terror of the opposition for it … if you simply go after that thing you want with all of your capacity, strength and sagacity, faith, hope, and confidence and stern pertinacity … if neither cold, poverty, famine, nor gout, sickness nor pain, of body and brain, can keep you away from the thing that you want … if dogged and grim you beseech and beset it, with the help of God, you WILL get it!”