The short PDF version
Check out the PDF first if the text below just seems too much at the moment!
By choosing to study success, you show that you are serious about your life and your ambitions.
While it is possible to do well without consciously understanding much about the principles enabling success, I think it is much easier to become successful if you do.
The most successful persons in the world — and by this I mean that they have accomplished extraordinary achievements and realized very ambitious goals — have a solid understanding of what they are doing right and they definitively plan for their success.
With that said, whatever you want to do with your life and however you want to do it, I hope that you find this guide interesting and helpful.
Welcome to this guide!
I think it is important to realize that our inner journeys are always greater than our own ideas and ambitions. Therefore no general principle will explain how you can optimally live your life. We can’t control our lives in perfect detail and how we will grow as humans is hard to foresee. We need a certain amount of humility for life.
That said, we can achieve greatness. Especially when it comes to personal, mundane ambitions and concrete goals there are many tried roads to walk. There are answers to your questions. Where you will go is up to you, but if are looking to become successful, this is a good walk through.
In this guide I have outlined general principles of success. My goal with this big and basic guide is to walk the readers through major concepts sufficient for a basic understanding of how to generate personal success, whatever it may be for you.
My aim is to keep it simple and direct. I have narrowed the text down over and over to get it as direct as possible. I recommend that you read through it in your own pace and reflect over the content.
What is NOT ESSENTIAL for success
There are some myths about great success. Some contain a grain of truth, some contain a grain of bullshit.
There are harmful stereotypes surrounding great success. The most stupid ones are stuff like “one needs to be selfish in order to pave the way for fortune”. Like, this is the 21st century, try googling social entrepreneur or something.
Below is a list of some of the common stuff people think is necessary for reaching success:
- High intelligence
- Original ideas
- Extraordinary creativity
- Good timing
- A professional education
These things are certainly not necessary. They can be very useful of course and they are common traits of moderately successful people’s stories. But they are not essential. Sometimes they can even make it harder, usually because the person presumes this stuff is more important than it is and therefore make faulty priorities.
Do you doubt that these points are non-essential? Well then, here are some arguments to prove my point.
- I bet that you can mention at least one famous person that made it big without being the brightest candle in the box.
- You know as well as I that not every successful economist or politician is creative or have original ideas.
- Presuming that you need good timing is just plain stupid. People like Warren Buffett who made good investments over and over for decades hardly had perfect timing all the time.
- Entrepreneurs often lack formal education or dropped out of college and still made it big, like Zuckerberg and Facebook.
We all need to start somewhere.
Networking is something often mentioned, but how many big-shots do you think Albert Einstein or Eminem knew from the start? Not to mention the women throughout history who constantly were neglected by their societies. And notice how some of items mentioned in the list, like good timing and education, are things that comes from outside yourself.
You don’t need to meet any fancy condition when starting out. Of course I can say that in order to become rich, you need to have some capital to invest, but that’s just bullshit.
External factors are simply variables in the same formulas. The underlying principles of success are about the inner workings of things. Success is about unlocking potential and enabling the transformation of our inner visions to something definite.
Now when we have taken a look on what not to focus on, let us get to the main point.
THE ELEMENTS OF SUCCESS
4. Taking action
What is success made of?
Success is a mixture of things, but some things are more critical than the others. These five elements make up what I think is critical for generating success — especially original success, as in accomplishing a new ambition.
A good way to go through the list is to focus on the elements of success in the order that I have listed them.
Success is a mixture of things, but when you see a successful person and analyze his journey it may seem like there is only one or two central principles necessary for success. It can also be the opposite; that it seems like it takes dozen of equally necessary things to reach success. I firmly believe that great success can be achieved through these five points alone.
The elements on my list have strong synergy, but they can also be divided into several separate imperatives that are powerful on their own; actions to make you great. However, every single one of these elements uphold a unique principle and each one of them help generate success by themselves. Let us study them in more detail.
The unspoken rule.
There is no way around it. If you want to create your own success, it requires that you put in some genuine work. Value is not created out of thin air. Getting rich because you gambled with e.g. stocks is called getting lucky. If you can manage your newfound wealth and make it grow however, that is part of being successful and that takes some work.
So you want to become successful? Before anyone else will recognize you, before you can even begin to work on your big dreams, you must recognize yourself.
The principle: You have to be true to yourself and know your value.
- Know your value
- Listen to your heart
- Don’t lie to yourself
Do what feels right for you. Walk your own paths and follow your dreams in your own way. Never lie to yourself about who you are and what you want. If you lie to yourself about what you want, you will not be able to advance and do what is necessary for your own good fortune. If you are displeased about what person you are, owe up to it. Acceptance must come before any significant change can be made.
Acknowledge yourself. As a guy named Apoorve Dubey put it: “The price tag you put on yourself decides your worth. Underestimating yourself will cost you dearly”. You need self esteem. It is also important to be happy with yourself when you eventually succeed. At some point you have to be content with what you have, if you are ever to experience serenity or happiness in this life. You can prepare for this by setting goals that motivate you. You should make sure that you at least think that your ambitions will make you happy or satisfied when you accomplish them.
Finally, think about your confidence. Where does it stem from? When do you experience it? Acknowledge your strong points so you can leverage them. This does not mean that you should only do things you are good at, it means that in everything you do, you can try to exploit your strong points. We all have different talents and we should not waste them. We need to develop new skills all the time, but why neglect what we already have? Believe in your inherent abilities.
Practical advice if you have trouble to recognize yourself: This part is quite hard to give really concrete advice on. It is your life, so it really is up to you to be true to yourself. But all progress you make here, will have a huge impact on your future and it will in truth be your own merit.
One thing that should ease your life and release more mental resources, is to learn what to let go of. Things like blame, labels and the need to always be right limit us and prevent us from growing . There are also more concrete factors that can have a negative impact on your life, such as infected relations and past traumas you have not dealt with. If these things ties you up, you must deal with them. If you can face your problems you can outgrow them.
If you have really weak self esteem it is something that will take a lot of work. Psychologists and therapists work with this for a living. Many books have been written on the topic. But it all comes down to your own thoughts in the end, so why not start there?
My very personal advice for you right now would be to think about your own life; the past, the present and the future and then just ask yourself how you feel about it. Then go study your family history. I have noticed that hearing my parents and relatives talk about older generations have made my struggles easier. Learning about the good and the bad of my ancestors have helped me clarify my own identity and self-worth.
Doing all the hard work required for success takes some motivation. This step is where you plan what you want to do. You need to define your ambitions by setting goals and finding out how much you want to achieve them. Your success is directly tied to your goals as well as your motivation for reaching those goals.
The principle: The car engine will take you towards your destination only as long as there is fuel in the tank.
The hunter is hungry. The artist is full — of inspiration. A kid only plays as long as it is fun. What drives you? Motivation is complex, but the actions to take are very straight forward.
- Set goals
- Commit to your goals
- Reward and motivate yourself continuously, especially when times are trying
- Prepare for setbacks
Pursuing success takes a lot of effort. Honestly, you are totally going to fail if you are not properly motivated. Nobody makes a serious effort without a good reason. Motivation is about fueling yourself before going anywhere, but it is also about setting a good goal and picking a destination based on how much fuel you have at your disposal.
When you have narrowed down what you really want, make sure you don’t set the bar too low. This will lead to you losing interest. Aim for something that will be really rewarding and then commit to your goals. If you are new to this, it means that you focus on your dreams and cut down on trivia.
It is important to motivate and reward yourself along the way too. Nobody wants to drive on fumes and everyone wants to get off the highway every once in a while. We often underestimate how hard something will be, not always, but often. If you both enjoy the journey and look forward to the next stop, you will get through to the end.
You will need some extra motivation from time to time. A car tank is refilled along the way of a longer journey, because sudden obstacles happen all the time, forcing us to take a re-route. If you live in Finland like me you also need to have some extra fuel when winter comes, because the tank can freeze if you have too little gas in it. Motivation is similar, because if you have more of it, it sustains itself better. Finnish winters are rarely super awesome, so we need extra motivation when the dark and cold hit us.
Sometimes you might be required to put your plans on ice altogether and just take care of yourself. A sudden illness, burnout, personal tragedy and so on can happen to anyone, even to Superman. It is not the end of the world.
People deal with calamities differently, but it could be a good idea to prepare yourself both mentally and practically for such a scenario. It can be easier to refocus on your goals when you eventually get better again if you have a contingency plan or two. You don’t have to lose sight of your goals just because life happens.
For example you can save some extra cash and decide on a person you can reach out to if something happens. You can prepare and plan for simple tasks you can do to advance towards your goals even when you are low on energy etc.
- Check out how to create a masterplan. You don’t need to create a masterplan, but the guide should nonetheless make you understand the principles of goal setting. You can also read this article on how to develop a basic action plan and get inspired.
- Come up with mini-rewards for yourself that are cheap and easily available — like your favorite candy or an extra hour on Netflix or something.
- Create a contingency plan for the scenario that things really go sideways while you are working on your goal and consider rewarding yourself for being so well prepared.
- Find podcasts, articles and videos on the subjects that interests you and enjoy them regularly in order to stay motivated.
In order to be successful, you must set your mind on it. Mindset is the key to many things. There are many definable mindsets which enables different ways to become more successful. If you have the perfect mentality, it is almost inevitable for you to reach success in the end. That is why a rich mind is one of the most valuable things you can posses. A rich mind is a healthy, useful and growing thing which can be applied for reaching success and wealth.
The principle: Everything begins in your head.
There is consensus among the majority of successful people. The very wealthy, elite athletes, coaches, mentors and so on, they all agree: Your attitude is extremely important. Your mindset set the limits for what you can achieve.
This is what you should do:
- Develop a positive attitude
- Start looking for the opportunities around you
- Stay open minded and be adaptable
- Work on your mindset actively
- Include the “take action now!” mindset into your life. (Link to an interview with Anthony Robbins on Youtube, explaining this mindset, touching on many important ideas.)
- When it comes to developing a positive mindset, learning how to see opportunities and how to handle difficulties and drawbacks and so on, there are many webpages, courses, coaches and books out there. Some are good, many are trash. How can you find references to the good ones? This very blog is a good place to include on your list.
- I would also recommend that you get some formal training, which usually requires that you pay for it. If you already know what you want to work with in order to be successful, look for this training in the field where you wish to make your success first. For example, if you are an online entrepreneur, a blogger or something like that, you can check out Yaro Starak´s mindset program
- In order to grow an open, adaptable mind, READ BOOKS. At least 50% of the time you spend reading should be on fiction or belles lettres, if you ask me.
- In order to grow an open, adaptable mind, stay on richyoungminds.com and pay special attention to the articles in the Growing stronger category first.
- You can always work on your attitude actively by focusing on the positive side of things. Maybe you could reserve some time exclusively for this.
4. Taking action
Creating success means doing things.
The principle: Life is finite. The best time to start being productive is now! The best time to learn is now!
- Do the most critical task right now! Get out of your comfort zone and take the initiative!
- Be fearless or be brave, but walk through the fire.
- Be decisive
- Overcome obstacles by whatever means necessary
- Educate yourself and go after what you need in order to get on with your dreams
So you know who you are and what you want. You are determined to learn how to be more positive, open minded and see opportunities. Now what? How in the world do you actually fulfill your dreams?
BY TAKING ACTION!
Taking action = getting stuff done. Taking action means doing something with your life. It means starting somewhere. If you don’t know where to start, the first step is to go look for answers.
Taking action is to do tasks of real significance and to make critical decisions, in order to make the rest of the work possible. And when you have started out, it means being decisive and actionable in every important step along the way.
The first thing you must do is to engage yourself. Step over the threshold, cross the line between your comfort zone and the world out there. People tend to follow the safest paths too often.
Do something instead of nothing, even if the sudden motion makes everything seem blurry and unfocused at first. Everything that is worth pursuing is challenging, but it is also fun and there is no way around it, so stay positive. Personally I like to be bold and explosive. My opinion is that it does not really matter how you get started though, as long as you move forward.
If you have no plan yet, this is what you should do: Find a process that works and then follow it. Follow the method of someone who have successfully done what you want to do. Study people you admire and try to find out which methods worked for them. Assert that the methods they used are valid for someone in your shoes as well. Then you may use them for yourself.
A remark on education: If you are to enter into a whole new field as a professional, you benefit from getting a formal education first. Methods are useless if you don’t understand the field at all. Young people, if you are lucky enough to attend a school, don´t waste the opportunity by neglecting it. Educate yourself, one way or the other.
Overcoming obstacles is a big part of the practical work of generating success. In general, you should be ready to solve problems by any (justifiable) means. There are no excuses. Not because there are no good reasons for your struggle, but because excuses are useless. Excuses are debilitating at worst and a luxury at best. They do not make us successful. If a task seems overwhelming, get creative.
If you get stuck and you can’t immediately spot a good reason, you must find out what you are doing wrong. If a complex task seems too straight forward, too easy, you have missed something. When you find out what it is, then you are finally starting to make real progress!
When you work for someone else or in a team, you usually need to follow given directions in order to keep the organization stable and output optimal. You work with external constraints. But when you are working on your dreams, you are your own boss! The sky is the limit. Anything is possible.
In your personal endeavors, if your progress is blocked by an obstacle of any kind, if your critical task is prevented from being executed, overcome it by whatever means necessary. If the standard approach don’t work at the moment, think outside the box. Burn the box if you have to. Go out of your way to break through. How many times do I have to say this?
Overcoming all agents of fear is the mindset part. If you are ambitious enough, you will most likely experience serious setbacks. Most successful people had serious setbacks. The more successful they are today, the more likely they are to have experienced backlashes and serious hardships. Do as they did; just get over it and carry on by taking action.
A key factor to win is to collect initial momentum. Embracing yourself in the rush of action can lead you through problems without you even realizing it! There will be less time for doubt and anxiety to cover you in its fog before you have went on to new things if you stay decisive and keep moving.
- Challenge yourself all the time. For example right now. E.g. do as many push ups as you can. Then do 10 more. See how that feels. If you can´t do push ups then do knee push ups or something. No excuses!
- Consider creating a morning ritual and waking up early.
- Try to make easily reversible decisions and plan recurring actions so you can execute them on autopilot. This conserves mental stamina and can help you stay decisive. I saw this advice advocated in an article by Tucker Hughes at entrepreneur.com.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from anyone. Offer something in return if you waste their time otherwise. Remember that asking someone for advice not is the same as following their advice though. You will listen to them and thank them for their input and consider their words, but you will decide what to do for yourself.
Success is achieved by having solid plans that can be followed from the beginning to the end and then working on them constantly. When everything else is on track, it comes down to your endurance, patience and consistency. Be consistent and work towards your goals regularly!
The principle: A constant flow of value turn into wealth in the long run.
- Use plans that are relatively easy to follow through on
- Work towards your goals regularly
- Evaluate your progress regularly and make changes to your plans if necessary
- Form habits
- Train your self-disciplin
The safest way to win is to strategize and plan ahead and then carefully and slowly work your way towards the end goal — to play the long game.
“When the game is serious, strategize before you play with tactics” – Jesper, who loves tactics
Now what was the principle again? A constant flow of value turn into wealth in the long run. If I for example follow a plan that allows me to constantly post interesting posts on this blog, everyone will realize that the value of the website must grow over time. Actually, if I play my cards well enough, the value should compound.
It is easy to go amiss here. What do I mean by interesting posts? You have to define what kind of value you want. If I just want to write what in my opinion is interesting quality content, all I have to do is write. But if I want anyone to read it too, I have to do something more.
Working on your plan consistently means to also evaluate it and occasionally reflect over what you are doing right an what you are doing wrong. You cannot work on your goals consistently if you don’t know what you are doing, right? You need to have a strategy.
Before you can master strategy however, you need to make sure that your mindset allows you to view things as processes. It is not wise to view all things as arbitrary. Your actions towards a specific goal should be linked together in a process, with a beginning and an end. Systematization follows this mindset: If we can divide a finite process back into well defined, separate steps, we have created a system that can be used by anyone, over and over again.
Part of the process-think is to not divide your actions into hits and fails. I do not need to view my projects as failures or successes. Why not just do your best and see how far you can go with it? I know that experience is educating, whether things turn out the way I thought they would or not.
You can facilitate success by developing good habits. Actually, good habits is a big part of becoming successful. Most of these habits should increase your own well-being. Make sure that you develop habits that make you feel good.
All of this requires some self-disciplin. I talk about training yourself. The stronger disciplin you exercise in your personal life, the easier it will be for you to stand your ground and to get things done right. It is possible to become successful without good self-disciplin, but it is not very likely, especially if your intention is to maintain your success. So train your self-disciplin. Your mindset should adress self-disciplin, there is much to learn. To a large extent it will come down to willpower, habits and patience.
Now finally, a comment about working too hard. Burning out or turning into a workaholic is a concern for many new entrepreneurs. Divide your work and set a comfortable pace when starting out. If I try to work 20 hours per day for two weeks, I am very likely to burn out and the end result will suffer, since productivity will heavily decrease as I tire out. If I instead work hard 8 hours for four weeks, it will take twice as long time to finish, but the end result will probably be a lot better. I will also be able to work another week and I can enjoy life without serious health issues.
- Use a calendar or some kind unless you have a perfect memory or very few different things you wish to keep track on. Using a calendar also builds self-discipline.
- Start building self-disciplin with the general, old-school pain and pleasure approach. Reward and punish yourself in small ways to condition your self-disciplin.
- Try logging your progress in some way, for example with a diary, weblog or something similar. Tip: Don´t try to log every single thing right away if you are more of a spontaneous, impulsive kind of person. Start out by logging major progress and important events.
- Study habits of successful people and what they did when they were in your place.
- Plan strategical breaks and maybe easier work-weeks into your schedule. You need to chill!
Terminology & theory: With the word “consistency” I refer to the coherent flow of a process resulting in preserved and added value. It refers to staying consistent, embracing continuous contexts and putting in regular work.
THE ELEMENTS COMPLETED
BONUS: A Secret
What is a good guide without a secret method? No for real, people often presume that there have to be one or several secrets to how people got so rich, fit, attractive or something similar. As you should understand now, what actually matters is understanding the basic principles, no matter what your field of interest is. However, as a thank you for reading The Big Basic Guide to Success up to this point, I will “reveal” a “hidden” element of success, instead of having you figuring it out for yourself. This method for creating success is not very visible on the surface, but it is effective.
If you are increasing the amount of good in this world you are creating value. If you are creating value you are arguable successful. So here is the principle: be friendly and give before you take, because what goes around comes around. Basic stuff man, basic stuff, but surprisingly often forgotten or underestimated in today’s digital world.
Here is the method: be genuinely helpful and friendly to the persons you want to interact with and offer them something. If they are famous, first be polite and accommodating to the gatekeepers of those persons, such as their managers, because you want to show them that you are not a freeloader or an asshole and you also need to prove that you are competent. You obviously need to prove yourself as a newcomer.
If you want something from the experts in your field, offer to help them out. Serve first, as Nathan Chan, founder of foundrmag.com put it. And if you cannot prove your competence very convincingly, you can at least be super nice! You know, if you are really friendly you can make an impression. If you act like a good guy, someone may help you just because they find you so likable.
You have now finished this guide. I hope you liked it.
Thank you for reading!
© Jesper Lindholm
All textual content and the in-text images is the intellectual property of Jesper Lindholm.