Seven Attributes for Success
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” —Winston Churchill
“Fail faster to succeed sooner” similarly describes the effort required to succeed and reinforces that failure is an integral part of success. I always found that to be accurate and realistic, yet also motivating. It’s a reminder to dig in and keep trying. We often think success happens overnight, like some kind of luck. It doesn’t. It happens through commitment, perseverance, adaptation, and, yes, from failure, learning, adjusting, and trying again, again, and even again. Winston Churchill is also credited with saying, “Never, never, never give up.” Perseverance is necessary for success, as are many other attributes.
The literal definition of success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, but interestingly, or maybe sadly, most of us would define success as a measurement of money and wealth. Someone is considered “successful” if they are rich.
Growing up, and honestly most of my adult life too, I’ve believed the same thing. I was raised in a family of workers… parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Working was what they did. Even on weekends, my dad would go to the office every Saturday and then to the ranch and work cows. The family built a cabin for countless weekends, spanning what seemed years. They grew gardens and canned vegetables, and this was for fun. Working was the leisure activity. From Yates 7-Eleven in the 1960s to Yates Chrysler Plymouth, then E-Z Mart, I grew up knowing that if you worked hard, you could achieve success. Success, then, being financial stability and wealth.
Not coming from wealth, my parents’ desire for the same was a motivation. It’s the American dream, after all. On weekends, we’d drive through the upscale neighborhoods and imagine what life would be like if we lived in a place like that. They talked openly about plans and goals, and we saw their commitment to work for years and years to succeed. The exposure to and expectation to work hard to succeed was part of my life and probably set me up to be a goal-driven person.
As I reflect on varied successes throughout my life, I realize that whether financial, professional, physical, personal, or just a random goal of some sort, the steps to achieving success are the same. In junior high, I really wanted to make the cheerleading squad. Remembering the intensity of that desire now seems silly in the greater context of life, but at the time, that was important to me. Later, it was passing the CPA exam. The validation of my education in accounting affirmed through the Certified Public Accountant was a form of ‘proof’ that I had succeeded in memorizing specific tasks. Advancing, I wanted to move from Controller to Chief Financial Officer, eventually becoming Chief Executive Officer. All goals and ambitions that I was proud to achieve. As I watched my father lead the convenience store industry as the chairman of the National Association of Convenience Stores, that, too, became a goal. There remains pride in having been elected by my peers to represent over 150,000 stores nationwide. Most recently, and almost comically as I write this, is my elatedness at stringing together six toes to a bar at the gym! Varied as these successes are from being a cheerleader or student council president to leading a company and, most importantly, striving to be a good person…there are similar attributes needed to succeed in most anything in life.
- Belief in yourself—If you don’t think you can do something, it won’t happen. You’ll not try hard enough; others won’t believe in you, and you will fail.
- Perseverance and Drive—You have the determination to work harder than most and make sure things get done. You will probably fail, temporarily, along the way but don’t quit. Stay focused on your goals, be consistent, and persevere.
- Patience—I’m horribly impatient and want everything yesterday, but patience is required to be successful. In everything, there are failures and frustrations. Taking them personally would be a detriment and derail drive and motivation. Take the failures, learn from them, and keep going.
- Integrity—My dad always said, “Make your word your bond,” and that has proven to be some of my best advice for success. No one can make major accomplishments alone. It takes reliance on others and their reliance on you. Doing what you say, when you say, is the only way to build a reputation of reliance and integrity. It’s a major step towards success and one of the most important attributes you can cultivate. Integrity creates character and defines who you are.
- Passion—If you are not passionate and committed to achieving success, it will not happen. You won’t work towards a goal and will fail. Success, like luck, comes to those who work hard to achieve their goals.
- Optimism—Successful people see possibilities and opportunities instead of always looking at the problems and barriers to success. Focus on the solutions and not the problems with the absolute confidence that you can accomplish anything. Attitude is everything. You need a “can do” one to succeed.
- Risk-Taker/Embracer—Successful people don’t sit on the sidelines dreaming and thinking about success. They DO. I often told my dad that teaching me to ‘do’ things was the best training he ever gave me. Few things in life are guaranteed, and most require a level of risk-taking. The best things in life require one to invest time, passion, and take a few risks. I’ve probably learned more and gained more from my failures than many of my successes.
I have been blessed with a very successful life. Maybe I’ve gotten wiser or perhaps just older, and having attained some of my life goals, it seems today I judge success differently. I think success can come not just in a career, but in life, family and friendships, and satisfaction with one’s own place in the world. Your goal may be to attain a specific position in a firm or business, own a home in a certain neighborhood (with a pool), run a marathon, sing a solo at church, or maybe it is just time to get away and truly enjoy the important things of life. It could be seeing your kids grow up, enjoying your grandchildren, or just being nice to someone daily. We gain our self-worth by measuring our accomplishments. I think success is different for different people, but the traits to get there are very similar. No one plans on being mediocre; mediocrity happens when you don’t plan. If you want to succeed, learn the traits that will make you successful and plan on living them out every day.