11 Ways to Achieving Success

Achieving Success can be highly subjective. Seinfield’s Uncle Leo told everyone who’d listen just how successful he thought his son Jeffrey was. Uncle Leo’s assessment, however, did not meet with unanimous approval (Jeffrey was probably embarrassed, too). In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman defined ‘success’ as ‘talent + luck’ and ‘increased success’ as ‘a little more talent + a lot of luck’.

One of the main criteria for success seems to be to have made it to the top in a particular field such as world chess champion, one of the world’s top-ranked tennis players, or the world’s greatest golfer. There are, therefore, some things (behaviors more than traits) that are considered essential – even for those of us with less lofty ambitions. Consider these.

1. Work at it.

It’s a cliché, but there is some truth in it: the only place ‘success’ comes before ‘work’ is in the dictionary. Work and what Geoffrey Colvin (Talent is Overrated, Nicholas Brealey, 2008) calls ‘deliberate practice’ are essential precursors to making it to the top and staying there.

It may not be a case of ‘the harder I work, the more successful I become’, but practice, practice, practice is essential. Numerous studies have shown that you must be prepared to ‘put-in the hard yards’ if you are to make your mark.

2. Engage in deliberate practice.

Heading for the driving range with a bucket of golf balls to practice is unlikely to result in meaningful improvement in the game of golf. Deliberate practice needs input and feedback from a coach or mentor.

The repetition must be considerable (much, much more than a bucket of balls). Consider the seeming ease that top- tier golfers clear a ball from a sand- bunker.

They’ve repeated this event so many times in practice that extricating it successfully has become almost automatic. Practice is generally a lonely activity. It usually takes place in isolation, and inevitably requires discipline. There does not appear to be any shortcut to success.

The one defining behavior that seems to separate the aspirants and those who make it is the amount of time devoted to practice and effort. As the successful concert pianist and composer Jan Paderewski said, ‘If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it’.

3. Focus on behaviors.

It is significant that acknowledged leaders in the corporate world emphasize qualities they look for when employing. And those qualities
invariably focus on behaviors rather than traits.

When Jeffrey Immelt was CEO of General Electric, he sought the following person: someone who was focused, was a clear thinker, had imagination, was an inclusive thinker, and was a confident expert. Immelt’s predecessor, Jack Welch, used a different set of criteria that he called the 4Es – Energy, the ability to Energize, Edge (decisiveness), the ability to Execute. In both cases, the emphasis is on behavior as opposed to traits. In order to succeed, focus on behaviors.

4. Develop the ‘smarts’.

Rarely do individuals excel in a wide variety of fields – there are even wide variances in the chosen field. Top-class athletes find the transition
to coaching in the same field difficult, demanding, and in many cases disillusioning. Success and ‘smarts’ are connected.

When he was CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch was ‘famous’ for seeming to remember everything about one of the world’s most complicated companies. When he was Chairman and the international ‘face’ of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffet claimed that he never needed to own a calculator: he was famous for doing complicated math in his head.

Top-line tennis players are able to return balls hit at 150 kilometers-per-hour because they focus on the player hitting the ball (hips, arms, shoulders) and not the ball. Displaying ‘smarts’ means knowing the game, how it is played, how to respond, and developing the required skills. Success will follow.

5. Gain experience.

Experience counts! Whether it’s technicians, engineers, or sports people, top performers perceive more than colleagues or competitors.
This usually involves taking a broader view, looking ahead, and grasping the opportunities.

6. See yourself being successful.

The more clearly and accurately you imagine yourself succeeding, the easier it will be for you to follow through. In the same way that an architect first imagines a building and then draws it, you can be the architect of your success by dedicating a few minutes every day to imagining yourself succeeding.

7. Define your meaning of success.

Everyone views success differently: we can’t all be world-class golfers, but we can achieve success in our own fields of endeavor. Be realistic;
set clear goals for your ‘success’.

And how will you know when you’ve achieved success, reached your goals? Your standards should be quantifiable, so create benchmarks: “This year my goal is to increase my contacts to 140 and my sales accounts by 40%.”

These are quantifiable goals that, when achieved, give you a sense of satisfaction completion – and success.

8. Be prepared to take risks.

Successful people think big and act big, so you’ll need to be ready to step out of your comfort zone. If you don’t, will you ever be successful?
Don’t wait for opportunities to fall in your lap.

Seek them out. Successful people make big investments (in their careers, in their businesses,
in their education) and all investments involve risk.

9. Surround yourself with successful people.

It’s encouraging to be surrounded by people who are highly driven. Willpower, effort, determination, and goals are essential qualities in
others and you.

10. Grasp opportunities

Timing is important. When you feel your moment in the sun has arrived, be ready to take advantage of that opportunity.

11. Remain aware.

Despite your best efforts to make it to the top in your organization, there may be times when someone else is promoted to the vacant seat
that should have been yours. If (or when) this happens, be prepared to take time-out to consider your response.

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