The Success Formula In 5 Easy Steps

Suppose you were asked to summarize your life in six words. What would you say?

When a particular group of people was asked to do that, they came up with the following six-word memoirs.

  • Memorized all of my worry lines.
  • I was terrified. Did it anyway.
  • Sketchy past has people drawing conclusions.
  • Saw Jenny Craig. Chose Pizza Hut.
  • Hiring second drummer had serious repercussions.
  • Online dating. H_ll I pay for.
  • Anticipation is not just about ketchup.
  • What I didn’t expect changed me.
  • I should have brought a GPS.
  • Cut enough corners, eventually, you’re shapeless.

Amazing what can be captured in a few words, isn’t it? So I was thinking, “How can I summarize all the things I’ve learned about happiness and success in just a few words? Or how can I convey the key message in my upcoming book, “The Payoff Principle,” in a simple formula? I came up with several ideas, but I especially liked this formula: I AM + I WANT + I CAN + I WILL = I DID.

Let me introduce you to each part of the formula.


It’s all about confidence. I’ve come across thousands of people who have great talents, but they’ve failed because they didn’t have enough self-confidence. And I’ve come across thousands of others who didn’t have nearly as much talent but became very successful because of their unshakeable confidence.

You see … life is relatively easy if everything is running smoothly. Your relationships are strong, your health is great, and your finances are plentiful. But no one’s life runs smoothly forever. You’re going to have obstacles to overcome and problems to solve, and it is your confidence … or lack of it … that will determine how well you do in those situations.

All through history great philosophers and prophets have disagreed with one another on many different things, but they have been in unanimous agreement on one point. What a man believes he is, he is. As French psychologist Emile Coue said, “If you persuade yourself that you can do a certain thing (provided it be possible) you will do it, however difficult it may be. If, on the contrary, you imagine that you cannot do the simplest thing in the world, it is impossible for you to do it, and molehills become, for you, unscalable mountains.”

Indeed, that’s one of the things Debra learned. She writes, “I attended Dr. Zimmerman’s “Journey to the Extraordinary” program a few months ago, and I wish I had done so years ago. It changed how I think and what I do. It got me out of my comfort zone and into the habit of taking more constructive risks. The result? I just got a new job at twice my old salary. My eternal thanks to Dr. Zimmerman for the skills and inspiration he provided!”


It’s all about desire. If you REALLY want something, if you hunger for something with sufficient fervor, somehow, some day, chances are you will eventually possess or achieve it. Where there is a will, there is a way.

It’s like the city boy who was visiting his friends in the country. In the corral next to the barn was a huge bull whose horns must have spanned six feet from tip to tip. Nevertheless, the city boy felt safe because the bull was on the other side of the fence, so he started teasing the bull, shouting “Ole! Ole!” He pranced around like a matador. But the more the boy teased the bull, the more irritated the bull became, until he finally crashed through the fence and began chasing the boy.

After covering 100 yards, the boy realized he couldn’t outrun the bull. His only chance for escape would be to get up in big oak tree ahead of him. As the boy came closer to the tree, he realized the lowest limb was ten feet above ground. So he said to himself, “I’ll just jump as high as I can and hope I can make it.” He harnessed all his energy into one upward leap and missed the branch — but he caught it on his way down.

That’s desire.


It’s all about perception. Over and over again, it’s clear that it isn’t so much your ability that will make the biggest difference in your success or lack of it … but how you SEE your ability.

I’m reminded of an acquaintance from my hometown. Robert had an IQ of 163, which made him one of the most … if not the most … intelligent man in town. Yet Robert never went beyond a low-level, low-skill, low-pay job. When I asked why he didn’t use more of his enormous intellect and potential, he always told me that he didn’t believe he could do any better. As a result his talent went to waste.

What about you? Are you aware of all your talents, and are you using all your talents? Do your overall life and achievements reflect an “I CAN” perception? I hope so. Otherwise, you would be like the man who had 10 oil wells in his back yard, but their value was zero because he never drilled for that oil.

By contrast to Robert, Bruce Walker achieved amazing things because of his “I CAN” self-perception. Bruce wrote books on tropical fish and made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling those books. It sounds like a beautiful success story except for one detail. At age 19 he was completely paralyzed by polio and spent the rest of his life on a respirator. GE devised a special machine that enabled him to type his own manuscripts with his tongue as he laid flat on his back! He was determined not to allow what he lacked in talent to deprive him of using the talents he did have.

My conclusion? It’s NOT so much your inherent ability but rather how you SEE and use your abilities that will determine your success or failure.


It’s all about focused effort. When you focus the sun on a particular patch of grass, you can light it on fire. And when you focus your efforts on a particular task, the results are often quite amazing.

One young man learned that. While he was on his fourth date with the same girl, he said to himself, “Tonight is the night. Tonight I’m going to kiss her.” He drove the two of them up to the summit of the big hill overlooking the city, scooted over next to her, put his arm around her and said, “Tonight I’m going to kiss you.”

She said, “Okay, okay, but wait just a second. Put the top down and then I’ll kiss you.”

As the young man was relating the incident to a friend, he said, “It only took me six minutes to get the top down.” His friend listened incredulously, and said, “Six minutes? If I’d been out there with that girl, I’d have my top down in less than one minute.”

The young man replied, “Well I know, but you have a convertible.”

The young man achieved his goal because he focused his “I WILL” effort on one objective. The same thing can happen to you.

Bottom line? Success is not a mystery. It’s the natural consequence when you put this formula into play: I AM + I WANT + I CAN + I WILL = I DID.


Select one of the four steps in the success formula outlined above … that you want to focus on. And then write down two things you will do this week to increase your effectiveness in that particular step.