The eight little words that lead to success

February 16th, 2013

What leads to success?

Richard asked the question not once or a dozen times, he conducted 5,000 interviews over seven years! And having done this, he distilled the answer down to just eight key words that came up time and time again in conversations with successful people. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that there’s really nothing complicated about unlocking success…according to most successful people. It’s all about some straightforward but important ideas we can all understand.

Richard St. John - Source :


FOCUS – filmmaker Norman Jewison said “I think it all has to do with focusing yourself on one thing.” This bears thinking about. How many of us have distractions that get in our way, micro management concerns or unresolved nagging issues that ruin our focus and erode our effectiveness?

SERVE – Maybe some of us need a cause. Perhaps your greatest motivator is ‘doing good.’ Sherwin Nuland, professor of surgery at Yale, said “It was a privilege to serve as a doctor.” Would you be working more effectively towards success if you stripped away other motivators and uncovered ‘service’ as what really drives you? Some of us might be able to apply this in what we’re doing right now, for others it might require a change in career path.

PUSH – are you freewheeling, yet expecting success to come knocking when you’re only really running yourself at half pace? That’s seldom how success comes to us. Marine Scientist David Gallo said “Push yourself. Physically, mentally, you gotta push, push, push!” There’s that aspect of pushing, and then there’s breaking through self-imposed barriers, too. Actress Goldie Hawn said “I always had self-doubt. I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough. I didn’t think I’d make it.”

PASSION – I love this one. Freeman Thomas, famous as a designer for Daimler Chrysler, said he was ‘driven by his passion’. When we do what we do for love, not money, the money often follows. If you’re not truly passionate about what you’re doing, don’t expect success to come knocking any time soon.

WORK – You might expect Rupert Murdoch to talk about hard work, but there’s an interesting twist in the tail of what he has to say. “It’s all hard work, nothing comes easily, but I have a lot of fun.” I think that sometimes we separate the two and forget that hard work can also be great fun!

GOOD – Game developer Alex Garden said “To be successful at something, put your nose down in it and get damn good at it!” There’s no secret or magic, it’s just practise, practice practise. Don’t expect to reap rewards until you’re genuinely expert at what you’re doing. Success might not come to average performers, but remember, practise turns ‘average’ into ‘excellent.’ IDEAS – in a world where it often seems that everything has already been done…don’t believe it! There are still needs to be filled, products and services to fill those needs. Think laterally. Bill Gates said “I had an idea – founding the first microcomputer software company.” Seems obvious now, but at the time it was revolutionary.

PERSISTENCE – Are there ‘creative’ people and people who are not? I don’t think so. There’s no magic to creativity. Listen and observe. Be curious. Ask a lot of questions. And stay on it! Joe Kraus, the co-founder of Excite, said “Persistence is the number one reason for our success.”

Finally, a lovely little nugget of wisdom that Richard St. John shared was that we must persist through failure, and also through C.R.A.P. Pardon? That’s Criticism, Rejection, Assholes and Pressure!

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this little summary as much as I enjoyed what Richard St. John had to say about his experiences interviewing some of the world’s most successful people. Perhaps what I like most about his revelations is realising not only the simplicity of the thinking that fuels success, but the fact that when it comes down to it, pretty much all of us can work with this basic set of tools as we work our way towards our ultimate goal. There’s no magic formula, nothing to buy, and we can use these eight words to help us stay focused and enjoy the journey, too.

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