What does it really take to be successful? I think I have an answer. That’s a bold claim, I know. But I can back it up. Hear me out.

I’ve been teaching people how to bring product ideas to market via licensing with my partner Andrew Krauss for more than 14 years now. Andrew and I have solidified everything we know about product licensing into 10 simple steps. Our strategies work because they reduce risk and increase our students’ likelihood of success.

But the more I think about it, the more I believe our method of doing things can and should be applied more broadly. After all, I’ve used the same steps to achieve many different kinds of goals, such as getting PR for my business. You can too.

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So what do I think success truly depends on? At its core, I think it’s the ability to acutely break down a problem and come up with an efficient solution. That’s it. There’s a better way of doing things. This is it.

1. Understand how the game is being played.

To master anything, you first need to study it. What are the rules? Who are the players? What’s happened before? Who is successful? Why do people fail? What’s considered innovative?

You are on a fact-finding mission. Leave no stone unturned. At this stage, I’m just trying to gather information. Because I know the best insight comes from people who have done what I’m trying to do, I try to seek out like-minded people for advice. I ask them to help me understand the topic at hand.

A lot of people skip this step. They plunge into new projects with only a cursory understanding of the subject. You might think you’re familiar with something, but unless and until you’ve ruthlessly studied it inside and out, you aren’t. There’s simply no excuse not to study up! The Internet has made it so easy to do. You may discover that the market isn’t large enough. Maybe it’s headed in a different direction, or has hit its peak. It might be too hard to break into. Either way, you need to know.

It's OK to be naïve when you’re starting out. In fact, sometimes having a fresh perspective can be helpful. But if you don’t take the time to understand what the challenges ahead are going to be at the very beginning, you will experience pain later on. I know because it’s happened to me.

Related: Humility: The Missing Ingredient to Your Success

2. Find the opportunity.

When I take on a new endeavor, I try to identify holes. Are there problems in need of solving? What is lacking? Where is there room for improvement? What’s missing?

I then assess whether I’m capable of filling those holes. Given what you’ve learned, how do your weaknesses and strengths match up? Is there an opportunity for you to not only step in but also excel?

At this point, you may decide you need more information to come to a good conclusion. You might need to take a class or work harder to find a mentor. I am always on the lookout for opportunity. If you want to be successful, you should be too. It’s not enough to want to be successful and commit to working hard. You need to work smart.

3. Put your game plan together.

You have all of the critical information you need to succeed. How are you going to get there? What you need now is a plan of action. Map out how you’re going to get from point A to point B. Who are you going to turn to for help? Your road map will inevitably change, but you need a fully fleshed-out framework to turn to when things get chaotic.

The quickest path to succeed at anything is by hacking the system -- as Tim Ferriss would say -- first by studying what it is you want to achieve, then by identifying opportunities and finally by crafting a pitch and a plan based on what you learned and your best assets. You never have to reinvent the wheel. Finding your uniqueness­. That’s what adds value.

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