The 3 Killer Ideas that Guarantee Lifetime Success
…and, when used for good instead of evil, even happiness
The Beatles were the most talented pop music group of the 20th century.
And yet they were not talented at first.
And yet they did not succeed instantly.
It’s true that something can just happen to you that makes your life better. But really, how often has that happened to you?
It’s good to learn from things that have happened to you.
But it’s even better to learn from things that have happened to other people.
You get to learn from the widest range of all human experience — and best of all, you don’t have to go through the painful experiences they did. When you take the time to learn from the the lives of others, you get valuable life lessons at a very cheap price.
So what are the lessons from the Beatles story?
Lesson 1: Success takes hard work
If you remember only one thing about the Beatles’ early years, it will be that they worked hard. In Hamburg, they were performing in bad conditions for between six and eight hours a night, seven days a week.
And they weren’t just performing the same things, over and over. They were learning.
They were learning how to keep an unruly audience entertained so they would stay and buy more drinks, when they had no experience doing so and no idea of how to do it.
They were learning how to come up with new ideas try them out, and keep trying until they found something that worked.
They were learning how to fail, keep trying, and eventually find success.
All of this was hard work, and they did it with no days off.
Lesson 2: Success takes time
Think about it: the Beatles were immensely talented, but they didn’t start that way. It took time–lots of it.
All the techniques for improving your life (like the ones above) are based on replacing bad habits with new, positive ones. That doesn’t happen overnight because the brain doesn’t work that way. Repeated practice of new behaviors over time causes certain neurons in the brain to strengthen their connections and others to weaken theirs, strengthening the new habit and weakening the old one.
The eventual result is to make effortless a behavior that started out as being impossible.
This is how you develop a new habit, learn a new skill, and get better at existing skills.
Lesson 3: Success takes grit
One dictionary defines grit as “firmness of character, indomitable spirit, pluck.”
I think of grit in terms of the following qualities, all of which the Beatles showed during their time in Hamburg:
- Commitment: The Beatles were committed to the goal of moving from being a bunch of just-fooling-around amateurs to becoming a professional band. Commitment is what replaces your wandering through life with a life-changing purpose.
- Determination: Without this, the Beatles would have returned home the day after they arrived–or a week later, a month later, or a year later. Determination is what keeps you working toward a goal instead of giving up.
- The will to endure: The Beatles had to endure a lot — the squalor of the their lodgings and the red-light district they lived and worked in; the grueling hours; the strain of always being out of their depth and urgently needing to improve. Pursuing your goal will sometimes lead you into extended periods of discomfort or misery. In such cases, determination alone will not be enough. If you want to succeed, you must decide to endure whatever stands between you and your goal.
Though in some cases people reach their goals using only the above three qualities, research shows that “Follow-through was also the single best predictor of significant accomplishment in science, art, sports, communications, organization, or some other endeavor.” And what fuels follow-through?
- Passion for the long-term goal: The Beatles wanted to be professional musicians, above all else. Without it, they would not have gone to Hamburg (commitment), they would not have put up with the grueling conditions there (the will to endure), and they would not have stayed there (determination).
Hard work is not enough, nor is mere time spent working. Grit is the quality that uses passion for the long-term goal to fuel hard work across a period of time.
The road is long…
Reaching important goals, learning valuable skills, and developing powerful habits: these are the building blocks of success. And hard work, time, and grit are the formula — the only formula that works — for achieving these things.
All this can be summarized in four words: The road is long.
It’s an unwelcome idea, but it has the advantage of being both true and verifiable by anyone with the courage to look. Everything else is a prettydaydream that soothes at first but always ends in wasted effort and disappointment.
Knowing that the road is long will make your life easier. It will protect you against:
- resentment over all that you’ve given up to pursue your goal, because you know that hard work will get you there
- doubts about whether or not to continue, because you have committed to a purpose that reflects not just who you are, but who you want to be
- feelings of frustration and disappointment, because you know that your determination will lead to your success
- fatigue and the desire to give up, because you know that your passion and your will to endure will defeat them
I’m not saying that these emotions won’t occur. However, reminding yourself that you’re playing the long game to achieve something worth having will make things easier.
…but it may be shorter than you think
Here is a last, important thought: Saying that “the road is long” doesn’t mean that you should give up. It only means that success takes time. It means that bigger goals take longer to accomplish:
- Creating a new habit requires a modest effort and a few weeks
- Learning to communicate better with your spouse takes more work and a few months
- Finding a new direction for your life is a challenge that can take years
Now you know a life-changing truth that disappointed people learn after many years of chasing easy success:
The road is long, but only as long as your goal is high
Some wisdom for the road
This message, that you make your life better through hard work across time, can be found across centuries, across the world, and across both secular and spiritual traditions. I’ll leave you with three that I like:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. –Aristotle
For the great doesn’t happen through impulse alone, and is a succession of little things that are brought together…. And the great isn’t something accidental; it must be willed. –Vincent van Gogh
I wish the earlier me [at age 20] understood work and practice more. Just the repeated concerted effort to get better at things. I wish I didn’t have the notions of talent and genius I had back then. I thought, “Oh, these other people, they just have something that I don’t have.” When really, they are just people who work more…. You can be good enough to write good songs or make a good film or whatever. There’s no such thing as not having enough talent to get to that level. I mean, persistence is talent, really. Just sticking with it. Talent is not stopping. –Kirby Ferguson, filmmaker