Countless teachers, gurus and sages have counselled over the ages what steps one needs to take in the journey of destiny. Whatever name you wish to ascribe to the journey: whether you wish to call it the search for success, or the search for meaning or the search for significance, the basic steps for moving from here to there remain the same today as it was in ancient times. If you equate material possession alone to ”success”, you’ll not be alone. However, there is more to success than being materially wealthy. Mother Theresa didn’t have much material possessions, yet she is revered the world over. So there is more to success. Think of your legacy. Here is my list of the critical things you need to guide your journey.
#1: Focus on the Future
Focus single-mindedly on the future. Most people expend all their energies focusing on the past, such as the hurts people have inflicted on them, and their past failures. Rather than needlessly dissipating this mental energy into unproductive self pity, focus on the possibilities that lie ahead. Map out your future, design your roadmap how to get there and channel all your energies towards its achievement. Thomas Edison stumbled almost ten thousand times in his bid to invent the incandescent bulb, yet he never wavered. He remained focused on the future and the task at hand until he prevailed.
#2: Read Voraciously
Bryan Tracy once said, if you read one hour per day in a subject area you love, within five years you will be the most knowledgeable person in the world in that subject. I started practising and I saw the wisdom in his advice. So find the area you love, or have passion for and start reading one hour per day and before long you will be a sought-after guru and can start charging premium fee for your effort like Tom Peters, Seth Godin, and Malcolm Gladwell. All great achievers read voraciously.
#3: Learn to Speak and Listen
Reading will boost your vocabulary and bolster your speaking capacity. Learn to speak to reduce your inhibitions and generate self confidence. Self confidence will banish fear and when once you master fear, you are on your way to greatness. All the greatest men in all of history were great communicators and listeners: Cicero, Demosthenes, Abraham Lincoln. Add to that list Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama. Join a Speakers or Toastmasters Club near you and see how your success skyrockets, so long as you don’t ignore the other hooks.
#4: Decide Your Area of Mastery Early In Life
Be clear early on what you wish to become the master of. Some gurus may direct you to visualise how you wish your future to be. That mixes up cause and effect. What you can be, or will be is the outcome, that is, the effect, of the steps, that is, the causes, that will bring it to being. So just focus on the doing. Decide what you want to do and the being will naturally follow. If you have so many passions and cannot really decide what to focus on, your coach or mentor should be able to give you simple tests to help you make the right decision. Play to your strengths and avoid areas you don’t have natural talent for.
#5: Master One Thing Well
Master one thing! Be known all over the world, at least your own small world, as the master of that one thing. Know ten, five or three things well but master just one. Remember, Bill Gates knows many things well but he mastered just one thing: software. What are you unequivocally known for? Do not be a jack of all trade and master of none. Master one thing. Every business, industry, field of endeavour has its secrets. Know the secrets, master them. Do you know the top three secrets for success in your field? According to Malcolm Gladwell, you require about ten thousand man-hours of effort to reach the ”tipping point”. If you’re not willing to invest about ten years to master your craft don’t bother to start at all. If you’re driven by passion, you’ll succeed. If you’re driven by greed, you’ll eventually fail.
#6: Measure Your Progress and Adjust Your Direction
Measure your progress regularly and recalibrate your course once in a while. Be truthful to yourself and avoid self denial. Every once in a while benchmark yourself against the best people in your industry. Are you seen and regarded as amongst the top 10, 20, or 50 in your field? Visualise a matrix with four quadrants. Aim to be in the upper end of the topmost right hand quadrant, the quadrant of excellence. If you cannot make this quadrant, then you may be struggling. Go back and review whether you took the right decision as far as the decide hook was concerned until you get it right.
#7: Keep Tab of the Happenings around You
Keep tab of the developments in your industry. Tune your antennae to your environment. Things change so fast and sometimes so fundamentally these days that if you don’t keep pace you may become a dinosaur. Experts say the half life of knowledge, that is, how long it takes current knowledge to become obsolete these days is six months. In fact, it’s closer to three months. Look at the American auto industry, as an extreme example. They were not keeping tab at what the Japanese were up to until they (the Japanese) sneaked up on them and over took them right at their own backyard. It took the Japanese just 30 years, approximately from 1961 to 1991, to dethrone the Americans and Europeans. How do you keep tab? Attend seminars, industry conferences and conventions. Seek out the experts and buy their books, tapes and audio and video compact disks. Befriend them, and be willing to be their student.
#8: Announce Your Arrival With Prodigious Output
Announce your arrival in your industry or area of mastery by your fruits. Remember, by their fruits we shall know them. What can you do to announce your arrival? Write software and sell to industry top leaders as Bill Gates did. The first thing he did was to license his DOS (Disk Operating System) to IBM and render all the extant systems obsolete overnight. Win a Nobel Prize if you’re a scientist or a poet like Wole Soyinka. Write best sellers like Tom Peters, Seth Godin, and Malcolm Gladwell. Write hit songs and perform like 2Face Idibia. Don’t seek publicity or you’ll soon become a commodity. In fact, be publicity shy. Sometimes if you are in a team, break away and go solo. Michael Jackson, 2Face Idibia, Lionel Richie, Beyonce, and, Victoria Beckham all did that. By the time you have arrived, you’ll have a cult-like followership, willing to buy your products without prompting.
#9: Prove to the World You’re Here to Stay
Prove you are not just a fly by night success, a fluke or a flash in the pan. Come out with more success stories like Apple: iPod, iPhone, iTunes, iPad. Apple comes out with cool products and apps year in and year out because Apple wishes to be known as the most innovative company on earth, not the biggest as Microsoft. If you are an author, come out with two, three, four blockbusters like Tom Peters: In Search of Excellence (with Bob Waterman Jr.), Passion For Excellence (with Nancy Austin), Thriving On Chaos, Liberation Management, The Circle of Innovation and so on. It’s such messianic output that attracts a following and guru status. Ever wonder why Tom is called the Uber-Guru? Can you remember the number of blockbusters Michael Jackson had under his belt? So many, that’s why he became a legend even in his lifetime.
#10: Earn All the Money You Wish
Earn the respect of elders in your industry. As Chinua Achebe said in Things Fall Apart, when a child has washed his hands, he can eat with elders. When you have announced your arrival by your output, and have been accepted in your industry with a tribe running into tens of thousands or millions, you can then go ahead and start earning money by charging premium fee for your expertise and your tribesmen will be lining up to listen to you and buy your products. You earn respect, prestige and honour by your fruits and the money starts rolling in. That is how men such as Les Brown, Jack Canfield, and Tony Robbins have become mega stars, and legends. After you have earned it all, give it all away because money does not necessarily equate to success.
Paul Uduk is the Chief Executive Officer of Vision & Talent International, Nigeria’s leading customer service learning and performance consultancy. He has published and consulted actively in the areas of service quality and design, and teaches in these areas locally and internationally, including for the UNDP. His best selling books include Bridges to the Customer’s Heart ( [http://www.bridgestothecustomersheart.com] ) and The Gods of Quality Strike Back. Prior to setting up the Vision & Talent Group, he was a banker with one of Nigeria’s top 10 banks. His current research interest is on forces that engender corporate enthusiasm, agility, and the will to prevail through service excellence. Reach Paul on
mailto:[email protected]”>[email protected] or
mailto:[email protected]”>[email protected].