Often people say to me something like—
“I know plenty of people who’ve achieved great success without doing what you say. They didn’t have clear goals. Gave little thought to their process. Didn’t develop top skills. Have never trained their mind…”
It’s true. I know tons of those people. I used to be one of them.
I elevated myself from my blue-collar background to Goldman Sachs, and succeeded on Wall Street with nothing more than the goal to do my best and working all the time. I’d never read a self-help book. Never visualized a goal. Never focused on my process. Never focused on time management, mindset or other “crucial” skills…
That pathway to success was ultimately unfulfilling to me but it is by far the most basic and common in our society—study hard, get a good job, and work hard for the rest of your life.
If you look at two of the wealthiest people on the planet, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, you see a different pathway to success, and some might even conclude that we should all be dropping out of college and starting a tech company…
Dig deeper and you learn most successful people aren’t top executives or famous billionaires. The vast majority of millionaires next door are “small” business people, who found their niche and just kept working it.
Does this mean everyone should start their own business? Or skip college? Or get a top job and work hard?
Of course not…
Knowing how other people have succeeded tells you little you need to know about creating your own pathway to success.
A novice gold miner can randomly drill a hole, strike gold, and become an overnight “success.” But what could you actually learn from them in creating your own success? Should you just go drill some holes?
Many Internet millionaires were spawned during the first dot.com bubble in the late 1990s but few of them held onto their money into this century. Even fewer founders could replicate their “success.”
Such “Returns on Luck” account for most out-sized success in our society—
You didn’t need to be the best engineer on the planet to get rich working for Facebook; you only had to join early enough. The difference between making partner at Goldman Sachs pre-IPO in 1998 versus 2000 was some $50 million. And just about anyone buying real estate with zero money down in 2006 looked like a genius, until 2008.
While there’s a lot to be learned from taking advantage of rich opportunities, herein lies the distinction between achieving successful results, and engineering success.
Even the worst football team in the league will win a game every now and then, but the best teams, like Vince Lombardi’s Packers, build a systematic approach to winning that they know will work time and time again.
Ultimately, the most successful people are less focused on results, and more focused on engineering a pathway that leads to the success they want.
What Is Success To You?
Much of what we consider success in our society is results-focused.
Sure, little Johnny now gets a Final Winner Trophy for running last in a race at school, but in the real world, it’s the winners we celebrate.