Why The Path To Success Isn’t A Straight Line

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Why The Path To Success Isn't A Straight Line

Success isn’t a straight line

G’day, and welcome to the Business Made Easy Podcast blog where we make business easy.

Let’s talk about success, what it really means and how to achieve it and why the path to success isn't a straight line.

A lot of people think about success as a straight line that starts at the bottom and moves upwards diagonally to a point of success. But it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Unfortunately, for most of us, success is never a straight line. It usually looks more like a squiggly line with some ups, downs and troubles along the way. There may even be some failures and negative emotions involved.

So, if success isn’t a straight line, how can we work towards it? The key lies in our attitude towards achieving success and how we deal with obstacles.

Why Success Isn't A Straight Line Smart Goals Chart

Peter Druckers 1954 Book The Practice Of Management

Ten steps to success

In Episode 68 of the Business Made Easy Podcast, I talked about thinking above or below the line. It’s basically the difference between having a victim mentality and taking ownership of issues so that you can move forwards. It’s a positive mindset versus a negative mindset.

This is something to consider when assessing your attitude towards success and how it may be affecting your business.

But if success is a squiggly line, is it possible to make the journey smoother?

Yes, it is, and here are ten steps to help you along the path to business success.

1.    Define what success means to you

The first step is to get clear about the end-goal and your definition of success.

What are you trying to achieve? Who do you want to be? What does success look like? What does it mean to you?

You need to be realistic and say, “Hey, this is what success means to me.”

Then map it out so you can see what it looks like for your personal life, your business and finances.

This technique is not just for achieving business success either. You can also use it for personal goals, like losing weight.

Ask yourself, what will your weight be? What clothes will you be wearing? What does weight loss or a healthy lifestyle look like to you?  

A fantastic way to become clear about your definition of success is to use a vision board. If you do this for your business, use images that symbolise what success means to you.

A vision board helps to become very clear and to be able to visualise success. This makes it seem real and attainable, which can motivate you towards the end goal.

2.    Don’t let others define your success

The next step is to not let others define your success. This is a tough one and a lot of people fall into this trap.

It’s easy to look at other successful people in your industry and become envious. But instead of beating yourself up about it, it’s better to remind yourself that success is different for everyone.

When I was younger, I used to see successful people and feel jealous. I would ask, why am I not better? Why can’t I do that? I was very negative.

Luckily, I grew out of that mindset. I also realised that when I perceived someone else’s life as successful, usually below the surface it wasn’t as rosy as it seemed. Everyone has their own problems to overcome, but it’s not always obvious from the outside.

When I look back now at my consulting, coaching and accounting career, I understand that it’s much better to run your own race instead of trying to copy someone else’s.

It’s okay to look at other people’s experiences as examples but define your own version of success.

3.    Be prepared for possible failure

The third step is to prepare for struggles and failures along the way.

Remember, success is a squiggly line and it's not going to happen instantly. You’re also not going to hit your targets all of the time.

Obstacles and issues outside of your control are going to crop up. But you can control how you react to them. And being aware that obstacles can happen is already half of the battle won.

I love this quote by Henry Ford from the Ford Motor Company:

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

It means that if you fail, you won’t start from zero again because you already have some knowledge from last time. A really valuable point from Henry Ford.

Another thing to consider is that every successful person in the world has failed at some point in their lives. Thomas Edison is a classic example. He failed a thousand times before successfully making the light bulb, which is something that we still use today.

Walt Disney is another example. There were so many times when he was on the brink of going bankrupt before becoming successful.

Then there was Steve Jobs. He had many failures during his life but look at how successful he became and how powerful Apple still is today.

The point is, we’re all going to experience failure, but it’s how we respond to it and deal with it that will determine how well we move on from it.

4.    Establish good habits

So, knowing that struggles are going to happen, what can we do to prepare for them?

The fourth step is to establish the right habits. Work out who you want to be and then introduce habits to become that person.

For example, if I want to play basketball at a world-class level, I’ll have to study how professional basketballers live their lives. Who are they? What do they do? How do they behave?

I would have to start training and eating like them and become very disciplined so that I could achieve the goal.

The key to establishing good habits is to focus on what is going to help you achieve the success you want.

Start with the mindset to emulate the attitude of the person you want to be. Then introduce the actions that will form the right habits for success.

5.    Stop procrastinating

Have you heard about the concept of being scared of success? It’s actually a fear of achieving what you want and procrastination is a big part of it.

The problem with procrastination is that it doesn’t move you any closer to your end goal. You need momentum to keep driving forwards and when you procrastinate you stop moving.

Here is a great quote from Benjamin Franklin that applies to procrastination:

“You may delay but time will not and lost time is never found again.”

Basically, if you put off important tasks or avoid taking action, you’re wasting time. And you can’t go back, which means you’ll have to work harder to move forwards again.

6.    Remove negativity from your life

The sixth step to success is to remove negativity and toxic people from your life. This is a big one if you want to succeed.

But what does a toxic person look like? How can you identify if someone is creating a toxic environment in your life? One way is to assess whether they’re adding value. And if not, they could be toxic.

Toxic people can be friends, family or work colleagues, but they usually have one (or more) of the characteristics below:

  • A negative outlook
  • Quick to criticise
  • Waste your time
  • Be jealous instead of supportive
  • Play the victim
  • Be self-centred
  • Repeatedly disappoint you

If you recognise any of these traits in people, then you might want to remove them from your life. Especially if they’re holding you back from achieving your goals.

Removing negativity from your life is not just external either. It’s also internal and applies to negative thoughts.

It’s important to be aware of the language that you use and avoid thinking negatively, especially when dealing with problems. Again, this links to above and below the line thinking.

7.    Surround yourself with the right people

Instead of toxic people, you want to have positivity in your life. It’s really important to surround yourself with the right people and even seek out those that have already achieved what you want to achieve.

A great way to do this is by joining groups on social networking sites, like Facebook. Or by joining real life groups through Meet Up. There are so many different groups to join, both online and offline, and it’s a good way to meet other people that are on the same path as you.

Another great way to meet likeminded people is by going to conferences.

I love attending conferences. The content is always good but eighty per cent of the value that I get from conferences is from the relationships that I make through networking. It's just so powerful.

So, make an effort to surround yourself with the right type of people that have got your back. You never know, they might have also experienced similar problems to you and are equipped to help you through them.

8.    Create small victory points

Step eight is about creating small victory points along the way. As we’ve already established, success isn't linear, so it's easier to break it down into smaller victories.

Let’s go back to the analogy about becoming a professional basketballer.

A small victory point might be the ability to do a slam dunk. Once that happens, you can celebrate it and tick it off the list. The success then helps to create more momentum and energy to move onto the next victory point.

Working towards small victories is also good for building confidence and belief that you can achieve your goals.

Whenever you start a large-scale project, always break it down into smaller sections so the overall task doesn’t seem so big. Then, before you know it, you can look back at how far you’ve come, which is a mind-blowing experience.

9.    Prioritise your time

It’s important to prioritise your time so that you can achieve your goals.

Life can get in the way. Family can get in the way. Friends can get in the way. Even email and social media can take up your time. But you need to prioritise your time wisely if you want to succeed.

There’s a book by Stephen Covey called, First Things First. In it, he uses the analogy of a teacher with a group of students and a big empty glass jar.

In the story, the teacher fills the jar with rocks and asks the students if the jar is full.

All of the students say yes, it’s full and no more rocks can fit in. The teacher disagrees and starts to add smaller rocks, like gravel, to the jar. These rocks fit in around the bigger rocks.

Again, he asks the students if the jar is full and they all say yes. Then he adds sand to the jar. The students still say the jar is full, so he adds water to the jar.

The point is that if the sand and water had gone into the jar first, the large rocks wouldn’t have fit.

The big rocks are your goals and you have to fit them into your life by making them a priority. Otherwise everything else will take up your time.

10. Keep your eye on the prize

The last step is to stay laser-focused on the end game. Always. No matter what happens.

Even when things go wrong, you have to stay determined.

There's an old Chinese saying that I love. It goes like this:

“The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you're about to succeed.”

Thomas Edison also talked about this and said that most of life’s failures are people that didn’t realise how close they were to success when they gave up.

That’s something that we don’t want to happen. So, remember to hang in there during the tough times and keep your eye on the prize.

Business Made Easy Podcast

This topic was originally featured in Episode 71 of the Business Made Easy Podcast.

I hope the 10 steps are useful and you find a way to incorporate them into your business as you work towards your vision of success.

If you’re new to the Business Made Easy Podcast, you can find it at iTunes, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Hit the subscribe button and you’ll get a new episode when it comes out every Friday.

For regular listeners, please leave a review so that others know what to expect when they tune in. Plus, feedback is always welcome.

If you would like to connect with other entrepreneurs to discuss all thing business, join the official Business Made Easy Podcast Facebook group. It’s free to join and it’s a great place to ask questions or get advice from others in similar situations.

And if you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at [email protected]

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