How To Succeed At Anything
3 Simple (non-negotiable) Steps…
You want to know how to succeed at anything? —
Start, keep going and don’t stop until you succeed.
That is how to succeed at anything. Three steps. A beginning, a middle and an end.
We don’t like to think about an ‘end.’ It seems too practical and measurable and perhaps even shallow. Thinking of ‘success’ as a ‘destination’ tends to conjure images of horrendous personal cost and regret at the lost family time — a life of failing to stop and smell roses.
So let’s preempt the conversation about the ‘journey’ versus ‘destination’ models of success by suggesting that success is a journey through many destinations. The end always dovetails into new beginnings. But the ‘ends’ are real.
So, back to the simple three-step plan —
1) Start, 2) Keep going, 3) Succeed
This is how you learned to read.
This is how you learned to drive a car.
This is how you balanced your finances.
It’s how you created everything you’ve ever made.
It is both simple and infinitely complex.
We have an industry devoted to drilling down into each of these steps and dissecting the nuance, mitigating the pitfalls, refreshing, re-imaging and repackaging them for each generation — each cultural moment in time.
I’m not here to criticize the ‘self-help’ industry. Far from it. Don’t shun it. Engage with it.
But not today.
Today I want to take a step back and work with simple thoughts. Simple thoughts set boundaries that give us space to live. A simple definition gives us clarity.
The clarity of a simple framework can cut through noisy details that distract.
1) Start, 2) Keep going, 3) Succeed
The beginning — Start
Let’s start with the start. You will not succeed unless you start.
I used to be overweight and physically lethargic. When I set about getting fit I didn’t have a detailed plan. In fact, if I had waited until I had all the boxes ticked I would have been overwhelmed and never started.
When I started I had a simple understanding that I was unfit. I wasn’t strong. I couldn’t run very far and I was overweight. The only thing I knew to do was to start jogging. So I did.
The interesting thing is that on some strange level I thought I knew everything. There was a kind of dangerous confidence that had the potential to lead me into big mistakes. But the overconfidence (can I call it ‘courage’?) was necessary to get me started.
Over time I was to learn that calories matter. Diet matters. Nutrition matters. Over-training and injuries are a real thing. Being strong in all of your body means learning and doing a variety of exercises.
But if I had waited to learn all of these things before I started I would still be waiting.
There is a saying “when the student is ready the teacher appears.” This is not a once in a lifetime event. Nor is it an excuse to be still and do nothing. It can happen every day. In a sense, life is your teacher and when you are ready you will notice things. The ‘teacher’ can appear every day.
There are things you cannot learn or anticipate until you have progressed toward your goal. There are things that life cannot teach you until you are moving. You learn what you need as you go.
Becoming “ready” is not a passive thing. It involves action. We can become addicted to “getting ready” so don’t focus on it. Focus on starting and the “getting ready” will happen. Start.
The middle — Keep going
You will not succeed unless you keep going.
Sometimes the only thing you know for sure is ‘keep moving.’ Sometimes the next thing is not clear and the only thing you know for sure is that standing still will not get you any closer.
We stop because we fear failure. But we look at failure the wrong way. We want to understand a thing and become an expert in order to avoid all forms of failure. But, the fastest way to understand a thing is to fail at it a number of times. Failing forward is an art we all need to master.
When you hit roadblocks keep moving. You may need to alter course to navigate around. You may need to dig deep and go underneath. Or you may need to learn an unexpected skill like mountain-climbing or road-block-dismantling.
You may get weary. By all means, rest. But then get going again.
You may lose your sense of purpose. If appropriate, revise the goal. If not, maintain your course. You can revisit your purpose once you succeed. But whatever you do, don’t stop.
The End — Succeed
Finish. Get in the habit of finishing.
You have to call it.
You have to look at what you did and say, “I succeeded.”
There will always be more. There will always be something you could have done better. But you need to acknowledge what you have achieved. Celebrate a little. Don’t let it go to your head, but give yourself permission to be happy.
When you do succeed, there will usually be a nagging sense of ‘not quite having arrived’. That’s okay. There is never as much fanfare as you expected. But if you never take a moment to bring closure to a goal it will always remain a burden.
And now — start the next adventure.
So — if, like me, you occasionally become anxious that all of your life goals are not being planned and tracked with the rigorous accuracy of a NASA space flight, take heart. If you haven’t started — start. And if you have begun — keep going. You will succeed.
This is where I’m supposed to have a call to action and a link to a book or some such product. All in good time I think. Right now I’m just happy to interact, learn, and help where I can. :)