The Not-So-Sexy Formula for Success
Joel Eschenbach • March 04, 2017
OK, let's start by stating the obvious. I'm no expert. In fact, its tough for me to stick with anything long enough to hit the Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000 hours" that it takes to be an expert. But, I've worked hard at changing and growing in that area and I've spent countless hours across the table from business owners, ministry leaders, and entrepreneurs discussing how to bring ideas and initiatives to life... and keep them alive.
That's where this post comes from. As a small business owner and someone with a lot of random ideas that keep me distracted, it helps to remind myself of what it takes to be successful and achieve a goal. So, here's my commentary on an age-old formula for success. The formula isn't glamorous or sexy at first glance, but it's true. It can keep you focused when what you've set out to do is pulling you in a thousand directions, you're bored, or you feel like it's taking way too long. Here we go...
If you're like me, you've heard this word a thousand times. So much so that it might have lost it's effectiveness. We don't usually think of vision in the literal sense when we use it in this context, but what if we did? We only know where we're going by what we see ahead. An interesting thing about our vision is that we can really only look forward (and a little the right or left... even though mom used to say she had eyes in the back of her head). Looking forward is imperative to knowing where you are going both literally and figuratively.
The next steps in the success formula will be wasted effort if you don't take the time to think about where you want to end up. Where you think you want to go vs. where you'll actually end up may change over time, but you have to start with a vision... Looking forward.
What is it you want to accomplish? In how long? How will you start?
2. HARD WORK
Good ole’ hard work! My kids think it’s a four-letter word, but so did I when my dad would preach it to me constantly. It's the key to success that's right in front of our faces — which is why it sits right in the middle of the formula. We all know the importance of hard work, but it's easy to get comfortable with where we are or to hope that some magic idea will come along to save us from it.
How many people have you known that constantly complain about their jobs and about how hard they work? We've all done our share of complaining too and have a love/hate relationship with work. No matter what you do, it's fulfilling to work hard and see the "fruits of your labor". But there's a reason the word "hard" is tagged on the front and it's what makes it easy to lose hope when the ground keeps producing figurative thorns and thistles.
People come to our company with ideas all the time and want us to build a website for them. The first thing I ask them is something along the lines of... "Have you started, written, built, created, tested, or developed that idea into anything yet?" In other words, have you done the hard work? Here's a small example... A few months back, we had a client ask us to add a blog to their website. We responded with a resounding yes, but asked them to send us a few blog posts first. They told us to go ahead and create the blog and that they'd add posts later. So, we added the empty blog to the site and quickly got a response to take the blog down immediately because it was empty... Six months later, the blog is still empty! I'm not making fun of that client as much as using it as an example about our ideas. We all have them, but when it comes down to actually doing the work, the ideas quickly fade away.
Hard work is much easier when done for a short period of time. It's working hard over the long haul that makes all the difference...
This is the least glamorous step of all. Vision is exciting and sexy, and even hard work can look good from the outside for a little while, but when you do the same thing for a LONG TIME, it can lose it's luster. I recently heard Dave Ramsey say something along these lines...
"No matter what business you're in, if you do it well for long enough, you'll outlast the majority of your competition."- Dave Ramsey
We live in an age of the so-called "overnight success". We love the stories about Facebook and Twitter and the latest app that just got bought for millions. But we don't really like to hear about how long it has taken most successful people to be successful.
Statistically we aren't very good at sticking with things. It's the reason we can't stick to our New Year's resolutions or see an idea though to completion. We get bored in the "messy middle" of our dreams and tend to bail just when it's most important to stay. Now don't get me wrong, I've done my fair share of quitting and there's a time and place to let something go, but if you want to succeed in particular area, you have to stay with it. I've learned this the hard way more than once!
An invaluable tool for me to stick with my vision and goals over the long haul has been group accountability and encouragement. For years, I've been a part of a group of small business owners called EDGE. This group meets bi-weekly to challenge and encourage one another. I can't tell you how important my EDGE group has been to my success and to the success of our business. You've got to surround yourself with people that listen to your struggles and encourage you to keep moving forward.
4. THE X-FACTOR
The X-Factor is what determines how successful you actually are or if you're successful at all. Because sometimes we can do everything right and still not be "successful". Other times, things just seem be in our favor almost in spite of us. You could have the right product or idea at the wrong time or get discovered right away and bypass the time step. There are a thousand factors that ultimately contribute to success that are out of our control. These things are impossible to predict, but have to be factored into any truthful and realistic equation for success.
I love the Serenity Prayer popularized by AA as a reminder of our responsibility to what's beyond our control...
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference."
Let's talk about success. At the risk of sounding cliche, success is what you want it to be. It's important to define what success should look like back in the vision stage. Are you trying to reach a financial goal? Are you wanting your business to succeed so you can have more time with family? Are you trying to reach certain people with a message? These things are vital to knowing if your vision and hard work were "successful".
What about failure? Sometimes failure can actually be a form of success. When we spend years working on something and it "fails", it can feel like a loss. But many times that loss can teach us more about ourselves and what's important than any "success" could ever dream of. This is obviously not what we want, but it can be the necessary suffering that we need to refine us and push us to the next level of maturity.
I'll end with a quote from Jesus in the book of Luke where he's talking to a crowd about the cost (hard work) of following him. I love the practical wisdom here that can apply to all aspects of life but especially to starting something new and giving your all to it...
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’”