There seems to be a lot of mysticism surrounding success. People are always wondering, “How can I succeed?” They look around at the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or Leo Babauta, and think that those people have something that they don’t. That somehow, they were just born “better,” in some way that allowed them to succeed. Or maybe, they just got lucky. They think there’s no way that they can enjoy success like that. Sound familiar? If you’ve said these things about yourself, then you’re in good company.
Let’s bring this concept a little closer to home. The same things can be said about those who’ve enjoyed success playing an instrument, or writing a book, or acting. So, why even try to succeed? We might as well pack up our dreams, head to our 9-5 desk jobs, and just try to forget those passions that burn within us. But, I’ll ask you this: imagine what you would do if you believed you could do anything, without any doubts?
To Succeed, You Must Try
I’ll share with you a particular conversation I’ve had with someone who plays the guitar very well, and says he loves it. I asked him why he didn’t think about making money playing (in a band, or whatnot), and he said, “It’s impossible,” and that it’s, “just a hobby”, even though he clearly would love to be a successful guitarist. He gave up before even trying, because he’s a “realist.” Whether he’s an amazing guitarist, or just average, is irrelevant at that point, and I’ll tell you why.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. You could say it’s one of the most important secrets behind success, although it applies almost everywhere. It applies if you want to succeed in business, or music, or just excel at something like swimming, or writing, or acting. You, and you alone, are your worst enemy. Many of us will simply tell ourselves we can’t do it, or that it’s very unlikely, or that it’s not practical. At that point, you have already failed. You’ve failed because either you’ve given yourself a great excuse to walk away after your first failure, or you’ve convinced yourself to not even try.
What if someone told you that if you were to try hard enough, you could succeed at anything? What then? This is the mental attitude common among those who succeed. They don’t stop after one failure. They don’t even stop after two failures, or a thousand failures (in the case of Thomas Edison)! They persist! They persist because they know and believe down to their very core that they will succeed. Failure is not an option. Impossible does not exist – they have removed it from their dictionary.
Success is Not Given, it is Taken
Consider Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, an extremely successful person. He desired to have an eight-cylinder engine where all cylinders were in a single block. The V-8 engine, as we know it today. His team of engineers told him it was impossible. They said that it couldn’t be done. He told them to do it anyway, and so they went off to try to figure out how.
Six months went by, and still Ford’s engineers couldn’t figure it out. They once again told him that it was an impossible task. With calm determination, he told those men that he will have his V-8 engine and told them to continue. They worked for yet another six months, and still came back with nothing. They complained to Henry Ford that the task he had set them on could not be done. Again, Henry turned them away saying that success was inevitable, and that they will give him his V-8 engine. Shortly afterwards, they found a way.
Through sheer determination of will, with a mindset bent only on success, Henry Ford weathered more than a year of failure to turn out the eight-cylinder engine of his dreams. We should all learn something from this. This was not luck. This was done by sheer force of will. He knew for a fact in his mind, beyond any doubt, that he would have his V-8 engine, and through his determination convinced those around him, and forever changed the automotive industry.
Now, Henry Ford didn’t build the V-8 engine, but his tenacity and persistence made it possible. Without that persistence, those engineers would have given up. Yes, he didn’t build it, but he might as well have.
If you look into your future, what you do see? Do you imagine yourself enjoying great success, or disastrous failure? Can you even imagine yourself trying? What we imagine matters, because believing is always the first step to success. Without it, there will always be some failure that seems insurmountable.
Giving Up Right Before Success
In fact, giving up after a failure is extremely common. The old saying, “Well, at least I tried,” does not exist for those bent on success. As a sci-fi cultural icon once said, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” It is surprising to know that many people give up just before success. I will illustrate one example from the classic book, “Think and Grow Rich.”
During the gold-rush of the early 1900′s, a man named R. U. Darby and his uncle found a vein of gold. After procuring some equipment for the dig, they drilled for the ore and mined a single car of gold. The results from that single car proved that they had one of the richest mines in Colorado. A few more cars would recover their debts, and then they would be rolling in the profits. But, suddenly, the vein dried up! They kept trying to drill, desperate to find the vein once again, but they were met with failure.
Then, they decided to quit.
They sold their equipment to some man at a junk yard for a couple hundred dollars, and went home. Now, the junk yard man was smart, and hired a mining engineer to come and look at the mine. It turned out that this type of mine was special, and that more gold would be found a few more feet away. The engineer was right, and the man made a fortune.
The road to success is paved with failure. Use it. Learn from your failure. Imagine if Steve Jobs had not come back and rescued Apple from the brink of destruction. Their epic failures before he took over would have been enough for most men to never work for that company. Steve Jobs did not have something that you cannot possess! He was determined. Through his unrestrained desire, bordering on obsession, and his sheer force of will he turned that company around. He did not focus on the failures of the company. He saw nothing but success.
You will succeed. The only thing that can possibly stop you is yourself!
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