I saw Richard St. John present a talk on his new book: 8 to be Great: The 8 traits successful people have in common. He interviewed hundreds of successful people to find out what they all had in common (spoiler alert: I’m going to tell you what they are). He distilled the interviews down into various qualities these people (who include Warren Buffet and Bill Gates) and figured out what they all had in common. He discovered that they all had 1) passion, 2) They had fun working and spent a long time at it; 3) They had the ability to focus on just one thing; 4) They had the ability to push themselves harder; 5) They had great ideas; 6) They got good at what they did through constant improvement; 7) They all believed in the idea of service; and 8) They persisted, even in the face of failure.
I believe Richard has done his homework and has a lot to tell us about how to be successful. I have to quibble with his notion of success though. He takes it for granted that these people are successful, yet he never defines what he means by success which I felt was a bit odd. His subjects are all well off and in some cases, ridiculously so, and they are all good at what they do but it’s a bit of stretch to attribute success to them without saying what he means by success. Richard believes that it’s okay to get out of balance, to work long hours, to sacrifice time with family and friends, even skipping the gym all in the name of being successful. That’s not my definition of success. It sounds more like being a workaholic in my books but then one of my definitions of success is to lead a balanced life.
So what is success? I believe that we all succeed on our own terms and it’s key for each of us to be able to articulate our conditions of success. How else will we know when we have succeeded? After all, using Bill Gates as a measuring stick for success is bound to make us all feel depressed. One way to measure success is to set goals, both short and long term so we know what we are shooting for and we know when we’ve arrived. We can certainly take a page from Richard’s book to help us on our way but why not measure success on our own terms?
By the way, I think there are a couple elements key to success that Richard ignored, maybe because they are not identified as traits. Luck and timing are just as important to you as they are to the multitudes interviewed by Richard St. John. After all, how successful would Bill Gates be if he founded Microsoft in today’s business environment? Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Having good luck is really a matter of doing the groundwork and keeping your eyes open. Timing is a little more ephemeral but it requires perspective and a bit of strategy to make it work. Luck and timing can give you a leg up the ladder. May luck be with you and your timing be right!