Evidence-based research is clear. There are a few keys to success.
To keep this post short, I’m going to get right to them.
First, a little groundwork. I will begin by suggesting that your life is a project — if you choose to be intentional about it. I’m not suggesting it has to be hard, too much like work, or anything else. It is what you make of it. However, any conversation about how to be successful in life will necessarily require directed thought and actions that might not be convenient or likely.
1. Clarity of purpose.
Several organizations regularly gather and share data about large project successes and failures. The two most common explanations that turn up every year are poor clarity about the actual goals to be achieved and poor communication. In the final analysis, both are symptoms of managers simply not knowing what outcomes they’re trying to produce and failing to share what is known across the project stakeholder group so everyone can and will pull for the same outcome.
Key Takeaway: Inevitably, if you are to be successful, if you are to assess yourself as a success at some point in the future, you will want to define success for yourself. Too often, we’re trapped in other people’s narratives about the definition of success, and it is impossible to succeed in such a comparison. I have found that the greatest satisfaction comes from being clear about my own goals, working hard to achieve them, and seeing progress toward my own goals on my own terms. I’m not suggesting going it alone or being antisocial, simply being clear about what we want and taking meaningful actions toward that outcome.
2. A success mindset.
Henry Ford said it well, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Key Takeaway: Mindset is malleable. Personality and belief are modifiable. After all, they are just habits of behavior and thought. A new habit can replace any habit. The science of neuroplasticity is clear. I can show you how.
3. A workable plan.
If you’ve ever cooked something new in the kitchen and used a recipe, consider that that recipe is, in fact, a project plan. Something as simple as cooking a single dish requires a great deal of planning, organization, and coordination. Everything of consequence in life is far more complicated than cooking a single dish in the kitchen. Nonetheless, how many project plans do most people use in their personal life over a full lifetime?
Key Takeaway: As a professional project manager trained in the science of innovation — doing new things — I have seen firsthand and perfected the art of creating simple, actionable plans that anyone can use to do anything. Many people overplan or spend so much time planning that they never get to execution. These are preventable mistakes. Success plans are quick and easy to make.
4. Productive relationships and teamwork.
In the first bullet above, the communication problem points to the fact that other people are critical to any initiative bigger than preparing a meal or brushing our teeth. This may sound glib. However, consider what it took to get your ingredients to your kitchen or that toothpaste to your sink. You’ll quickly see that it took a large number of highly coordinated people to enable you to prepare that meal and clean those teeth. No discussion about how to be successful in life could take place without considering the people element. I’m amazed by the number of people I’ve met in my career who did everything in their power to eliminate, ignore, or avoid the people element. I did it myself for four decades — it didn’t work.
Key Takeaway: Building great relationships and high-performing teams is another science and art that is easily learned. Many professional schools teach these, yet most people will never get the training — because they don’t go to those schools. Many people will never even know how close satisfying, productive relationships and teamwork actually were. This is a regrettable disappointment. However, it’s easily remedied by choosing to build great relationships and high-performing teams, getting educated about how to do so, and then doing it. Trust me: it’s not rocket science.
An effort is required to do anything. Great results will require great effort over a long time. Working on it daily is the easiest way to create a habit, keep progress without distractions, and keep the dream alive. Some “modern” management approaches use this practice because it works.
Key Takeaway: Start. Often, the hardest part of any journey or initiative is just getting started. So start. On their death beds, few people regret the actions they took. Quite the contrary, people regret the things they never started.
Most highly successful people share somewhere in their biography that luck played a part in their success. Thankfully, luck arrives when we’re prepared.
Key Takeaway: Focus on 1-5 above, and the luck part will take care of itself!
Feedback About “How to be Successful in Life”
Have you had great success where one or more of the above wasn’t present? If so, comment below and share your story about how to be successful without them. I’d love to hear your point of view.