What is the secret of success? What the secret ingredient might be? Is there a formula for success? How to become and remain successful? Indeed, these are frequent questions I get after lectures, from my clients, young entrepreneurs, and journalists.
There is a formula for success, but that formula is not universal. Anyone who has achieved certain success can tell you – after some reflection, what his / her secret formula was. That formula may not be helpful to you, but what if we can still draw some general conclusion about what almost certainly contributed to the success of a large number of people? Perhaps such general places can still serve as a guide on the map of your personal success, which you will further develop in your own way.
During 15 years of advisory work, I’ve been collecting answers to the question I was asked by successful athletes, managers, entrepreneurs, academics, and scientists: “What is your formula for success?” Although the answers were never the same, each contained the following three “ingredients” of success (verbalized in one way or another):
Successful people are disciplined, their success is influenced by the environment, and they are very curious by nature.
Discipline as a part of the “DEC” Success Formula
I suggest you ask people around you, those you know but also those you don’t know, how they stay motivated & disciplined over a long period of time. Although there are great people around us, it usually does not occur to us to ask them for advice, experience, and recommendation, so we draw our own conclusions that they are this or that because of this or that what we certainly don’t possess. And in that dumb inner dialogue, we decide not to make the slightest effort to take the knowledge that is at every single step. What everyone would tell you is that there is no success without discipline. No one has succeeded without being committed to success, i.e. to the goal they defined. Some succeed faster, some slower; some succeed once, some several times, but all who succeeded were disciplined.
What does it mean to be disciplined? First of all, it means that the person had a goal. When that goal became their air and an integral part of all their activities – everything they do, the knowledge they gain, and the contacts they establish or develop explicitly or implicitly were directed towards that goal.
Physics explains this far better than management theory. If you want to hammer a nail and a bowling pin, the first will work for you, the second will probably not (even if in this mental game the pin had a pointed tip). The pressure to be applied is equal to the quotient of force and surface -> P = F / A. The unit for pressure is the pascal, equal to (defined as) one newton per square meter. In short, to achieve a great goal, and especially more goals at once, you need far more pressure (time, resources, team). Therefore, the most important thing is to direct all your strength and focus on consistently achieving a clear goal, because, in order to accomplish more goals or to achieve a less clear goal, you will need many more resources.
Discipline means that you continuously – from day to day, hour to hour, often for months and even years, hit in your nail with all your force. There will be days when you don’t feel like it, when you are disappointed, or when you make a mistake or circumstances take you a step back (or even back to the very beginning). But a part of the secret formula for success is to never stop working! You can change the way or even the goal, but if you want to become/stay successful – don’t stop working.
Alert 👆🏼 If you continue even though you know you made a mistake, then you are not going towards success, but you are falling into the so-called “the sunk cost fallacy “. In short, this mental trap means that we continue with useless work and investing, only because we’ve already invested a lot (our time, money, reputation). This also means we will lose more and more, and we’ll not get back what we have invested so far, nor save it. It’s better to throw away a few thousand than a few hundred, or a few years than a decade, right? I know, it sounds logical, but we still make that logical mistake over and over again.
Staying disciplined & committed to the goal is achieved in many ways, such as:
- Supervision – adding a “supervisor” to your work, to whom you will periodically submit a “report” on what has been done to achieve the goal. It can be your friend, a colleague, a partner, and best of all a mentor.
- To-do list or A Reverse To-do list – a list of activities (divided into activity groups & individual activities in those groups) that you carry out according to a time schedule. A Reverse To-do list implies that you define a goal – i.e. a final destination. Then from that point in the future when the goal will be achieved, you make a plan of activities according to the present moment (backward). For example, if in 2 years you want to enter the world market with your product/startup/company and that is the goal you are striving for, on the reverse to-do-list it will be: 1) entering the global market in 24 months, 2) another investment in 18 months from now, 3) 20 employees, 2,000 users & conversion increase by 20% in 12 months, 4) angel investment & 10 employees in 6 months from now, 5) MVP and promo campaign in 3 months, so 6) speaking to key (future) team members tomorrow, as well as developing a business model canvas (or a similar business plan) & conducting interviews with interested public on your product.
- Keep an activity diary – in order to make sure everything you do leads towards reaching the goal. To make sure your activity diary does not take you a lot of time, write down only those activities that took you an hour or more during the day. If you notice that you are not performing activities from your to-do list, then you will have to revise the activity diary and record also those activities in which you invest less time in order to notice the time-sucking wormholes, that are cumulatively holding you away from your goal.
Environment as a part of the “DEC” Success Formula
Many wise people, including biologists, microbiologists, ecologists, chemists, psychologists, experienced farmers – emphasize the importance of the environment. You are probably aware that even the worst seed brings extraordinary results in fertile soil, while even the best quality seed in infertile soil hardly gives any fruit. Like the ground in your garden, your contacts and social interactions can also become ragged and overgrown by weeds! There are fewer and fewer beautiful healing relationships, and more and more weeds, and in the blink of an eye, you cannot move from the place, stumbling in your own life. Your environment has been influenced by people, and it also includes themes, events, and content that you could or could not choose.
Since you cannot choose many of those things, you absolutely have to choose all those aspects of the environment that you are able to choose! It’s your only chance! Choose to spend time with people who inspire you, provoke you, and introduce you to different topics and people. Be ruthless! Adjust everything (the world) to yourself, stop adapting yourself (and everything) to others. Pluck the weeds and regularly clean the garbage, and at the same time feed all those relationships and people that dignify you and lead you to success. Don’t miss educations, lectures, opportunities to ask, share your ideas and learn. Don’t miss the opportunity to enhance your network, because it is certainly another part of the formula for success, which was crucial for many successful people.
The environment can be influenced in many ways. I will highlight two ways of over 50 that I personally use in my work with clients, within the One on One training from the training group “prioritization & planning”:
- Create your Personal performance model – a development map with which you define what you need to do to succeed, what you want to do, and what you are capable of doing. When you clarify this, you will know exactly where you need help (and from whom – based on an understanding of what you need to do, but you’re currently unable to do it). When you know exactly and objectively in which area you need help, it’s not that hard to find it.
- Creating a plan & map of the interested public – Stakeholder management. After mapping all potentially important topics and people, you create an action plan on how to establish, maintain and improve the relationship with them.
Curiosity as a part of the “DEC” formula for success
In the end, for me definitely the most important part of the formula for success – curiosity. I interpret curiosity as our ability to willingly learn and comprehend, and to do what we wrap our mind around:
- Curiosity is the ability to willingly – with joy and gladness, learn & acquire knowledge; a characteristic that enables us to readily learn, to ask, listen, explore, and increase our cognitive volume (I wrote about this recently).
- Curiosity is an attitude to learn what we get to know, and to really do what we know, i.e. to apply it in our work and development. This aspect of curiosity is very important because it represents the practical application of acquired knowledge. Without use, knowledge tends to decompose, to fade away. And that’s just not right.
Some people, especially children, are more curious than others. The good news is that curiosity can be learned! Most of the “Mind your Mind” group of activities that I carry out deals with this aspect. You can learn (or remember) how to be more creative, to see more in everything, to see the same things differently, to enjoy storytelling, interpretations & games; you can learn to create new ideas, to improve old ones, to listen attentively, and to speak wisely and inspiringly. You can (again) learn to learn, to ask, to fantasize, to imagine, to want to understand something completely and to the utmost.
Here are just a few ideas:
- Lateral thinking puzzles – solve those tricks that always have an unusual twist! For example, a man enters a bar and asks a bartender for a glass of water. The bartender quickly pulls a shotgun from under the bar and threatens him! The guy thanks him and leaves the bar. Why? The first answer is rarely the correct one. The first idea that comes to our mind at a meeting is not always the best one. Masters of brainstorm techniques state that the most original ideas in their sessions are ideas that come 20th or even 30th.
- Play roles – during a lunch with a partner (business or private) switch roles – you are him/her and vice versa. Talk, just like that. Ask each other whatever comes to your mind! Or go to the mall to a fishing equipment store or equipment store for moms and kids and talk to the seller by introducing yourself as a future fisherman, or (if you are not) an aunt, or an uncle of three who is looking for the perfect 5th birthday gift for their little ones. Wait and see what will happen and how will it amuse you and make you feel. Play. Just relax.
- Make a note of everything you like, for example, on the way from work to home, and everything you don’t like (logistics, shop window layout, parking system, traffic light layout). Then think how everything that is good could be even better, and how what is not good could be improved.
- Tell stories – tell a story about a photo in a newspaper or a painting; look at the title and tell the text that would follow up; listen to a song and describe the details that you imagine preceded the composing of the song (classical, contemporary, national or foreign)
- Ask yourself & ask – why is that as it is, why I believe in this, why many talk about that, what this word means, why they named this art period like that, etc.
Just be a child. Or more simple – restore the inner child inside of you, because it is the most beautiful, funniest, and most creative part of your being that can boost your success!
It would be interesting to think about where possessing two parts of the formula would lead us, and where the lack of one of them. For example, if you are curious and the environment is suitable for you, you could become extraordinarily creative, but not necessarily successful. If you are disciplined and curious, you can succeed but with difficulty, stumbling, and with a lot more resistance & disappointment than necessary. Disciplined and with a suitable environment, you could become, but I am not sure if you could stay, successful, because continuous success requires creativity. As we learned in the post “3D Growth Map”, creativity & innovation are created by width, while depth kills width. Without the width that curiosity brings into our lives, we could become, but we will hardly remain successful.
In the end, let me share one more conclusion which was imposed on me during years of work. The biggest problem is not that we do not know the secret formula for success, but that even if we know what we need to do, we don’t always know how to do it. Most people I am familiar with know they need to change their environment, but they don’t know how to do it; many of them know that it is important to be persistent, but they are not skillful and they don’t know how to put their knowledge into action. And most people want to know and to learn, but they don’t know what they need to learn, or how, and the least they know is how to remember what they learned.
Ask, get in touch, seek support and seek the experiences of those who have gone the way you want to go. You don’t have to do everything yourself, you can, but you don’t have to. Save your strength and your time for what you will have to do yourself, and believe me, there is a lot of that on the way to success.
The “DEC” formula can open the door to success for you, but through your success, you will go through your own door with your own formula. Make sure it’s an entry worth remembering :) And please share it with us.
✻ What do you think, could you achieve & repeat success? Do you think you could do it faster? You can book a lecture, workshop, or combination on the topic of this text for yourself, your company, or an event you are organizing via the following link. The text is an excerpt from my group of products “Mind your mind”. How to create and fulfill a plan of success, how to think and plan more clearly, how to create original ideas and to manage yourself & your business better, how to make wiser decisions and make better sales – all this can be learned. Over a thousand people and hundreds of companies I have worked with so far, confirm that there is a way. Of course, only if you think you should. Think about it.