Over my career, I have observed people with different personalities, backgrounds, and behavioral styles achieve success in life. Many times I wondered if there was a reoccurring theme running through their success stories that would clearly illustrate what creates success.
When I was interviewing average business owners and entrepreneurs for my book, Masters of Success, I asked thousands of them what they felt the “secret” to success was. They generally told me things like: vision, goals, passion, persistence, and systems.
I then asked many highly successful people who had obtained great wealth or personal success in business, sports, or science. They generally told me that success involved things like: vision, goals, passion, persistence, and systems. Sound familiar?
This made me very curious. So much so that while I was teaching at a California State University in the Los Angeles area, I asked hundreds of college students what they thought was the secret to success. These were all undergraduate students in business with little or no real-world business experience. What I found amazing was that they also said success involved things like: vision, goals, passion, persistence, and systems!
Everyone I interviewed or wrote about regarding the secret to success – from Buzz Aldrin to Erin Brockovich, from average businesspeople to undergraduate college students – gave me virtually the same answer. So if we all know what it takes to be successful, why is it that we aren’t all as successful as we’d like to be?
I have found that many people are looking for some mysterious and ever-elusive secret to success beyond what they already sense to be important. The truth is, there is no great mystery. In fact, very often “success is simply the uncommon application of common knowledge.”
When you hear successful people talk about the secret of their success, have you noticed that you rarely hear any real secret? What you do hear about is their unwavering adherence to some system or approach they believed in and followed with intensity and determination — an uncommon focus on something that less successful people simply take for granted or pay lip service to.
Successful people focus on the goal and work through or around everything else. In sports, this is called “keeping your eye on the ball.” They do this with a passion and a vision – and they do it with persistence.
Even when the ideas are simple and easy to understand, they often don’t get implemented, because people think there must be something more. After I presented a keynote speech in Sweden a while back, a woman in the audience came up to me and said, “Everything you said makes so much sense. Much of it was about things that I’ve heard were important to do, but I never did them because they seemed too simple. I thought there had to be more to it than that, that the road to success was much more complicated and daunting. So I wasted valuable time looking for some secret.” Then she said, “I don’t understand why people often find it easy to make things so difficult. Myself included.”
Success comes to those who have not only a passion and a vision, but who also have a persistence and a commitment to perform the fundamentals over and over, continuing to work and learn until they can perform these fundamentals flawlessly. In the end, success is not about being different or having secret knowledge. In the end, everybody knows what the goal is and how to achieve it. This is common knowledge, and it’s been around for a long, long time. Success is about knowing these things and having the will to go after them without giving up, making excuses, or getting sidetracked. Success is about the uncommon application of common knowledge.