What is the one quality that all successful people share?
It isn’t luck or talent or a prestigious degree. It’s simultaneously much simpler and much harder than that.
The true key to success is patience.
Success isn’t a goal or a destination. It’s a cumulation of effort. Success is made up of small but steady steps, taken in one direction.
So if success keeps evading you, chances are you’re failing to do one or more of the following things:
1. Be Patient When You Set Your Goal
Properly setting your goal is the first step to success. You cannot pursue something that you cannot see. Nor will you know it when you get there. It’s important, therefore, to have a clear idea of what success would look like to you.
This means asking yourself: “Who do I think is successful?” and “What makes them successful?”. It’s important to take your time when you’re doing this, especially if you suspect that you’re in the wrong career.
During my corporate job, I remember looking at the people above me and thinking: “Why should I work like you do, when I don’t want the life that you have?”
It’s hard to chase after something, which, deep down, you know is wrong for you.
That’s why it’s important to model — and not mimic — success. Success, as we will see below, is deeply personal. It’s likely that there is no one in your life who completely embodies your vision of success. That’s fine. That’s actually for the best. Instead, focus on picking out a qualities in a number of people who you think are successful.
By doing this, you end up with an actionable model of what success would look like, for you.
2. Have the Patience to Check It Twice
Often, having set a goal, we simply want to get going. We want to be there right now. We don’t stop to check that this is what we really want. Instead, we end up with lots of unfinished projects, and unachieved goals.
This is where patience comes in again. By chasing success that you don’t ultimately want, you are wasting time. And time is the only non-renewable commodity that you have.
Instead, focus on making sure that you want the right kind of success for you, and for the right reasons.
Dorothy Parker once said: “I hate writing. I love having written”. This is the key to success.
To be successful, you need to figure out what you love as a process, not as an end result. If the definition of success, for you, is to be an entrepreneur, but you hate risk, hate working long hours and prefer executing actions on someone else’s behalf — well, you’re chasing after someone else’s model of success.
If you want to be an athlete but don’t want to train every single day for three hours — then you’re also chasing after the wrong model of success.
Have the patience to figure out what you love doing, regardless of what this makes you. Do you love writing enough to do it every day, even if no one ever calls you a writer? Do you love to run so much that you’ll do it, come rain or shine, even if no one ever refers to you as an athlete?
This is the only kind of success that you should pursue. And this is the only way to achieve the kind of success that leads to happiness.
3. Have The Patience to Get Off the Bus
Contrary to the popular Helsinki Bus Station Theory, which says that the key to success is to picking a path (or bus-route) and sticking to it, the patience model of success advocates taking many different bus journeys on the route to success.
Success is subjective and personal, so its definition will change over the course of your life. You might pursue one avenue of success only to discover, when you get there, that your definition has changed.
It’s okay, at this point, to turn around and start again. This is not a mark of failure. It’s a sign that you’re getting to know yourself better. It’s also not a “waste of time”. The biggest and only waste of time is to keep doing something that you hate.
So many of us are stuck, not knowing what we want to do. If you’re one of the lucky few who even knows what you don’t want to do — listen to this. Don’t suppress it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t “power through” or “carry on”.
Time spent doing something is not a good enough reason to keep doing it. It’s okay to cut your losses, take your learnings, and try again. In fact — it’s a sure-fire route to success.
4. Have The Patience to Pursue Success…Without Recognition
We live in a time of instant gratification, and this has given us a warped perception when it comes to success. Everywhere you look, someone is being described as an “overnight success”. But the reality is not so simple.
When Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz was asked how it felt to be an overnight success, he replied: “If by ‘overnight success’ you mean staying up and coding all night, every night for six years straight, then it felt quite tiring and stressful.”
This is the crux of the success/patience dichotomy, and what makes patience so hard to hold on to when pursuing success. Recognition often comes much later than success. Sometimes, it doesn’t even look like they’re part of the same team. That’s okay.
You cannot gauge success, except in retrospect. Retrospect means waiting. And waiting means patience.
We all think that we’re pursuing success. But ask yourself why? What do you think success will bring to your life? The answer, in one form or another, is probably happiness.
Have the patience to pursue your own success, on your own terms, in your own time. Why? Because this is the only kind of success that matters. It’s the only kind of success that leads to that ultimate pot of gold — happiness.