I’ve had the privilege of meeting some extremely successful people. In my mind I always seem to hype these types of people into superheroes that walk around with the ability to get a week’s worth of work into a day. What I’ve learned is far from that. In fact, I’ve learned that ultra successful people aren’t a whole lot different than me and, maybe just maybe, I could be one of them.
The question I want to answer for myself is how to be successful.
I’ve already written about my experiences meeting Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Given the fact they’ve written two best selling books and have a successful podcast and consulting company between the two of them, I’d put them on the list.
I can also say I’ve met a billionaire. More specifically I’ve shook his hand and a colleague of mine had a five minute conversation with him. At that time in my professional career I hadn’t even considered the fact that he had so many zeroes behind his name, I just saw him as a business owner and entrepreneur.
I’ve met, too my knowledge, an individual probably worth a few hundred million. Add that to the other few individuals I can think of that are probably worth tens of millions and the list starts to add up fast.
If I had to guess I’ve met in the neighborhood of a dozen people worth 5 million or more and two to three of those were were likely worth 100 million plus. Of course there is a difference between net worth and income but that’s a discussion for another day. In fact, I’ve touched on it before.
The “Successful” Person to me
All of the people I can think of were either entrepreneurs or CEOs of their companies. While I do think it would be a challenging and rewarding experience to be a CEO who knows if I’ll ever get there. I tend to put more of an emphasis on work life balance so it may not be in the cards.
Regardless, its something I’m working towards. For me its not about money. Ok that is kind of a lie. I want to make a sufficient income for my family and I to live comfortably. Its not about owning a jet. I don’t need four homes. Just live a nice lifestyle without worry for my finances.
What its mostly about is the challenge. Do I have what it takes?
The most memorable meeting
I’ll never forget the most memorable meeting I had with someone I consider ultra successful. They had started an extremely successful company, decided to leave, and had joined a new company with the goal of turning it around.
I had several weeks of notice and built up this individual in my mind. When it came time to meet him my biggest realization was:
The fact that he was a human.
I know I know. Groundbreaking stuff here at this blog. It just struck me as so crazy. He was hard at work just like I was. He didn’t have any fancy tools (like I thought all successful people did).
Believe it or not he left behind his mechanical pencil (yes he didn’t even use a pen) and I grabbed it and still have it. Yes I’m that weird. However, that pencil is a reminder to me that I can be anything I set my mind too.
How to be successful
Being the planner and self development junkie I am one of the things that has been on my mind lately is what it takes to get there. What does it take to become ultra successful?
After spending a fair amount of time thinking about it I’ve come up with a few conclusions on how to be successful. I’m sure there is a laundry list of items to consider but I’ve listed the top few things I believe it takes to make it to the top.
After reviewing the list I’ve realized this is a list that applies to any situation. Want to be the best dad in the world? Husband? Employee? Entrepreneur?
Success Tip #1: Work Ethic
This is a drum I’ve been beating long before I started this blog. It doesn’t matter what tools you have or where you are at in life, work ethic is the basis for success. You can have all the advantages in the world and if you aren’t going to put in even the bare minimum effort you’ll never get anywhere in life.
Alternatively, if you have a sickening work ethic then you are way ahead of your peers. I believe I’ve already put this in a blog post before but this video of Gary Vaynerchuk says it perfectly. If you want something that no one else wants you’ve got to be willing to work your face off.
When I think about how to be successful it all starts here.
When you get to these levels of success you don’t even get a seat at the table without a sickening work ethic.
Success Tip #2: Patience
What good will all that work be if you aren’t willing to wait? I hate to admit it but I am a millennial. I see too many millennials (I include myself in this at times) that aren’t willing to wait.
When I think of how to be successful, you’ve got to be patient.
I sometimes forget that you’ve got to be patient. If something worthwhile can happen with only a few weeks, months, or even years of work then its probably not worth it.
These ultra successful people I’ve been discussing have all waited a significant amount of time to hit the point of “success”. As I think through all the people in my mind it has taken a minimum of 15 years for any one of them to hit that point.
When I take that timeline and I put it in the context of this blog its a little crazy. I’m approaching my first year anniversary of posting on a weekly basis and its taken a ton of work. To think I may only be 5% of the way there is a little crazy.
However, lets reverse that train of thought. What if I do put 20 years into this site? What could it turn into? While my results over the first year aren’t quite what I was expecting I realize I’m only at the tip of the iceberg.
You’ve got to always have that vision of your life 20 years down the road.
If I’m at the front end of my exponential curve and this thing really takes off it could lead to thousands of dollars in monthly income several years down the road.
The key is patience. If these individuals that I’ve met have taken 20 years to get where they are at then I’ve got to be willing to wait at least that long.
Success Tip #3: Focus
When I think about these people over the last several decades I think of them grinding it out, day after day, on their business.
They didn’t jump to another business or start something else. They stuck with it for a decade or two. Its rather remarkable to think about it. With everything else going on around them and they kept their head down and stuck with the task.
You want to know how to be successful? Have laser focus.
Success Tip #4: Luck
I’d be interested to ask each of these people how much of their success would they attribute to luck. I’m sure I’d get a whole range of answers from none to a reasonable amount.
I’m not trying to take anything away from anyone but, in my opinion, there is always some amount of luck to success. I guess you could think of it in a probabilistic fashion as well.
I think what it boils down to is that they people put in the work and were prepared for success. Yes they did get lucky. Maybe they got lucky in year 17. They wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get lucky without the first 16 years of work.
I’d say I’ve answered my question. Want to know how to be successful? Work crazy hard for a really long time with laser focus. Also, don’t forget to keep an eye out for a little luck here and there.
If you want to check out my definitive guide to setting and achieving goals, it may be a good place to start.