Work Smart Effectively

The hands of a blacksmith at work in the smithyWorking hard is hard work

Take a close look at any genuinely successful practitioner of anything worthwhile. Examine one who has been successful over time. You will find someone who has put in more than their fair share of hard work.

Whatever your goal, if you want to succeed in your chosen endeavour you should be aware of the need to work for that success. It doesn’t come easy. You must be prepared to put in the long hours and go the extra mile even when those around you are knocking off for the day.

Working hard is, well, hard work. There is no other way to describe it. You must have desire, discipline, energy and stamina. To be successful over time these things must be applied constantly.

This article is the eighth part in my Success Formula series. Make sure you check out part one here if you have not already read it.

The seventh element in my success formula is termed work.

Overnight success never lasts

I have noticed a growing tendency nowadays for people to desire, and even demand or expect, literal “overnight” success. This is an unrealistic and unsustainable approach. It is also a lazy approach. Even if someone does something spectacular or meaningful as a one-time event they often run out of steam. Once they find it takes continuous work to keep riding the wave, many people give up. The work required often gets hard because it gets difficult. They thought the one big effort would do the trick for them. Wrong. In my world true long-term success belongs to hard-working people.

We constantly see celebrities, rock stars or other media types in the various media channels. Because we are bombarded with these on a 24/7 basis we could think their success is the only success worth having. This leads to the “overnight” school of wishing and hoping for the one big break. It is likely true that all these people did indeed get a big break opportunity but dig deeper. If you do, you will find many who have put massive amounts of work into their careers.

We can’t all be famous celebrities, but including work in our own success formula will enable us to succeed in our goals.

Success means different things to different people because we are all unique. Diligent parents put in the hard yards to support their children. In-demand tradespeople ply their trade and grow their skills because that creates loyal customers. Successful students study hard so they pass their exams. Skillful writers write a lot. Painters paint. Athletes train. Singers sing. You get the idea. They may not get fame and fortune but, because they do the arduous work,  they do achieve success.

Hard work alone is not enough

Unfortunately, it is not enough just to work hard because life is more complicated than that. Hey, I don’t make the rules. I just follow them like everyone else. In fact, if work was enough it would be the only term in the formula. However, it isn’t the only term and for good reason.

I know of several people who failed despite their efforts. I’m sure you can come up with plenty of examples of hard-working people who came up short on their dreams. If you dig deeper, you’ll find those people did put in a lot of work but in the wrong areas. Perhaps they failed to include or work on the rest of the success formula elements? Did they keep solely to the areas they knew well at the expense of others? Could they have valued efficiency over effectiveness? There are many potential reasons for failure despite ample work.

Effective versus efficient

The terms efficient and effective are confused by many people because they often don’t know there is even a difference between the two. If they are different, which one should be considered first?

There is an enormous difference between the two terms.

Doing something more efficiently means doing it faster or perhaps with less materials and wastage. You get more for less.

The problem comes when you are becoming more efficient at the wrong things. You can put in a lot of work to make things more efficient. In this case, however, you will simply do more of the wrong things faster. You’ll get less for more.

The solution? You need to think in terms of effectiveness first. Something which is effective delivers the desired results and performance.

Get your systems and processes effective first, then work hard to make the effective systems more efficient.

Effectiveness should always come before efficiency.

Work smart and hard

“Work smart not hard,” I’m told but, for me, this is a lazy cop-out option. As the article title suggests, working smart, hard and effectively is key and, in my opinion, it’s the only way to go.

You must make sure you work hard on the right things to succeed. I wish you well on your journey.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

Why not check out the other Success Formula series posts?

Success And A Success Formula For You

Reason Provides Your Driving Force

What Goal Are You Aiming At?

Measure It Right To Succeed

Strategy And Why You Need One

Knowledge Is Essential

Action Required Now

Feedback Is The Fuel Of Champions

Action Required Now

take action spaceshuttleWhy is action so important?

Action stations. This is the part where the rubber hits the road.

When planning for success, you can and should spend some time developing your big you’re your goal and your measures of success. In addition, you should rightly develop your strategies and identify any knowledge gaps you might have. You should do all the good things listed in the success formula but without acting all your planning will count for nothing.

Action means putting those plans into motion by taking a first step. Design a measure and use it. Create a strategy and follow it. If your knowledge is lacking, then take a course or hire an expert. Action means starting to do what needs to be done.

This article is the seventh part in my Success Formula series. Make sure you check out part one here if you have not already read it.

The sixth element in my success formula is termed, as you might have already spotted, action.

Are you already a natural action taker?

If this seems obvious to you then I salute you. You are probably one of life’s natural action takers. There are, however, too many people who plan and plan and plan again. They dream and visualise constantly. People who simply wish and hope and cross their fingers. Too many who trust to external higher powers to manifest their dreams. Perhaps the universe might help you out, but you must at least meet it halfway. These people achieve little and they get bitter and twisted; blaming life for dealing them a bad hand. As a coach, I hear this sorry tale so often it can depress me if I let it.

Too many people get stuck on a metaphorical start-line. The get ready, they get set but when the starter’s gun goes off they never go. Life is uncertain of course. You may not win your race no matter how fast you run. You may however gain much of value on the journey whether you win or not. What is certain, however, is you will never be in a race at all unless you start off and go. No action equals inaction which equals no success.

Action moves you from A to B

Action is what gets you from point A and moves you toward point B.

The road to Hell is, as they say, paved with good intentions. All the good intentions in the world won’t get you what you want unless you start to turn those intentions into action.

I must warn you, actions take effort. They are a form of work. As you will see in the next article, work is a hard but necessary component of success.

The thing with action is that the more you do it the easier it gets. Like lifting weights, you get used to doing it. Your action taking muscles grow and strengthen. In time you can raise the weight and take greater action steps to increase your action physique. Soon you’ll wonder why it ever seemed difficult and others will gaze in wonder at your new dynamism.

When should you act?

In my experience, you should act as soon as practicable. Don’t leap in where even an angel would fear to tread. Carry out your planning and perform your due diligence but once you are ready then act quickly. Don’t let perfectionism kill your momentum.

General George S Patton once said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” I am not advocating you start violently executing anything, but his point is well made. Doing something good straight away is better than trying to make it perfect and never getting started.

If you like a roast dinner, there’s nothing better. It is delicious when piping hot and bursting with flavour fresh from the oven. However, it is far from pleasant when the veg is cold and the gravy has congealed. Actions are like this if you leave them too long. The moment has gone. The idea loses its appeal and the effort seems too great. If you do act now your heart won’t be in it. The moment has passed, and the ship has sailed.

You can always change tack

When you act and get moving, you can always change direction relatively easily once you are in motion. A boat won’t steer unless water is moving over its rudder surface. A parked car won’t change direction no matter how much you turn the steering wheel.

If you are pointing roughly where you want to go, you can make numerous adjustments to your course to reach your destination. That’s why action beats inaction every time.

No action is ever wasted

Take well-planned actions with a high chance of positive outcomes. Even if your actions led to less than ideal results there will always be something to gain from the experience.

You will always learn something when you act in some way or another. Action gives outcomes. You can compare outcomes to targets and adjust appropriately. This is feedback. Without action there is no feedback. I will cover feedback in the next article.

As a caveat, I don’t recommend being reckless or gung-ho but know this. Even if your chosen action proves ultimately terminal for you, rest assured someone else will learn from it. Someone had to eat the first mushroom or berry. Somebody had to pat the first lion on the head. One person had to pick up the first burning branch. You get the idea I’m sure.

Take no action and all you will learn about is lack of success.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

Why not check out the other Success Formula series posts?

Success And A Success Formula For You

Reason Provides Your Driving Force

What Goal Are You Aiming At?

Measure It Right To Succeed

Strategy And Why You Need One

Knowledge Is Essential

Work Smart Effectively

Feedback Is The Fuel Of Champions

Knowledge Is Essential

Cute guinea pig in glasses with a book gaining knowledge

 

Knowledge

In my experience, knowledge is essential to your plan for success, but you can have too much of a good thing.

Even if your success is all about gaining knowledge itself, for example getting a PhD or becoming a professor, you will need additional supporting knowledge to help you get there.

You really do need a plan and you need knowledge

For a predictable success outcome, you need a plan and that plan requires you have knowledge about your route to success and the mechanisms you’ll use to achieve it.

This article is the sixth part in my Success Formula series. Make sure you check out part one here if you have not already read it.

The fifth element in my success formula is, as you might have already known, termed knowledge.

Why knowledge?

Imagine trying to complete a complicated and intricate jigsaw puzzle. Now imagine trying to complete that puzzle with no box lid picture to help you. Go further still and imagine trying to complete that puzzle in the dark. Try to imagine doing all this wearing boxing gloves in a high wind with rain pelting down whilst surrounded by ravenous wolves.

Okay, perhaps I went a bit far there. My point is, whenever you try and accomplish something you have limited knowledge about it the road to achieving success can feel just like the jigsaw scenario above.

Knowledge scares away the wolves and shields you from the wind and rain. It allows your fingers to feel and move the pieces. Having knowledge is like having light to illuminate the darkness. Knowledge can help you create your own “box lid” guide and to direct your completion of your own jigsaw. Am I waxing a little too lyrical? I don’t think so, because the importance of having enough knowledge cannot be overestimated.

I’m not here to tell you how to gain the knowledge you need. That is up to you as an individual. You will have your preferred methods for learning the things you need to learn.

What I want to talk about is the amount of knowledge you might need to feel comfortable and a workable plan to establish what that amount might be.

So, how much knowledge do you need to have to feel confident when approaching a project?

How do you know what you don’t know?

This can of course be a real stumbling block. How do you know what you don’t know?

You can try to stumble along and find the knowledge gaps as you go. This can be a frustrating and dis-heartening way of working. You can play catch-up for a while but sooner or later you hit a real show-stopping knowledge gap. The gumption and passion you had for your project simply drains away. I have tried this approach and I don’t recommend it.

You can also try and analyse every element of your proposed journey in advance and see exactly what you need to cover. You can then learn everything you need to know before you start. The problem with this plan is you will never actually start anything because there will always be something to learn. It is the route of the perfectionist and perfection does not exist in any practical sense. I have tried this approach too and I don’t recommend it either. If I’m hones, I love learning and must force myself not to go down this rabbit hole. I have a tendency to try and learn everything about everything and my poor old brain simply isn’t up to the task.

 

What about dumb luck?

I can almost hear people screaming at me through the internet, “What about dumb luck? I know loads of stupid people, with no apparent knowledge of anything, who are successful through sheer dumb luck.” I’ll have plenty to say about luck in a later article but as far as I am concerned it does not exist.

It is true, some people do well by dint of making a series of seemingly random choices which led them to become, at least in other people’s eyes, successful. Bear in mind we often judge others by our own criteria and not theirs. Who are we to say who is stupid or not. There are many kinds of intelligence which we will never understand ourselves but that does not mean the other person does not apply that intelligence to their success. They may also have simply operated in a genuinely random fashion throughout their lives.

What cannot be disputed is that, for whatever reason, they did make a series of good choices. Perhaps they chose to be in certain key places at certain critical times and they also chose to embrace the opportunities which were then presented to them.  Because of their choices they became successful.

You could try the same approach. It may work well for you but, because you are you and not them, the odds are against it.

Find the big gaps and fill them in

Knowing too little in advance is obviously a problem and knowing everything in advance is impractical. The key is finding a happy medium. To hit the sweet spot, I do recommend a “find the big gaps and deal with them” method.

One excellent way of seeing the big gaps when planning is to map out as many of the higher levels of the project as you can reasonably do using the mission, strategy and tactics approach which I covered in article 5 – read or revisit “Strategy And Why You Need One” before proceeding. Putting in some time and effort at the start will more than repay you in terms of output and results.

Using this straightforward approach and will allow you to identify your mission, choose your best strategies then outline your favoured tactics. Are there any obvious weak points or significant knowledge gaps in either your strategies or tactics?

Here’s how the options pan out

Based on the scenario, context, timescale and budget, you can then choose to go one of several ways:

  • Fill in your knowledge gaps through study or experimentation and tackle the weak elements yourself. Assuming you have an aptitude and an interest this solution can work well. It takes most effort on your part. It is most likely the cheapest solution but will probably take the longest time to complete.
  • Learn just enough about the weak element topic to get yourself started then use expert assistance as and when required. This is a compromise solution. You can gain enough knowledge to help you understand and work successfully with your expert and you will also increase your skillset and knowledge as the project progresses. It takes less effort on your part. You will likely get a shorter delivery time, but the overall cost will probably rise.
  • Outsource the complete task element to a third party. This is the hands-off approach and takes least effort on your part. The upside is, it should be the quickest route. The downsides are you generally don’t know what they are up to and things can go wrong because of your complete lack of information. It can also be very expensive, and you will learn little for next time. You might even become tightly tied in with and reliant on that third party due to your lack of knowledge.

knowledge time cost grid

Complete your due diligence

These routes all have pros and cons associated with them so always complete due diligence before any major decision as you would normally do. How critical is the project or plan? How much time and money do you have available? How much do you like learning new skills? How good are you at learning new skills? These are all important questions you must consider.

Using an example from my own business life, I taught myself to use the Adobe Muse web design package sufficiently well, via several Lynda.com courses, to create some working sites. What I don’t know much about is clever design and, much as I’d like to, I don’t have the time to become adept at design. It was a knowledge gap however, so I went for the middle option and paid for templates and design elements from professional online Muse developers. It’s a great compromise for me. I have what I need, and I can still learn as I go along.

It’s a Goldilocks scenario where knowledge is concerned. Not too little and not too much. Aim for just right and you’ll do fine.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

Why not check out the other Success Formula series posts?

Success And A Success Formula For You

Reason Provides Your Driving Force

What Goal Are You Aiming At?

Measure It Right To Succeed

Strategy And Why You Need One

Action Required Now

Work Smart Effectively

Feedback Is The Fuel Of Champions

Strategy And Why You Need One

Chess. White board with chess figures on it. Plan of battle. Strategy.

Are you operating without a strategy or strategies? Are you operating on a “wing and a prayer” basis? There is a better way.

Do you have a clear idea about what the word strategy means and, more importantly, what it means to you? Is a strategy above tactics or is it below tactics and does it matter? Come to think of it, what the heck are tactics anyway? Don’t even mention mission statements.

This article is the fifth part in my Success Formula series. If you haven’t already read it why not check out the first article here?

The fourth element in my success formula is termed strategy.

Strategy defined

Let’s look at defining strategy, tactics and mission statements so you can begin to work more effectively in pursuit of your success goals. Many people associate complicated sounding ideas like strategies with faceless corporate entities. You however are not a faceless corporate entity. You are real warm-blooded human who is looking to succeed with life in general and in the various parts which make up your life, relationships and work.

For myself and my clients, the way I define all three terms is as follows:

  • Mission = Why you are doing something.
  • Strategy = What you are going to do to achieve that something
  • Tactics = How (+ when + where + who) you are going to achieve that something.

It looks simple and it really is simple. It is also powerful. In my experience, your strategies are the most crucial elements to get right.

Perhaps an example might help. Suppose you want to lose weight. You know all about great goal setting, so you select the positive and highly specific goal of losing 10 kg in three months. Great, that is now your mission.

If you decide to lose the weight by going to the gym, getting a personal trainer and starting a diet, then these three things have become your strategies for achieving your weight loss mission.

Selecting a gym, deciding on a weight-lifting program, finding and booking a personal trainer, getting new sports shoes and sorting out which specific diet to use are some of the many potential tactics you might use to achieve your three strategies.

So, you can have multiple strategies for one mission and multiple tactics for every strategy.

Why is strategy the important one?

In the weight loss example given above, the strategies you choose are critical to your success. Going to the gym has been a great strategy for many people over the years. If you are not a fan of the gym, however, then choosing the gym as one of your strategies will put you on the back foot straight away and you will almost certainly fail. Choose a weight loss strategy which will work for you. The tactics will then sort themselves out.

Just applying different and random tactics will not accomplish the mission.

Mission informs strategy. Strategy directs tactics. Strategy is vital.

Take the time to pick the best strategies for you because this will give you the best overall chance of success.

Nesting strategies

The next idea is one where people often get bogged down. Missions, strategies and tactics can all be nested. They can cascade from the top down. One person’s tactic will become someone else’s mission statement, depending on where they are in the organisation.

Here I will use an organisational example to illustrate this idea. Big Dream Industries develops a mission statement which states the organisation will be the, “Biggest dream manufacturer in the world.” The two strategies they choose to adopt are to buy up as many of their competitors as possible and double the output of every plant they currently own. Their tactics are to raise funding to buy competitors, start to invest in new equipment and make efficiency savings in existing plants.

All the above constitutes a top-level mission statement with top-level strategies and tactics. The tactic of raising funding to buy competitors would now be passed along to finance and development department and would in effect become their mission statement. They would then create strategies and tactics of their own to try and achieve their goal. The tactics they chose, for example wooing venture capitalists, would then become someone else’s mission statement, and so on and so forth.

cascading strategy diagram

Hopefully the diagram above helps make it sensible enough.

So what?

There is a very good reason why this nesting idea is important for you. You can start to design your mission, strategy and tactical plans on a modular basis with greater structural integrity right from the start, you can more easily review and identify weak areas and you can cope more confidently with setbacks.

Let’s look at an example of a setback and how you might deal with it.

You have set up your plans and goals carefully and hopefully you are continually monitoring the situation for any changes or issues. When things go off track in certain areas, as they inevitably will, the key factor is how you evaluate the disruption within the context of your top-level mission.

Three major social media (SM) platforms recently made substantial changes to their monetisation policies and algorithms: YouTube, Facebook & Instagram. Any of the major SM platforms can make changes and any can shut down completely in the future so let’s use a scenario like this for our example.

Suppose you have a business which relies heavily on lead and list generation to enable you to sell products to those leads you collect. One of the platforms you use is a popular SM platform, let’s call the SM platform FaceLinkInstaPinterTube or FLIPT for short. Over 30% of your leads come from FLIPT, but they have just gone belly up. You have invested a lot of time, effort and money into building up your FLIPT presence. How will you make up those missing leads? What are you going to do?

The power of strategy

Well, you could run around like a headless chicken screaming about how unfair life is. You could be crying about the imminent demise of your business. Or you could carefully examine your business mission breakdown. This would enable you to see the real impact and discover or design ways to improve the situation.

Your mission statement about world business domination is still intact. You had several strategies linked to this mission: Build an email list organically via blogging, build a FLIPT community and build communities on other SM platforms. You realise you have lost a complete lead collecting strategy; 30% of your lead generating capacity is gone. Your tactic for the remaining strategies has been to write some sporadic article posts on various blogs and reproduce your FLIPT method on several other SM platforms. It doesn’t look too good right now.

You have taken an uncomfortable hit in terms of lead loss but at least it is only 30%. Bear in mind, your competitors will also have been hit and hit hard by the collapse of FLIPT. What you do have right now is a clear insight into the structure of your business plan and the fact that it has an identical weakness built right into it. You really could lose it all if more platforms fold or change their business models. Your strategies are the issue.

You can now use this information to either beef up your existing strategies to make up the shortfall or add in several new strategies. Make some of the new strategies quick fix cash generators, and make some longer term strategies designed to make your business more robust and resistant to setbacks in the future.

Strategy summary

You really need to know why you are doing the thing you are doing so you then know what you are going to do to achieve that something which leads to how, when, where and with whom you are going to go about doing it all. In my experience, the “what you are going to do” or your strategy is the most important.

Remember, mission informs strategy. Strategy directs tactics. Strategy is vital.

Thinking in terms of nested and modular missions, strategies and tactics will give you and your plans huge flexibility and resilience.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

Keep an eye out for the rest of the series. Why not click on the “follow” button and subscribe to the blog to get a reminder?

Why not check out the other Success Formula series posts?

Success And A Success Formula For You

Reason Provides Your Driving Force

What Goal Are You Aiming At?

Measure It Right To Succeed

Knowledge Is Essential

Action Required Now

Work Smart Effectively

Feedback Is The Fuel Of Champions

Reason Provides Your Driving Force

reason provides your driving force

 

Why do you want to be successful?

What is it you are trying to achieve and why are you trying to achieve it? Without a powerful reason why, you will struggle to achieve anything of real value or lasting impact.

This article is the second part in my Success Formula series. Make sure you check out part one here if you have not already read it.

The first element in the formula is reason and I am going to encourage you to look at your reason for wanting success in the first place.

Well, why do you want to be successful?

Everything costs

It seems like an innocent enough question does it not? Almost a pointless question. I mean, really, who does not want success?

Everything in life takes energy. You cannot escape this fact. Whenever you do or think anything or engage in any interaction with the world around you, there is an exchange of energy involved.

You must take energy in to exchange for the bodily and mental essentials you need as a human and there is only so much to go around for the additional things you like to have in your lives.

Achieving success in any significant endeavour takes a lot of work. Achieving the type of comprehensive success most people seek in all areas of their lives, takes a huge amount of energy applied over time. You can do it, but you will need to make sacrifices. Focus your energy because it is limited and you must use it primarily for the essential elements you need to achieve your successful outcome.

You need reason fuel

Something must drive you toward your success but that means effort and effort costs energy. You need a fuel to give you energy and power that drive. A car for long without fuel, can it? Because you need sustenance, you cannot survive for long as a human without food or water, can you? Reason fuel is needed.

Your reason for achieving success is your fuel. Your reason must be compelling enough to power your ability to give up the nice to haves and, instead, expend your valuable energy on your success essentials. If your reason is not compelling enough your resolve will fizzle out and die. Your plan will fail.

The first step in planning for a successful outcome is to determine exactly why you are doing it in the first place.

Two types of driving force

There are two types of driver: Extrinsic and intrinsic.

External

External or extrinsic drivers, offering such rewards as money, fame or possessions, can be good drivers for some people but, as history has demonstrated time and again, even if they are achieved these things do not always provide the happiness or contentment which was sought. Many times, the external rewards do not prove healthy as drivers of success because the grass is always greener. Someone else always has more money, more fame or more possessions so there is no real end to it. Even if they do relatively well, compared to others, these externally driven types eventually burn out and give up. They often feel discontented and bitter which means they sometimes ruin their health and emotional lives. Life is too short to waste.

Internal

Internal or intrinsic rewards tend to be far more powerful and effective drivers for success because they are the real deal. An intrinsic driver might be as simple as feeling personally satisfied for doing a task well regardless of any thanks or monetary gain. In my experience, the most powerful intrinsic drivers are those which involve achieving success so other people benefit.

Perhaps an example might help clarify things further.

Consider which of the following two success drivers might make a middle aged, overweight and out of condition businessman start to eat a healthy diet, get fit again and then stay fit for as long as possible.

Driver 1: He wants to look good on the beach, impress others and fit into more stylish business clothing to help his career?

Driver 2: He wants to be able to play more sports and games with his children and stay healthy to help provide for them and help them as they grow toward their own middle age.

Which option would be most effective for him? Which option would drive you most effectively?

Go inside for the best fuel

The cost of gaining some extrinsic rewards is high. If you’re driven by such extrinsic rewards you must dig deeper.  Find those all important intrinsic reasons for wanting your success because you’ll give yourself the best chance of finding it.

If you would like to dig deeper into what drives people, you might like to try the following books:

“Start with Why” by Simon Sinek.

“Drive” by Daniel H. Pink

I can recommend them both.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

Keep an eye out for the rest of the series.Why not click on the “follow” button and subscribe to the blog to get a reminder?

Why not check out the other Success Formula series posts?

Success And A Success Formula For You

What Goal Are You Aiming At?

Measure It Right To Succeed

Strategy And Why You Need One

Knowledge Is Essential

Action Required Now

Work Smart Effectively

Feedback Is The Fuel Of Champions

Success And A Sure Fire Formula

Success and the success formula - guy at a blackboard with a formula

 

I have a success formula which works but you probably won’t like it. It works almost every time it is carefully followed. Most people hate it simply because there are no short-cuts.

My claim is totally true by the way, I really do have a success formula and, what’s more, I’m going to give my  formula to you today for free at the end of this article.

Before we look at the formula, I’m going to look at the concept of success itself and bust a few myths about success and its opposite number, failure.

What is success?

Success means different things to different people. We know this is true. Success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose or the good outcome of an undertaking.

For example, one person may see climbing Everest as their personal success. Another person might see walking unaided after a major accident as equally important. Yet another may see acquiring the last china plate in a limited edition set as their personal peak achievment.

Is one occurrence or expression of success better than another? No, not at all. It is what it is and is equal for all, am I right? Maybe.

Success and failure are only relative and very subjective

Success and failure are relative terms? They are relative to a baseline measure or target. To say someone is successful means comparing what they have or have achieved against a set target then deciding whether they are equal to or above that target. Below the target means failure.

In the absence of a target or baseline everything you do simply represents data. Labelling or classifying statements are only brought into existence and given meaning when that data is measured and contrasted in some way.

How anyone else thinks or feels about someone else’s success or failure depend on their beliefs, perceptions and values. These are also relative terms based on variable benchmarks. Life is a very subjective experience indeed.

Setting the right benchmark for yourself is the key

Activities we undertake are judged against some criteria to ascertain whether the activity succeeds or fails. This is a key point to understand. Success and failure are subjective. One person’s failure could be another’s success. Criteria are set internally, and we measure ourselves against the target. The criteria can also be set externally by other people or situations and we are judged accordingly. Can we trust these criteria to be fair or even accurate? How are these criteria arrived at?

When you agree to or set criteria for yourself, you will have full control over what triggers a label of success or failure. Use your options wisely. Set criteria which have genuine meaning and value for you.

Some criteria are set by society at large and based on years of collective knowledge as to what is good or bad. These are generally called laws and although they are still subjective the authorities do prefer you adhere to them.

We cannot escape these pesky judgements

Rightly or wrongly, we set criteria and criteria are set for us all the time. We cannot avoid being measured and judged against these criteria. We are either above the mark or below it. Success or failure.

How do we know which side we are on? The feedback we get from our internal processes and the world at large, informs us if we have succeeded or failed.

If we are continually rewarded for our successes we become conditioned to seek more of it. You can, however, have too much of a good thing. If all we knew in life was endless success, there would be no need for articles like this. If there is no darkness there can be no light, can there? Same with this. Continual victories would pall after a while as there would be no failure to compare it with. It might be nice to experience it for a while of course.

Let’s discuss the dread spectre of failure

Failure is the flip-side of success. Failure is a taboo subject because failure is bad. Winning is wonderful, but failure is to be avoided at all costs. I have even been told by, certain managers and bosses over the years, “Failure is not an option.” I hate to bear some shocking news for them but, like it or not, failure is most certainly an option.

Failure happens all the time. Small failures, big failures and even catastrophic terminal failures happen. It is an inescapable fact of everyone’s life. Life is an inherently risky undertaking. A life lived without risk is a poor sort of life. If you never try anything you will never succeed at anything. Remember that failure is a relative term like success. Failing means your target criterion aren’t being met.

How we react to and respond to our failures and successes is what’s important.

Learning from feedback is the key to transforming failure into your biggest ally.

Not learning from feedback is what I consider to be real failure.

A challenge for you

As an interesting and powerful thought experiment, I offer you the challenge of asking yourself two simple but deep questions:  “What does success mean to me?” and “What does failure mean to me?” Take some time over these. This thought experiment demands considered and honest answers. The results are surprising.

Here at last is a free sure-fire success formula just for you.

A free sure-fire success formula? Am I insane?

“Why would you give away a surefire success formula?” I hear you cry. “Won’t everyone muscle in on your territory once they have the secret?”

No is the answer. I’m on safe ground here because there is always  a lot of room for others to succeed. Some people will be successful and happy in their lives, but the fact is most people will not be successful. People will respond in many ways to this lack of success. Some people will not really care one way or another. Many people will chase one type of success and find it was not what they really wanted or needed. Other people will keep trying for success anyway and simply enjoy the adventure. Too many people will try then fail then blame others for their lack of success and live lives full of anger, bitterness and regret. Unfortunately, there are more failure versions than success versions. There are no real guarantees in life.

Why did I create this success formula post and the subsequent series?

To be absolutely clear and open with you, this post was initially meant to be somewhat satirical. A tongue-in-cheek swipe at the “get rich quick” brigade and our increasing desire as a population to want to cut corners and take the easy option. That was my intention when I began to write it, but things changed a little.

However, after I kicked the idea around with a few friends and, once we got talking more seriously about it, the idea took on a whole new life and perspective. We all agreed that most people today are looking for shortcuts to success and easy fixes for their problems. Life is not like this. Real and lasting success in life takes effort and time. All your effort over your whole lifetime in fact.

Based on this I felt there was a need for a reality check and a reminder of some old-fashioned values which will lead you to success. I decided to make a more thoughtful guide to a proven process of success and as a result a whole slew of articles will follow this one. I’d love to hear your comments and stories of your own successes. Do you have your own sure-fire success formula?

What is going wrong?

Some people have concerns when they first learn of such a formula. The overall amount of work required overwhelms them. Some people have no plan at all and merely hope for success to arrive by itself. Many people already know the formula or one very much like it. They may have tried and failed already. Many people give up their trial too soon. They lack the necessary elements needed to achieve a good result in one or more or even all of factors in the equation, but they are either unwilling or unable to address the deficit. I do not judge people of course, I merely speak from experience. I have my own life to lead and, whilst I can consider other people’s perspectives, the only one I can be truly confident and honest about is my own.

We all have many options in our lives and a great many paths we could follow. Two great question to ask yourself are: “Which path am I going to follow?” and “Where do I stand on my chosen path right now?”

The formula

Here then is my formula for success. 14 named factors plus the mysterious factor X.

Revel in its glory for a minute or two then I will explain a little further.

Success = Reason + Goal + Measure + Strategy + Knowledge + Action + Work + Feedback + Focus + Support + Attitude + Belief + Patience + Grit + Factor X

Now, I said I had A formula for success not THE formula. There are others out there, of course. Perhaps there are in fact no genuine formulae at all? Who knows? This one might not work for you at all – I offered no guarantees. It is, however, correct for me, which is what ultimately counts.

An overview of the success formula factors

Reason

You need a big why as fuel for your journey. Something intrinsic rather than extrinsic works best.

Goal

You need a target to aim at. How will you know you have achieved success if you don’t know what you’re aiming at?

Measure

Take care to check progress by measuring but make sure you are measuring the right things.

Strategy

You need at least one strategy. You can then use the best tactics to achieve your strategy and get to your desired goal.

Knowledge

You of course need knowledge but can you have too much knowledge? Yes you can and it can lead to delays whilst you build it up. You have to know when to stop and take some action.

Action

Speaking of which this is where the rubber meets the road. It is what turns mere plans into tangible outcomes. Action is where the magic happens.

Work

Achieving anything of real value takes work. Work is the payment for success.

Feedback

Once you take action you can compare what happens to an ideal scenario. This is feedback and feedback is like oxygen for successful people.

Focus

Being able to focus and knowing when to focus are key skills. When to relax, when to pay attention and when to focus are all inter-linked competencies.

Support

You will struggle to operate in a vacuum. We have support available all around us yet we often don’t see it or reject it through fear of appearing weak. We all need support so knowing when and how to get it is critical.

Attitude

You can call this factor mindset if you like. This is crucial as the wrong attitude or mindset can undo any other good work you have out it. The right attitude or mindset can overcome a number of limitations and boost your chances of achieving success.

Belief

Believing in your goal is vital but I believe self-belief and confidence is actually far more important to get the job done.

Patience

You must have the patience keep on keeping on without taking shortcuts or giving up through boredom. Success takes as long as it takes to achieve so patience can definitely be a virtue.

Grit

This refers to your ability to move forward with steely determination and overcome  your obstacles despite sometimes feeling down and out. The tenacity and doggedness to stick to your purpose through thick and thin is what will get you to your endpoint. Resilience and “bounce-back-ability” are also crucial.

Factor X

This is whatever you need it to be to get the job done. It is your formula so make it yours by adding one or more factors which will help you succeed.

Will the formula work for you?

Yes, I do believe the formula, and the success factors it contains, will give you a solid foundation on which to build and achieve your success. These success elements are battle-proven. Tested and refined over the ages means they are reliable and work. Many successful people have followed just such a formula because it works and they knew it would work. I have even included the mystery term Factor X which you can use to include any other element or elements to make your formula special to you. For me, the term Factor X represents fun. I maximise fun in my life because nothing is a true success for me without some built-in fun.

Over to you

I’ve given you the success formula. Can you make it work? The formula is difficult to follow through to your success. Follow it through and your well-deserved success will be the right success for you.

As I mentioned earlier, I am planning to run a series of articles to usefully expand on the various terms in the formula and why I have deliberately chosen not to include some terms which other people feel are essential. I hope you will enjoy them and gain some benefit from them.

I hope you enjoyed this first article in the series and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

Why not check out the other Success Formula series posts?

Reason Provides Your Driving Force

What Goal Are You Aiming At?

Measure It Right To Succeed

Strategy And Why You Need One

Knowledge Is Essential

Action Required Now

Work Smart Effectively

Feedback Is The Fuel Of Champions