What does it take to survive and succeed in today’s cut-throat times? What are the secret codes of excellence? Why is it that some people shine, while others in the same circumstances, fail? Is success the preserve of only the gifted amongst us, the more privileged, or those born with ‘better genes’? How do you prepare for success? Can you predict it?
While there’s no single, or simple, answer, one thing’s for sure. The road to success is paved with more than just good intention. And, thankfully, littered with the wisdom, commands and guidelines generously left behind by those who have travelled it successfully. Know where to look, be aware of where to dig, and you won’t be short of inspiration. Or ideas. To “go where no one’s gone, and leave a trail of excellence behind you”, in the words of success guru Rohin Sharma.
Introspection and self-analysis can lead to success, by triggering a desire to shake off the status-quo. It can happen when, for instance, you refuse to take defeat as your ‘defult state of existence’, as Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, opines in her book ‘Lean in’. For women who don’t want to settle for less, Sheryl’s argument, that women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers, strikes a ready chord. As does her advice, “Sit at the table, seek challenges, take risks and pursue your goals with gusto.”
More often than not, though, success begins with thinking positive. In his iconic book, ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’, Norman Vincent Peale (widely regarded the ‘Father of Positive Thinking’) shares the formula he arrived at through trial and error curtly, yet powerfully, to help millions overcome negative attitudes and defeatist thoughts, and make the best of life.
And, this can never be said enough, but, it definitely helps if you can have a quick peek into the minds of those who’ve been there and done that. A cheat sheet, so to speak, to get that head-start in life. In his book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, master writer Steven R. Covey gives us just that : 7 tested commandments - peppered by insights and anecdotes - that form a near-infallible guideline to those aiming to achieve their dreams without ditching their principles.
So you are a positive thinker. What next? Well, drive. In other words, self-motivation. After all, to quote Robin Sharma again, “The secret of passion is purpose.” This deep-seated, deeply human emotion can help us move mountains, and leave a meaningful impact in the world. Not surprisingly - as Daniel H. Pink explains in his paradigm-shattering book ‘Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’ – corporates and companies are spending top dollar on cracking this elusive ‘motivation code’.
While self-starters are certainly a blessed tribe, drive alone can only accomplish so much. Enter the power of interpersonal skills. It’s no co-incidence that the greatest changes in the world have been brought about by leaders who could communicate with style and tact, and had the unique power of touching lives by ‘influencing’ them. And, as you do so, you not only win followers, but friends, too. Nothing brings out the beauty of this truth more than Dale Carnegie’s landmark best-seller, “How to Win Friends And Influence People”. Carmine Gallo’s book, “Talk Like Ted” achieves the same, albeit differently, where the author provides a step-by-step primer of how to create, design and deliver a Ted-like presentation, the gold standard of public speaking.
And what of those who naturally shy away from it? What of the introverts? If you are one, rejoice. Misunderstood and not a little maligned, introverts, nevertheless, drive civilization forward with their genius (Albert Einstein, Chopin and Van Gogh were all introverts). It is important for introverts, though, to convert their thinking prowess to clear results by understanding themselves better and formulating a action plan that’s tailored to their specific condition, and to that end, Susan Cain’s book, ‘Quiet : The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’, remains an invaluable tool.
Still unsure? Well, ‘Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway’. That’s not just sane advice, it’s also the title of Susan Jeffers’ amazing book that teaches us to handle situations better by getting over our fears. And live the life we want by moving away from a place of pain, paralysis and depression to one of power, energy and enthusiasm.
Perhaps no sphere of activity puts the success gene to the test better than entrepreneurship. ‘Kurukshetra’-like, it baptises us through fire, before separating the men from the boys. Not surprisingly, the insights and lessons that successful entrepreneurs leave behind in their wake - like how to be nimble, innovative and self-reliant - make for hallowed sutras of success in other domains of life as well. If you don’t know one in real life, it will make good sense to pick up Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha’s inspirational and practical oeuvre, ‘The Start-up of You’.
While you are at it, don’t forget to turn the pages of two more exceptional works – ‘How To Become CEO’, by Jeffrey J Fox, and ‘Getting Things Done’, by David Allen. While the first is a level-headed look at qualities like leadership, vision, integrity and persistence, the latter is treasure trove of tips and tricks for stress-free performance, the first step towards enhanced efficiency and unlocking our creative potential.
The definition of success may have changed, but its essence hasn’t. At the end of the day, it’s about inculcating the gumption within one’s self of making better choices, and, perhaps more importantly, the patience of sticking with them. Put the two together, and they spell ‘Habit’. In his brilliant book, ‘The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change’, author Charles Duhigg gives us an insight into the world's top minds, companies and institutions, to underline the importance of right habits.
Once you’ve ingrained them into your sub-consciousness, success becomes something you do in your sleep. Sub-consciously. Much like the way you blink. And when that happens, the possibilities suddenly become endless. Awesome. Much like Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Blink’. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re violating Robin Sharma’s telling success tenet : “The best leaders are the most dedicated learners. Read great books daily. Investing in your self-development is the best investment you will ever make.”