Recipe for success

What are the key ingredients for success?

Is it education?

Is it risk taking?

Is it persistence?

Is it having a high IQ?

Is it someone following their passions?

Becka Spence *PaysImaginaire*

Becka Spence

When I googled: ‘how to be successful’ I realised two things, the breadth of advice and that success was different for different people.

So what is success? For some success is running a successful business, for others it is providing for their family, for others it being recognised by their peers, for other’s it’s rising to the top of their chosen career field, for others it is being happy, for others it is watching their children grow and develop into adults, and for some it is being  able to help others. With so many different definitions of success, where do you start?

First I started with an authoritative voice, a dictionary.

The Oxford Dictionary defines success as:

  1. the accomplishment of an aim or purpose: the president had some success in restoring confidence
  • the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status: the success of his play
  • [count noun] a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains fame, wealth, etc.: to judge from league tables, the school is a success, I must make a success of my business

        2.archaic the good or bad outcome of an undertaking: the good or ill success of their maritime enterprises. 

A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson defining his thoughts on success:

To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty; To find the best in others; To give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived — this is to have succeeded.”

If you wanted a manifesto for living a successful life, you couldn’t go wrong in following Emerson’s quote. 

So whether you define success like the Oxford Dictionary and focus on fame, wealth, social status, or whether you hold a more holistic view such as Emerson I wondered how do you get there? What are the core ingredients for success in your career or a happy life?

I thought about how does one become successful, what type of dispositions/habits do you need. As I reflected on this question, I thought back to my teaching days, working with preschoolers. When a child left to go to school, what type of knowledge did I want them to have obtained. Sure, knowing their ABCs was important, but it wasn’t the core of my own personal philosophy. I wanted children leaving knowing that they matter and that they are special; that they have self-confidence; knowledge of who they are and what made them tick, their identity and what passions and interests they had; to be creative and curious;  and of course persistence and resilience.

As I researched, I discovered there was so much advice on how to be successful from being optimistic, to thinking big, to avoiding conflicts, to goal setting, to visualising, and so on. As I read I realised I’d read this advice most of my adult life, and although I was reading this advice, was I listening?

Generally yes, but most importantly did I believe? Is this what I was missing? I sent preschoolers on their way with the hope they had gain self-confidence and self-belief. But was I walking the talk.

I’ve never felt smart, many of our circle are professionals such as lawyers and accountants. I was a lowly preschool teacher. How could I compare my qualification to those who had law degrees, especially when many saw preschool teachers as babysitters.

Well, just to be feel a little better, I googled, ‘educated people without a formal education’ and I came up with names such as William Shakesphere, Steve Jobs, James Cameron, Richard Branson, and Walt Disney. And no I didn’t feel any better, what traits did these people have that I seem to be missing?

Walt Disney put his success in life to what he called his “Four C’s To Success In Life”: Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy. Walt Disney says that if a person applies these Four C’s to his life, there are literally no heights this person can’t reach. He also stated that the greatest of these was Confidence. Saying that when you believe in something, you must believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.  

“Unless you dream, you’re not going to achieve anything.” – Richard Branson

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

I found  a 2006 TedTalk with Richard St John who interviewed 500 successful people stating there were 8 traits successful people had in common: passion, work hard, focus, push, ideas, improve, serve and finally persist. And what he said made sense. Watch the video and see for yourself:

So what are the ‘magic‘ ingredients of success? From the words of those who have succeeded before me: you need to dream big; work hard which also means practice, practice, practice; push yourself through your self-doubt; have courage to follow your heart and intuition; have the self-confidence to believe in yourself and of course persist when everyone says you can’t.

Don’t let these words scare you, embrace them. For me I know I need to do all of the above, with a focus on self-confidence and persistence, because seriously what have I got to lose!

Is there anything you need to work on? Is there a trait you think I have left out?











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