Success 101: What Success Actually Is

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Many people talk about success, but it is extremely broad to the point of being vague

  • To be seen as a success is to be regarded as accomplished
    • Often people will see someone and label them a success, but it is very relative about what characteristics they choose to define it
    • Success can be based upon others’ interpretation of your accomplishments, or merely how you feel about your own accomplishments
    • Success, and information about it, often only focuses on one type of success or the major mindsets required for it
  • Success is not happiness, but happiness is required to have success!
  • There are a few good definitions of success that have been put forward
    • Earl Nightingale calls success a progressive realization of a worthy ideal
    • Tony Robbins defines success as having a ton of pleasure and very little pain
    • Zig Ziglar calls success the maximum utilization of the ability that you have
    • John Wooden says success is peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable
  • Many people would say that a person was successful if they had the following:

There are some popular and horrifically bad ways to measure success

  • How many friends you have
    • Crowds of friends are expensive and time-consuming
    • No human being is logistically capable of having more than 300 relationships in any given year
  • How much money you have
    • Money is just a measurement of power, not of competence or personal value
    • Some of the most innovative people in the world make very little money
  • How popular you are, how much people notice you or your overall reputation
    • Fame and reputation is fickle
    • A popular person often suffers from having no privacy
    • Without values behind a reputation, there is no substance to recover from any public tarnishing of reputation
  • How much you know or how intelligent you are
    • Studies have shown that the most intelligent people are more likely to make dumb mistakes out of conceit
    • Knowledgeability is not as important as wisdom or skillfulness

Though it is relative, there are some ways that measure success

  • Emotionally well
    • Above anything else, how happy you are
    • Ability to handle stress and stay calm in the middle of a crisis
    • How long it takes to fall asleep
      • This doesn’t mean there’s a consistent sleep schedule as much as it means you sleep well
  • Changing
    • The difference between how you are today and how you were # years ago
    • The number of things you are doing to personally improve yourself
    • Willingness and motivation to take advantage of opportunities as they come along
    • Tendency to avoid conforming to everyone else’s standards
  • Knowledgeable
    • Insight possessed about the world
      • Ability to apply a principle to concrete day-to-day actions
    • Knowledge and awareness about immutable truths
    • Attainment the fifth level of consciousness (from Scott Adams)
      1. Consciousness at birth, pure innocence and self-awareness
      2. Awareness of others and acceptance of authority (i.e. a belief system is established)
      3. Awareness that some beliefs may be wrong, but not necessarily which ones
      4. Skepticism and adoption of scientific method or general agnosticism
      5. Understanding that the mind is a delusion-generating machine, and that even science is its own belief system in it
    • Mastery of any craftsmanship
  • The strength of personal and business relationships
    • The amount of impact you are making in others’ lives
    • The number of people who will want to attend your funeral
  • Virtuous, according to standards set by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman
    • Wisdom and Knowledge – strengths involving acquiring and using knowledge
      • Creativity (Albert Einstein) – ability to look at things
      • Curiosity (John C. Lilly) – desire to look beyond the conventional
      • Open-Mindedness (William James) – able to see things from a different angle
      • Love of Learning (Benjamin Franklin) – always interested in discovering new truths
      • Perspective and Wisdom (Ann Landers) – applying knowledge and experience into day-to-day life
        • There is very little correlation between wisdom and age
    • Courage – strengths allowing one to accomplish goals in the face of opposition
      • Bravery (Ernest Shackleton) – standing up against direct opposition
      • Persistence (John D. Rockefeller) – continuing on without outside support
      • Integrity (Sojourner Truth) – uncompromising on values
      • Vitality (Dalai Lama) – excitement and energy in approaching life
    • Humanity – strengths of tending and befriending others
      • Love (Romeo & Juliet) – connecting intimately with others
      • Kindness (Cicely Saunders) – tendency to do favors and good deeds
      • Social Intelligence (Oprah Winfrey) – awareness of motives and feelings in self and others
    • Justice – strengths that build healthy community
      • Teamwork (Sam Nzima) – works well with others
      • Fairness (Mohandas Gandhi) – treats others with justice
      • Leadership – encouraging peers and subordinates to accomplish what needs to get done
    • Temperance – strengths that protect against excess
      • Forgiveness (Pope John Paul II) – ability to reconcile and release
      • Humility & Modesty (Bill W., co-founder of AA) – lets accomplishments speak for themselves
      • Prudence (Fred Soper) – careful about making choices
      • Self-Regulation (Jerry Rice) – restraint from excess
    • Transcendence – strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning
      • Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence (Walt Whitman) – noticing and appreciating beauty
      • Gratitude (G.K. Chesterton) – awareness and gratitude for good things
      • Hope (Martin Luther King, Jr.) – expecting the best and working towards it
      • Humor (Mark Twain) – seeing a lighter side to things
      • Spirituality (Albert Schweitzer) – having a higher purpose and calling in the universe

Successful people have a very specific paradigm/outlook

  • Proper Attitude – preparedness to take the right action, based on:
    • Feelings – generally happy and always towards solutions more than problems
      • In touch with self about feelings and sentiments
      • Keep strategies in place to deal with stress
      • Has an effective approach to handling failures and hardships
    • Beliefs – based on a dedication to a greater purpose more than simply self-interests
      • Has a connection to the world at large
    • Values – philosophical standards that define actions
      • Holds to cardinal virtues
      • Understands place in the universe and isn’t trying to force changing it
      • Driven by internal factors more than external
    • Behavior – actions that are driven by values and enforced by morality
      • Balances personal life with career and maintains a general attitude of moderation
      • Imitates the attributes of other successful people
  • Optimistic – stays constantly positive about the future, about others’ behaviors, and about the unknown
    • There is a spectrum of optimism, and successful people aim for practical optimism
      • Blind optimism – a view that things will always work out, no matter what
        • Typically what pessimists envision when hearing about optimism
        • At its most extreme, it will be offensive to anyone who is aware of potential problems
        • e.g. “Let’s just keep going and stop thinking about it! We’re not going to take a Negative Nancy depress us now, will we?”
      • Practical optimism – fueled by gratitude for employment, family, friends, health, food, time, experiences, etc.
        • The most common optimism that successful people employ
        • Anyone can get along with a practical optimist
        • e.g. “We’ve had a minor setback, but at least we didn’t lose the whole thing! Let’s get back into this when we’re ready!”
      • Negative optimism – driven by a happiness that things could be much worse, usually with some very dark thoughts mixed in
        • People from negative backgrounds and intellectuals have to use this one
        • Rare to find, and can be a bit unsettling for many people to see played out
        • e.g. “Well, at least we’re not dead!”
      • “Realistic” negativity – guided by a desire to be practical and accurate over succeeding
        • Possibly the most common outlook of all humanity
        • Though not a massively depressing experience to be around, will slowly sap energy away from goals
        • e.g. “Well, I guess that’s just how it is. At least I tried.”
      • Pure negativity – driven by past problems and a resistance to change
        • Most people can’t stay around someone like this for long
        • This is an indication of psychological problems that are completely subconscious
        • e.g. “I told you it won’t work, and it won’t work if you try again. Just give up and save us all the wasted effort.”
    • Their most common emotion is overflowing happiness
      • Understands that 90% of a person’s problems never actually happen
      • Self-belief is completely unaffected by failures
    • Looks at literally anything as a possibility with obstacles that are capable of being overcome
      • Hopes for the best, plans for the worst
      • Thinks about the present and the very near future more than any other points in time
      • Looks at the far future only for researching opportunities or avoiding present risks
      • Sees the past as an opportunity to learn and part of a story in the making
  • Intentional – makes every decision with a clear boldness
    • Clear about expectations from self and others
      • Clarity comes from premeditation and thinking things through
    • Being intentional and focused will often create what can be seen as an obsession by unsuccessful people
  • Steadily Improving – always looking to get better at everything
    • Constantly learning about anything and everything that interests them
    • Always curious and likes to ask questions about everything
    • Rarely feels stagnant or incapable of handling problems
    • Looks at living as a constant series of transformations, both in self and in others
  • Realistic – strives for excellence, not perfection
    • Expects life to be unfair and plans ahead for it
    • Focused on results more than a “perfect” thing
      • Counts the resources needed for something before making an emotional commitment to it
      • Aims for what adds value, not on a hypothetical goal in ideal circumstances
    • Focuses more on who they want to be than on what they don’t like
  • Resilient – comes back from every problem with determination and energy
    • Understands that they are the authors of their own wellness
    • Keeps sight of the goal no matter how bleak things get
    • Remembers successes much more than failures and is able to regularly find inward motivation
    • Desires self-sufficiency and freedom over being taken care of in exchange for freedoms
  • Flexible – lets uncertainties and failures happen naturally
    • Willing and open, sometimes even eager, to improvise and make quick decisions
    • Open and ready to try different tactics than what was established
    • Approach to things is constantly adapted from past failures
  • Resourceful more than resource-managing
    • Resources – limited and measurable things we have (time, money, technology, experience, connections, etc.)
    • Resourcefulness – limited only to vision and constantly in a state of change (creativity, determination, love, passion, etc.)
  • Aspirational – pushes for Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAGs)
    • Always has some sort of vision they’re striving for
      • To get going without a vision is pursuing productivity, not success
      • This vision is constantly changing and adapting to match reality
      • Enjoys adapting the vision to the circumstances
      • Feels attached to a higher purpose
    • Jumps at every chance to prove themselves or try something new
      • Unafraid of making sacrifices for a greater gain

Successful people behave a certain way with others

  • Gives resources liberally to support others
    • Loves and cares for others as an overflow of desire, not as a compulsion or need
    • Spends more time focusing on others’ lives than on themselves
    • Jumps at opportunities to forgive and reconcile
  • Works at having long-term relationships with others
    • Distances from negative and useless people
    • Seeks out and becomes close to positive and inspiring people
    • Holds fast to worthwhile relationships and connections
    • Opens up to others about failures and never has a problem asking for help
  • Honest when it’s called for
    • Accessible about intentions, thoughts, feelings, concerns and failures
      • This is in respect both towards others and self
      • This comes even when it’s at the risk of losing money, hurting others or failing
    • Authority figures will either respect or despise successful people because of this attribute
  • Integrity/Reliability – does what they say they will do
    • Hard-working out of a desire to achieve excellent results
    • Never compromises values
    • When it is merited, immediately takes full responsibility for mistakes or failure
    • Unapologetic for personal shortcomings, but intentionally seeks out reconciliation with others
    • An ability to say “no” when it is appropriate
  • Networking-Ready – aware that who you know is more important than what you know
    • Always developing working relationships with others
    • Shares others’ achievements more quickly than their own
    • Focuses on the depth of their connections more than the breadth
  • Organized – though maybe not perfect, always maintains some sort of order in everything
    • Always bears in mind how there is no “day off” from personal leadership
  • Self-Aware – pays attention to personal behaviors and the world around them
    • They see that if they are not part of the problem, then there is no solution
    • Lives without regrets by either reconciling with the past or dismissing it
    • The best and most enjoyable things in life are actually free!
      • Time with others
      • Happiness and joy
      • Learning and knowledge
  • Tactful – doesn’t speak out of turn or behave rudely
    • Charismatic, warm, open and engaging
    • Respectful of others’ time, energy and resources
    • Doesn’t expect or demand anything from anyone
    • Tries to avoid conflict or resolve it as peacefully as possible

A successful person regularly adopts new daily habits

  • Productivity-minded
    • Always makes time for whatever they regard as truly important
  • Embraces creativity
    • Collects notes, ideas, pictures and other immaterial elements, usually with something greater in mind
    • Has a physical location that inspires them to relax
    • Journals thoughts, experiences, ideas, etc.
    • Works in “seasons”, with some periods of fierce industriousness followed by periods of peace, learning or meditation
  • Finds ways to improve personal happiness
    • Engages in positive self-talk, finding motivations and avoiding defeatist thinking
    • Spends time to relax and de-stress from life
    • Wastes as little time as possible in indecision by either automating or removing unimportant decisions
    • Works on staying healthy and maintaining vitality
Next: Success 102: How To Start Your Own Success