Few people alive or dead have enjoyed the height of success that Nelson Mandela has attained. In my opinion, (and going by the definition provided in the quote below credited to Emerson) Mandela’s type of success is one that everyone should aspire towards – because it is arguably the most balanced and complete.
That probably explains why this great man is admired the world over by some of the greatest people from all walks of life. When I talk about success therefore (be it in business or life) I want the reader to know that I refer mainly to the Nelson Mandela type of success i.e. the one which leads to IMPROVEMENT in the lives of others.
“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children,to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Just in case you wonder how the above can be applied to business considerations, I’ll elaborate – briefly: An entrepreneur can use his/her business activities to make the lives of others better even as s/he makes profit in the process. Here are two additional quotes, this time from an entrepreneur of proven competence and repute, to support what I have just said:
“Ridiculous yachts and private planes and big limousines won’t make people enjoy life more, and it sends out terrible messages to the people who work for them. It would be so much better if that money was spent in Africa – and it’s about getting a balance.” – Richard Branson
“I never get the accountants in before I start up a business. It’s done on gut feeling, especially if I can see that they are taking the mickey out of the consumer.” – Richard Branson
Anti-Success Myth No. 1: If You Don’t Get Along With Everyone, You Cannot Succeed
Very untrue. First of all, as Dan Kennedy once wrote, you don’t need anyone’s permission to succeed. You must remember that sometimes what you hope to succeed at, might imply some people with (possibly selfish) vested interests will lose out or earn less than they currently do. Keep in mind the fact that sometimes you may need to change the status quo in order to succeed.
It does not matter how skilled you are in interpersonal relations. It does not matter how likeable you are or can be as a person. Unless you are not fully committed to achieving your purpose, you may HAVE TO step on toes and hurt some people’s feelings in order to SUCCEED in bringing about what could be badly needed change/improvement.
Read through the above quotes credited to Branson again. Then think about people like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi who endured protracted antagonism and punishment for years because of the causes they took up. Accept this reality today: In trying to achieve your set goal, you may not be able to get along with everyone. But even if you are willing to try, those who do not like what you want to do, and who despite being in the minority, may be “powerful”, could actually REFUSE to get along with you!
You will at some point have to make up your mind just how badly you NEED to succeed in the face of their antagonism. Your decision is very likely to determine whether or not you succeed.
Anti-Success Myth No. 2: Without Connections & Influence, You Don’t Stand A Chance
Another lie. How many times have we read about the underdog who overturned the tables on the big players? In sports, business, politics etc, history has repeatedly shown that nothing can be taken for granted. If you learn continually and work intelligently/diligently, you will become MORE COMPETENT, and eventually your work/efforts will speak for you.
Consequently, your reputation will precede you wherever you go, opening doors of access to opportunities that you need to achieve your purpose. I believe it was Henry Kaiser who once said “When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.” You might want to keep that little tip in mind when you pass through this phase.
Nelson Mandela had little (if any) political affiliations or connections that could have made him get what he wanted when he began his campaign for freedom of his people. As a matter of fact, Mandela’s activities antagonised powerful, highly connected and influential people who did not like his “message”. Yet he chose to proceed all the same.
That got him into trouble. For 27 years he was punished for making such an “impossible” demand of the government. But throughout the duration of his incarceration, he refused to compromise. The people he fought for SAW his unflinching commitment to (and great personal sacrifice for) THEIR cause.
They drew courage from his actions to continue fighting for his release – and their freedom.
When eventually he was set free, his people rewarded him with votes that made him president. He needed no political connections or influential allies to get to the highest office in his country. He simply did what was needed, with honesty and integrity. You do the same thing, and it will only be a matter of time before you achieve YOUR own phenomenal success.
Anti-Success Myth No. 3: If A Successful Person/Authority Says You Can’t, S/he Would Be Right
Not necessarily. Again history offers us wisdom based on hindsight. From Ted Turner’s idea for CNN to Fred Smith’s outrageous term paper concept for an overnight delivery service in an industry dominated by large/experience players who considered it unfeasible. One trend is common: we discover/learn that the word “impossible” ONLY truly represents what people think cannot be done UNTIL someone does it!
This myth is especially relevant when one realises that some successful persons/authorities put on record for having dismissed an idea that went on to succeed, had in the past while pursuing their own maiden successes, ALSO been rejected in the same manner.
As I explained in another article titled “Do You Need A Business Plan – If Your IDEA Is Ahead Of Its Time, Or Unproven?”, Henry Ford had an experience which provides a useful example. Having worked as an employee of the great inventor, Thomas Edison, for some years (starting as a stark illiterate – according to Napoleon Hill in the book titled “Think & Grow Rich”), Ford one day came up with the idea for a “horseless carriage” that everyone could afford – known today as the car.
He approached Edison, but the latter told him to forget it, offering him instead the incentive of a promotion so they could focus/work on “more important things”. It should be noted that Ford, going by “rational reasoning” should not normally have had the courage to even THINK he knew something the great Thomas Edison did not – especially about what was worth inventing.
This foregoing point is especially noteworthy when one considers how Ford started. But (urged on by his wife) he knew enough to NOT accept Edison’s judgment. He quit the inventor’s employ, and using savings he and his wife had left, vigorously pursued his dream. You and I drive cars today – which in the pre-Ford invention days were the exclusive preserve of the wealthy – because Henry Ford REFUSED to let others impose their limitations on him.
Anti-Success Myth No. 4: Your Family Has No History Of Successful Business People
Neither did Walt Disney or Robert Kiyosaki (just to name two examples that readily come to mind). Yet, today the names of these two individuals are easily associated with success, wealth, and fame.
Potentially useful, I believe, are Kiyosaki’s writings – especially the Rich Dad series, which do an excellent job of painting a CLEAR, unambiguous picture of the discouraging and psychologically challenging environment that Robert had to grow up in, and fight hard to come out of.
Robert’s books/board games and his achievements prove that a lack of family pedigree, cannot condemn ANYONE to a life devoid of business or financial success. If you want it badly enough, and are willing to LEARN – and DO – whatever it takes (legally of course) to get it, then you WILL get it. It would just be a matter of time.
Anti-Success Myth No. 5: Don’t Aim Too High Or You’ll End Up Failing Badly
Still another UNTRUTH. The fact is you need to set what I like to call BIG, FAT goals that will make you STRETCH to achieve them. You will be propelled by the size of your goals. The bigger they are, the harder you will feel compelled to push for them – IF you are sincere with yourself that is.
In James R. Cook’s book titled “The Startup Entrepreneur”, we are told that the greater the entrepreneurial ambition one has, the greater will be the amount of “suffering” s/he will have to endure before arriving at success. Cook in fact states based on his study of the lives of many successful entrepreneurs, that there is a positive correlation between the degree of suffering you experience, and the eventual height of success you achieve as an entrepreneur.
Outside the business world, this positive correlation generally appears to hold true in larger society as well. Again I use the example of Nelson Mandela. He set (what was then) an “unrealistic” goal of getting equal rights recognised for his people, by a government run by a minority who benefitted from having it that way. He set, relentlessly pursued and eventually achieved an ambitious goal (that probably sounded crazy at the time), and became a living legend as a result.
Just as setting ambitious goals yields generous success, setting mediocre ones, will yield equally mediocre success levels. You have the right to choose which one you want.
By the way, you might want to note that you cannot fail except you STOP trying to succeed.
So don’t be afraid to aim high – repeatedly – and NO matter how many times you “miss”. If/when you do “miss”, “just check what you did the last time, make needed adjustments, and try again, and again, UNTIL you get it right. Because I know from experience how difficult it can be to remember the foregoing when repeated unsuccessful attempts stare one in the face, I now ask you to please memorise (if possible) the following phrase: I CANNOT fail if I DO NOT stop trying to succeed!
“Aim for the sky, so you can at least land on the roof” – Tayo K. Solagbade
“Judge your success by what you have to give up in order to get it” – Dalai Lama, Exiled Spiritual Leader of Tibet
Anti-Success Myth No. 6: You Cannot Achieve Notable Business Success If You Lack Money Or Access To Persons Who Have It
I will not say much here. Let me instead quote Dan Kennedy from his book titled “How To Succeed In Business By Breaking All The Rules“:
“I have long taught: If you can’t make money without money, you won’t make money with money either. And if you are going to back somebody, pick an entrepreneur who has proven that he can survive without adequate capital“. – Dan Kennedy
What you need is really the financial intelligence to manage the money that enters your business (either as investor’s capital or earned income). That is a skill not readily acquired via formal schooling. And that’s why many who venture into business run into problems. I say this as someone who has had to learn the hard way (VERY slowly and painfully) to overcome this shortcoming.
For as long as you believe in your business idea, you will not tire of creating/exploring opportunities to secure money towards developing it. And as I have emphasised from the start of this article – so long as you persist, it’s only a matter of time before you find a way.
Anti-Success Myth No. 7: You Must Profess A Particular Religious Belief In Order To Succeed
This topic can be sensitive, but my intention here is to clarify. Success has different meanings to different people. For certain religious groups, true success has little to do with a person’s material accomplishments while alive, and MORE to do with how his/her activities while on earth impact on his/her “soul” after death.
The point to note is that each person has the right to decide what s/he considers success to be – or mean. As far as this article goes, Emerson’s definition of success reproduced at the start implies that a person can achieve balanced success in life (irrespective of his/her religious preferences) by doing things that IMPROVE the lives of him/herself and others.
Taking it further, when we consider the fact that many modern societies today enjoy a mix of highly successful multi-racial inhabitants with widely differing religious beliefs, it becomes obvious that bias for a particular religion would be an inadequate explanation for success achievement. In fact, available evidence shows that people who qualify to be called successful by our definition in this article, do not ALL practice the same religion.
Indeed Fred Smith, one of those we have mentioned, who boasts astounding accomplishments, had the word “UNKNOWN” entered for him under the heading “Religion:” in a bio/profile published about him by Gene N. Landrum! In other words, (as at that time of publication) Smith presumably had no known religious affiliation – making it difficult, if not outright impossible, to explain his amazing success with his Federal Express(FedEx) company, along those lines.
If the truth were to be told, your religious beliefs are personal to you. And except something is badly wrong, they will likely be in tune with your desires (or vice versa). Which means you might for instance want to pray for “spiritual” help towards success in your chosen business venture, so that your physical efforts will not be “wasted”.
Mutual respect for civil liberties is a requirement during interpersonal relations in most societies. The fact that you do not share the same religious beliefs as another person, say in a business relationship, or the workplace, CANNOT be enough reason for him/her to use his/her position, power or influence to deny you fair and impartial access to opportunities available for the pursuit of YOUR goals. If that happens, then serious issues regarding RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION can arise, which you might be VERY justified to take up formally if necessary.
You have a right to set and achieve goals that are important to you. Don’t let people tell you what you can or cannot do. Don’t let these seven (7) deadly myths – or ANY others – stop you from achieving the success you desire. Determine for yourself where you wish to go, and what you aim to achieve – then DO IT.
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”– Mark Twain.