To most of us, defining success is a nebulous process. Keith Ledig went deeper and offers six traits successful people practice.
So many people wonder what it takes to be successful. You are not alone. I pondered, too, and these are the six commonalities I came up with that identify, for me, what makes a man successful.
Talent: Do you think that some people are born to be great, while others just don’t have it in them to amount to anything? I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “natural born talent.” This can make one feel that if they haven’t reached a certain level of success by a certain age then they never will. Or if someone becomes successful at an early age they are a natural. While it’s true that a 5 foot 5 inch guy is not likely to do well in the NBA, there are many examples of people who overcame adversity or ascended to astronomical success where nobody would have figured they would.
Don’t worry, if you suck at singing, you still have a chance at winning on The Voice because it has been proven that talent is not a natural-born trait. You earn talent and skill with masterful coaching and 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. There are three awesome books that can tell you all about it: The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. When I read these three books back-to-back-to-back, I felt liberated knowing that I could be anything I wanted, without limits, if I was willing to work hard and dedicate my resources to it. Masterful coaching is having a teacher that not only knows what they are doing, they also know how to teach you. Not all teachers and students are a good match. Also you can’t half-ass this stuff and do well. Deliberate practice is a deeply focused effort.
One thing: This may be great for learning a skill like tennis or playing the piano, but what about becoming successful in business? Success in everything shares similar characteristics. In piano there is a lot of muscle memory, and in business there is a lot of decision making wisdom that must be gathered over many dedicated years of hard work. If you want to be truly great at something it needs to be the One Thing. In Gary Keller’s book, The One Thing, he talks about how we need to focus on the one thing in which we want to be succesful. If we spread ourselves across many things we become a Jack of all trades and a master of none, as the saying goes. So rather than go an inch deep and a mile wide, focus your resources at becoming truly great at one thing.
Drive: All the hard work and long hours is bound to make someone lose focus or give up. If you want to finish the race you must run the entire race. You need to be dedicated to your endeavor. There is a difference between having fun and being driven. Having fun is like taking up a hobby. Hobbies are a fun way to spend time in a recreational way. But hobbyists rarely become professionals. For one to become truly great at what they do, they need to be driven. Drive is the motivating force that keeps you practicing the guitar for five hours straight, or every chance you get. You know you are driven at a particular endeavor when friends or family ask you when was the last time you had a break, or don’t you ever get tired doing that? You can be driven to practice a skill or learn a specific body of knowledge. If you constantly find yourself reading books on a specific subject, you are driven.
Grit: During your journey to success you are bound to encounter more than one opportunity to fail. Failing is a natural part of the process toward achieving success. When you do fail, you must be able to get up and keep on going. The new philosophy on determining who will be successful in life is who has grit. Grit is the perseverance that keeps you going in the face of adversity. I like how Rocky puts it: “It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” So know that eventually you are going to stumble and fall. The trick is to get up and keep on going. Get in touch with your drive when you feel like you are too tired to get back up. The drive will give you the motivation to keep going.
Network: Have you ever heard it’s not what you know that counts, but who you know? Networking is incredibly important. For one thing, the more people you network with and build relationships with, the more people you can reach out to for help when you need it. The well networked person is like a broker, connecting people who need each other. And some day you will need something. If you built up enough good will with enough people, you will have a great resource available to you in your time of need. The key is to always be giving value. Try to gently but constantly give more value than you receive. This is karma and will pay off in the long run. It’s like the Steven Covey emotional bank account. As you make deposits of good will into other people’s (emotional) banks, you build value where someday you can draw upon (do this without expectations though).
The other advantage to networking is making relationships and spending time with other people. They say that you are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. Try to spend as much time around the successful people you admire and want to emulate. Their habits and knowledge will rub off on you. Also the peer group (or mentor/protégée) relationship will motivate you to raise the bar and become a better person. Also if you run with a friend you are more likely to run faster than if you ran alone. Friendly competition pushes you to achieve greater goals.
System: Try to make everything you do into a system. Document your process. Make it repeatable so that every time you do it, you don’t have to think a lot about it. Will power is limited, and when you have to make decisions you use it up. When you make something into a system you put it on autopilot and use up very little willpower. Tasks that work well here are those which are the same when done many times. It could be as complex as the swing of a golf club or as simple as how you do your laundry.
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