7 Keys to Success

Success is what you attract by the person you become


(Source: Flickr)

THE late Jim Rohn once said, “success is what you attract by the person you become”.

A pithy saying, but how do you become a person who attracts success?

Here are seven thoughts to get you going:

  1. Skill development – It is natural to learn from experience and improve at an activity through repeated effort. You can do this by yourself or, for accelerated progress, you can work with a skilled mentor.
  2. Reputation – In the corporate world this is known as a “brand” and in the religious world they call it a “spirit”, but the effect is the same. How many people know you? Is the number growing? What are they saying about you when you’re not in the room?
  3. Network – Your reputation is “who knows you” while your network is “who you know”. Who do you know? Have you been in touch with them lately?
  4. Lifestyle design – You can maximise the use of your time by automating activities that can be automated, turning helpful behaviours like exercise into a habit, de-cluttering your house, and reducing expenditure on consumables and luxury items that are likely to eat up your time.
  5. Leverage – This appears fifth but is probably the biggest one. Do you have leverage? That is, do you have the benefit of a large amount of human effort which you can bring to bear at a single point in time?  Financial leverage is the most obvious one, but there are many others. Government officials benefit from the efforts of tax payers, partners in a professional services firm benefit from the efforts of employees, manufacturers benefit from advanced production machinery, an author benefits from her book, an academic benefits from prior years studying the same topic and from large class sizes, and Google benefits from anyone with a website or who has ever uploaded an image online.
  6. Unique style – Young people are typically made to conform to norms of behaviour, which are enforced by parents and schools. Ironically though, in the real world, unless your goal is to be the low cost producer in your industry, being the same as everyone else is a strategic mistake. As people mature they often gain the confidence to express their unique personal style, and this can help them be more authentic and memorable in the marketplace.
  7. Communication skills – Learning to communicate in a clear and compelling way can multiply your success in two ways. Firstly, writing well can help you be more persuasive and influential. Secondly, learning to speak in public can open up opportunities to be seen and bring people together.

Do you agree with our 7 success factors? We would love to hear your personal experience. Please share your thoughts in the forum.

Capacity versus Leverage

IN the quest for market dominance, companies often engage in a war for talent. They seek out new recruits with outstanding capacity, the chosen few who are able to demonstrate a track record of success, and an ability to solve new problems quickly and easily.

Management consulting firms are the flag bearers in this war. In a clear and methodical way, they invite the strongest applicants to come and joust in a competitive case interview tournament, which emulates the complexity and ambiguity of real business situations.

Only the strongest are awarded the prize of employment.

Underlying this behaviour is a belief that high capacity individuals are crucial for organisational success.

We beg to disagree, at least in part.

If an organisation were to wake up each Monday morning and forget everything it had ever learned, then it would obviously be important to employ only the very smartest individuals. Every week would bring new problems, and people with exceptional talent would be needed to solve them.

Fortunately, however, this rarely happens. Organisations and the individuals who work in them have memory which accumulates over time, captured in the form of skills, know-how, products, technology and culture.

Customers bring their problems, and companies have a choice in how to serve them. One option is to employ the brightest individuals so that new problems can be solved quickly and easily. In this case, customers benefit from expensive bespoke solutions based on entirely novel thinking. Another option, though, is to do the hard work of building institutional capital that can be leveraged and enhanced on each occasion in order to provide consistently more value at lower cost than ever before.

Every employee will sooner or later leave their employer, one way or another, and so in the long run capital accumulation is key.

A problem can arise though when companies believe that they have to choose: should we hire top talent to be competitive now or invest in building capital to be competitive down the road?

The options are not in conflict, or at least they don’t need to be, and you only have to look at the way McKinsey handles its talent pool to realise this. The firm hires the best and brightest minds in the countries in which it operates. It combines this with an “up or out” policy and a strong alumni relations program that allows it to benefit from the thinking, patronage and cooperation of its former employees long after it has ceased to pay them. In this way, the firm transforms former employees into an enduring asset.

And so, dear reader, you are faced with a choice. You can solve problems by simply using available capacity, your own or that of others, or you can work to build something remarkable and enduring that will enable you to solve more problems with less effort over time.