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We desire success almost as much as we need to breathe. From the moment we are born we want to do more, get more, be more. While we may have a mental picture of success as striving hard toward perfection, in truth it is more natural.
Sometimes the urge for more is drummed out of us by upbringing or culture, so you may have felt compelled to lower your expectations and settle for a less extraordinary life.
Success can be described as the courage to let out the potent dreams and potentialities already in us, simply to give them air. Most people don't do this because it seems dangerous, it is not routine. Yet those who have gone this way do see it simply as the normal path of life. It feels more like home, a place that should be everyone's experience.
Only you will know whether you have achieved your aims in life. Some people spend their life climbing up a ladder, to paraphrase Joseph Campbell, only to find it was up against the wrong wall. This is why the term authentic is used: doing something or becoming something that expresses your full personality and abilities in the most noble way.
Success is not an event or a result in isolation, but an expression of the best that is within you. The world provides endless possibilities for making it more efficient, more humane, more beautiful. It is up to you to find your niche.
Real achievement is not concerned with winning for the sake of it. As Timothy Gallwey puts it:
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"Winning is overcoming obstacles to reach a goal, but the value in winning is only as great as the value of the goal reached."
You need to make a distinction between a compulsion to succeed for the sake of winning, and the desire for enduring achievements that will enrich your life and the lives of others. Authentic and lasting success utilizes the resources of the world to the greatest effect and with the minimum of waste.
Characteristics of successful people
What makes a person successful? What makes them motivated, prosperous, a great leader? The following is only a brief and partial list, but it may whet your appetite to discover for yourself some of the principles of success.
Optimism is power. This is a secret discovered by all who succeed against great odds. Nelson Mandela, Ernest Shackleton, Eleanor Roosevelt—all admitted that what got them through tough times was an ability to focus on the positive. They understood what Claude Bristol called "the magic of believing." Yet great leaders also have an unusual ability to face up to stark reality, so creating a single powerful attribute: tough-minded optimism.
Optimistic people tend to succeed not simply because they believe that everything will turn out right, but because the expectation of success makes them work harder. If you expect little, you will not be motivated even to try.
A definite aim, purpose, or vision
Success requires a concentration of effort. Most people disperse their energies over too many things and so fail to be outstanding in anything. In the words of Orison Swett Marden:
"The world does not demand that you be a lawyer, minister, doctor, farmer, scientist, or merchant; it does not dictate what you shall do, but it does require that you be a master in whatever you undertake."
So to be successful, you must have higher aims and goals and doggedly pursue their realization.
Willingness to work
Successful people are willing to engage in drudgery in the cause of something marvelous. The greater part of genius is the years of effort invested to solve a problem or find the perfect expression of an idea. With hard work you acquire knowledge about yourself that idleness never reveals.
A law of success is that, once first achieved, it can create a momentum that makes it easier to sustain. As the saying goes, "Nothing succeeds like success."
Enduring success is built on discipline, an appreciation that you must give yourself orders and obey them. Like compound interest, this subject may be boring, but its results in the long term can be spectacular.
Great achievers know that while the universe is built by atoms, success is built by minutes; they are masters when it comes to their use of time.
An integrated mind
Successful people have a good relationship with their unconscious or subconscious mind. They trust their intuition, and because intuitions are usually right, they seem to enjoy more luck than others. They have discovered one of the great success secrets: When trusted to do so, the nonrational mind solves problems and creates solutions.
Look into the habits of the successful and you will find that they are usually great readers. Many of the leaders and authors covered here [in this book] attribute the turning point in their lives to picking up a certain book. If you can read about the accomplishments of those you admire, you cannot help but lift your own sights. Anthony Robbins remarked that "success leaves clues," and reading is one of the best means of absorbing such clues.
Curiosity and the capacity to learn are vital for achievement, thus the saying "leaders are readers." The person who seeks growth, Dale Carnegie said, "must soak and tan his mind constantly in the vats of literature."
The greater the risk, the greater the potential success. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Be action oriented.
Realizing the power of expectation
Successful people expect the best and they generally get it, because expectations have a way of attracting to you their material equivalent.
Since your life corresponds pretty much to the expectations you have of it, the achiever will argue, why not think big instead of small?
Advanced beings can turn any situation to their advantage. They are "masters of their souls, captains of their fate."
When other parties are involved, they will seek solutions in which gains are maximized for all. In the words of Catherine Ponder:
"You do not have to compromise in life, if you are willing to let go of the idea of compromise."
Achievements mean little if we are not a success as a person. The capacities to love, listen, and learn are vital for our own well-being, and without them it is difficult to have the fulfilling relationships that we need to both renew us and inspire achievement.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Nicholas Brealey Publishing. ©2004. www.nbrealey-books.com
50 Success Classics, Second Edition: Your shortcut to the most important ideas on motivation, achievement, and prosperity
by Tom Butler-Bowdon.
What makes a person successful? What makes them motivated, prosperous, a great leader? Inside 50 Success Classics, discover the all-time classic books that have helped millions of people achieve success in their work, their mission, and their personal lives. This brand new updated edition of Tom Butler-Bowdon's guide to the texts that will help you find success in your professional and personal life. Contains eight brand new chapters summarising recent classics such as Grit by Angela Duckworth and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.
About the Author
Tom Butler-Bowdon is recognized as an expert on the personal development literature. His first book 50 SELF-HELP CLASSICS has been hailed as the definitive guide to the literature of possibility. He has spent more than six years researching, reading, and analyzing hundreds of works to compile his guides to the self-help and success classics. A graduate of the London School of Economics and the University of Sydney, he lives and works in both the UK and Australia, and runs a self-help/success website at www.butler-bowdon.com