Understanding What it Takes to Succeed, part one (#985)

One of the first major insights I had about myself and my clients over twenty years ago was this:

When it comes to creating results in our lives, most people are pretty much exactly where they ought to be.

What I mean by that is that over the years I’ve rarely seen anyone who consistently outperforms their own efforts. On the whole, life doesn’t really lift people up who haven’t earned the lift or hold them down when everything else is pointing towards success.

But much as some people would like to believe that investing time and energy is all it takes to succeed (and much as other people would like to believe that investing time and energy doesn’t matter at all), there are actually multiple variables that contribute to the level and quality of results we produce.

In my experience, a deeper understanding of these variables and how they impact our results can in and of itself become one of the most critical variables in our own pursuit of success.

In this week’s tip, I’ll share six of the key variables that I have noticed and a little bit about how they impact our results. Next week, I’ll share a seventh variable – one that will give you the ultimate leverage over how you utilize the first six…

Variable Number One: Starting place

While the saying “it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish” is technically true when it comes to the game of success, where you start certainly makes a huge difference. A gazelle will outrun a cheetah every time if the gazelle only has five yards to go to safety and the cheetah is starting over a hundred yards away.

When I was trying to breakthrough as an actor in the UK in the early ’90’s, my father said something to me that pointed to a real understanding of this variable.  He told me that if he could, he’d come back as a famous actor or director (instead of a mechanical engineer) so that he’d be able to give me a leg up in the business.

What he may or may not have realized is that he’d already given me a huge leg up in life by being a kind, loving father and husband and successful businessman. I got off to a pretty great start in life because I got to watch an amazing role model in action for the first twenty three years of my life. Where I’ve wound up, on the other hand, is down to my understanding of the other key variables to success, including…

Variable Number Two: Investment of Time and Energy

If you’re looking to become a millionaire in a month or build a successful business from scratch in 90 days, I’ve got some bad news – it doesn’t work that way. Really.

I know of no way around this one – if you want to produce results and you’re not starting at the finish line, you need to put in the hours. How enjoyable that process is and what you do with those hours points us toward our third variable…

Variable Number Three: Strategy

Effort has its limits. As Tony Robbins says, “If you’re goal is to see the sunset and you’re continually traveling East, you’ve got a significant challenge.”

An effective strategy is a powerful ally in your quest for success. But the best strategy in the world still needs to be executed effectively. And in order to do that you need to take into account…

Variable Number Four: Level of skill/Level of challenge

Two tennis players are about to play their first match against each other. One of them is undefeated to date, 50 wins against 0 losses; the other is struggling to reach .500 with a 23 – 27 record. Which one would you bet on?

If you’re smart, you’ll wait to see who they scored their victories against and who they lost to. 50 wins against school children tells us little; 23 wins against ATP tour players speaks volumes.

When it comes to creating results, the arena we’re playing in is as significant a factor as our current level of skill. Some jobs are harder than others, some tasks more challenging, some fields more highly competitive. Fortunately, skills can be developed, both in and out of the arena we’re looking to apply them.

But even when we develop the skills to meet the challenges, nothing great is going to happen if we rely solely on our own efforts…

Variable Number Five: Other people

No worthwhile endeavor was ever achieved without a community – a team of other people who are knowingly or unknowingly involved in assisting and offering support along the way. Most of us intuitively recognize this fact, and self-made men and women ignore it at their peril.

Learn to play well with others and you’re likely to do well in life. But even when you’re off to a great start, putting in the hours, following a great strategy an a level playing field with the support of other members of your tribe, there is still something that can make or break your efforts over time…

Variable Number Six: The random factor

The economist Nassim Nicholas Taleb has written at length about the very human tendency to be “fooled by randomness”. And whether you call it “luck”, “fate”, or even “s@#$ happens”, there is no doubt that sometimes our best laid plans will go astray while even the most ill-conceived idea occasionally comes to pass.

While not looking back to see what we could have done differently limits our learning, spending too long seeking to create predictability in a world of infinite possibility is a problem of a completely different order.

Simply put, the mind seems to want to create structure out of chaos, even if it has to bend the truth in order to do it. If we fall for it, we get to pretend we live in an ordered universe where each effect has a single discernible cause and where if we can only figure out what to do and do it right, everything will work out the way we want it to.

If, on the other hand, we embrace the chaos of the unknown, we find that the random factor can be our biggest ally in our pursuit of success.

As you review these variables (and any others which may occur to you), the question I would leave you with until next week is this:

Given that there are multiple variables which contribute to our success and results in life, where is the most useful place to put our focus if we want to create better results with less effort, struggle, and stress?

With all my love,

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