Category Archives: Success

The Story of Success

The Beginning
1: Know thyself.
2: Try everything.
3: What is your vision?
4: Confront your fears.
5: Start!

The Journey
6: You will stumble!
7: Try again.
8: Find your path.
9: Remember your vision.
10: Enjoy the scenery.

The Process
11: Make it a habit.
12: Find a partner.
13: Track your effort.
14: Never give up!

The Destination
15: Reach for understanding.
16: Mentor others.
17: There is no end.

“Know thyself” – what is your definition of success?

The phrase “know thyself” is one of the oldest bits of wisdom of all civilization. According to the Greek traveler and geographer Pausanias the precept “Nosce te ipsum” (Know thyself) was carved into the court of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and the phrasing has echoed throughout the ages.

But what does it mean to really “know thyself” and what does it mean for achieving success? I’m writing this basic note to discuss a question I am commonly asked: “Am I a success?” My answer (“Well, what do you define as success?”) seems so pedantic on the surface. Dull and plodding. But the truth is success is defined by only by the individual, and only knowledge of your own definition of “success” will ever reveal whether you have succeeded.

This isn’t to say that society can’t or doesn’t provide a measure of success…but society can only measure what you have defined. My definition of a “successful tennis match” with my son doesn’t include winning the game, (or even keeping track of the score!), anywhere near as much as it includes conversation and camaraderie, an elevated heart rate and enough water to drink, and not losing all the balls we brought along. It wouldn’t make sense to ask anyone else who’s watching, “Hey, are we having a successful tennis match?” Their criteria for success are not my criteria for success. However, depending on my success criteria, it might be very helpful to ask them, “Was that ball in or out?” or “How many calories have I burned?”

Know thyself.

Side notes:
There is an informative “know thyself”-themed website here: http://thyselfknow.com/ (yes, the word order is correct for this website!)

Moving at the speed of change

The below graphic describes two key variables (focus of influence and speed of feedback) important to identifying which techniques are most useful to achieve success.

Focus of Influence
You can improve what you can change. If you are shooting free throws in basketball, you can change your stance, your strength, your movements, but you cannot change the ball size, the height of the basket, or the distance you must stand from the rim. In other words, all improvements in your free-throw percentage result from purely internal changes. Conversely, car salesmen market to the public, have no control over the quality of their product and can improve sales only by improving the quality of their interactions with potential clients.

Rate of feedback
Your ability to change is also dependent on the rate of receiving feedback on the success of your current methods. The quicker you receive feedback, the quicker you can modify your methods. Your golfing instructor stands watching and quickly suggests changes to your grip, your swing, that you can then immediately try to implement. Conversely, it may take weeks to shows results from a reputable weight loss program, and take from months to years to get useful feedback about book sales or career choices.

Coming up next, an overview of the recomended success techniques for these four main categories of situations.