I recently read this blog entry http://lethain.com/entry/2009/jul/31/success-and-dancing-shoes/ and starting thinking on what success was REALLY about. The article had much truth to it, saying that one must position oneself amongst the right people, and of course must be willing to work hard, and there should be a sprinkle of luck. I started thinking how to model a path of success.
But honestly, I have a completely different model of the factors of success.
A key ingredient in the model of success is ‘the goal’.
What do I mean by ‘the goal?’
I mean that at some point, there needs to be an idea that can be realized as something concrete that provides real value to people (or businesses). There has to be a direction that is being moved in to create this value. If you want to be successful, you need to be associated (and possibly contributing to) the right goal.
A goal can be a new toy you are going to produce, a new internet startup based around a novel idea, or anything that essentially a group of people can use as a direction to move towards creating something of concrete value. Most of my examples will be business oriented, but this doesn’t have to be the case. All that matters is that there must be value produced.
First, you should ask yourself, is there anyone considered successful who has not been associated with a goal? I can’t think of any.
Now, once you accept that a goal has to exist, the question of ‘how do I become successful’ instead turns into something else. It becomes a matter of being associated with the right goals/directions/ideas, as well as potential goals/directions/ideas.
Everyone is part of many goals today - in fact, you should probably ask yourself ‘What goals am I pursuing?’ - one of them, if you are employed, is your employers goal of doing whatever it is the company is trying to accomplish.
The people who you surround yourself with are essentially your ‘pool’ of potential goals you can pursue. Maybe one of them is entrepreneurial, and has a goal of starting a company. Then you also have a potential to be in that company and pursue that goal.
However, the main thing you should realize is that you have your own goals! You can have an idea of something of value, and share that goal with others and pursue that goal. The important questions to ask oneself are “how can I do this better?”, or if a problem presents itself, realizing that solving that problem for yourself is also probably a problem for others, and it is a small step from solving a problem to creating a new goal of solving this problem on a larger basis.
Thus, success is about the intersection of a two things:
1. How well your defined goal provides concrete value to others
2. How well you and the people you surround yourself with can pursue that goal
The first is about measuring the usefulness of the goal - will people like this new toy? Will people use this internet service? This can be a very hard estimation, but you can improve and hone it over time with feedback.
The second is about how well you can solve the subproblems that creep up and get in the way of the greater goal. With a solid team of smarter, experienced, and well-tempered individuals, you will be able to handle these sub problems better. Some sub problems may be ‘how can I change the product to match the needs of what people are telling me they need/want?’, or ‘how can I tackle this technical challenge’ or ‘how can I get the next round of funding for our company?’
One must attach oneself to a goal, or create the goal and attach people to it. Success is merely the approach and carrying out of this goal.