There are no fucking Keys to Success

I’ve read the same stuff as you. I’ve read the same articles that promised me success above all else, success guaranteed, success in 5–10 easy steps, lessons and lifehacks. I’ve read them all for the same reasons as you, because I felt lost and uncertain and I needed something to guide me.

But they didn’t make my life better, and they didn’t make me better, and they didn’t make me win. I spent years, searching for the keys to success, believing that there were some set of secrets that could unlock the universe.

Those years were wasted. They’re wasted because the keys to success don’t exist. There’s no formula for being a success, and chasing it is almost appallingly egotistical — we think that we deserve to be big, so there must be a way to get there.

When you’re looking for the keys, you’re looking to find a shortcut and a guarantee, an easy way, a fool proof method. A cheat code in the game of life. I missed out on so much, in terms of experiences and passions and moments of pure joy, because all I wanted was to find a way to win.


You know what? I’ll tell you, the best advice I’ve ever heard is the worst advice I’ve ever heard. It’s the best because it’s tried, true and useful, and it’s the worst because it’s tough to follow and we all fucking know it already.

It’s the advice my first mentor told me, when I was too stubborn and arrogant to listen, and it’s the advice your parents told you when you got your first job.

“You’ve got to put the work in, because it’s the only thing that pays off. It’s the only way to get what you want.”

We’re all told this, and we all try and ignore it, because putting the work in sounds hard. And it sounds like it’s going to take a long time. Well, both of those things are true. But they don’t make the advice worth any less.

Because the fact is, no matter how many blog posts you read that tell you Richard Branson or Jack Dorsey’s “keys to success” the reality is, both of them put the work in.

They turned up every day and accomplished what needed to be accomplished, and got their shit over the line.

That’s what made their companies work. It sure as hell wasn’t just “believing in themselves” or getting up early to go jogging. That didn’t hurt, but it also wouldn’t have closed deals, managed projects, or run a company.

If you try to avoid the work by looking for all of their “keys” you’re only wasting time, procrastinating, and letting yourself down. And here’s the thing, I can’t guarantee that putting the work in will mean you’re going to succeed. But not putting the work in does mean you’ll fail.

I don’t buy into the idea that working 100 hour weeks is the only path too. Overwork is a bad idea. Working yourself to death’s door is a bad idea. Believing that working harder instead of smarter is stupidity.

But you do have to take the work seriously, and you do have to battle through it. There are no “keys to success” — it’s all bullshit. You need to focus, you need to get mean, you need to get it done.


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I’m a marketing executive, blogger & writer. I founded the creative agency Creatomic, developing content for brands and businesses. I also have a cat.

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