The executive looked at me expectantly, awaiting my answer to the most critical question of all: “How do I drive my career to success?”

Oh, I knew the answer. And shared it. He was disappointed (as I knew he would be). Bet you will be too - because it is NOT EASY; though very, very simple. 

Most of us spend a lot of time thinking about what ‘success’ means - what it looks like and how we’ll know when we get there. It’s one of life’s tough questions, and often takes years - if ever - for us to get clarity on.  There is good news though. While nailing what ‘success’ means for us can be a long journey, the answer on how to get there is right in front of our noses. Seriously. Achieving ‘success’ is built around one very simple habit:

The most critical single quality for success is self-discipline.

“Ho hum”, you might well say. “Is that it? Surely there's more to it than that?” 

Truth is, there isn’t.

As Elbert Hubbard defines it, "Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not".

According to Brian Tracy, there are three steps in Hubbard’s approach:

Step one: Making yourself do what you should do.

Easier said than done.

You have to use strength and will power to force yourself into motion, to break the power of inertia that holds you back.

Step two: Doing what you should do when you should do it.

Yes – you have to take action. But you have to take it at the right times. You have to make plans, develop a schedule, then do what you’ll say you’ll do.

You have to keep your promises to yourself and others.

Step three: You have to do it whether you feel like it or not.

The true test of character, says Tracy, is when you do something you know you must do whether you feel like it or not. This is the greatest test of self-discipline.

Fitness guru Michelle Bridges has a great tool to help on this. She calls it “J.F.D.I” When you know you need to get started but really, really don’t feel like it, then “Just ‘F**king Do It”, she says.

But there’s a twist. You must J.F.D.I., it for just 10 minutes. If after 10 minutes you don’t want to continue, then stop. It’s extremely rare people stop after 10 minutes. Once you get started, you get the momentum and away you go. Give it a go. It works!

What is ‘success’ to me?

So, that's how to get there. But where is 'there'?

I have thought about what success means to me long and hard. I'm still trying to figure it out. But I reckon I am very close to nailing the definition. And like most of my realisations and insights, it’s not original. I stole it from somewhere else. In this instance, a movie: “Papadopoulos and Sons”. The failed business tycoon, now working in his brother’s fish and chip shop, when asked what success means to him, answered: Success is the amount of joy you feel in your life.” Powerful.

So, for me it’s about where I get my joy from. From a new Aston Martin? No. Pleasure, yes maybe (if I had one), but joy? NO! From watching my son running towards me on a Friday night from the sausage sizzle stand at the local rugby ground where we are watching his sister play touch, sausage and sauce in his hand? YES! Pure, unadulterated joy fills my heart.

Once you get clarity on where the joy comes in your life, then work with relentless self-discipline to do what you need to do to increase those moments. That’s my conclusion anyway about success, and how to get there.

If you want to achieve success in whatever you are doing, get very clear on the outcome, and then focus all your energies on self-discipline. Make no mistake - it is VERY HARD to do. Well, I find it so. But in the wise words of Brian Tracy: “Your ability to endure….to continue taking action step by step, in the direction of your dreams, is what will ultimately ensure your success. If you keep on keeping on, nothing will stop you.”

Keep on keeping on. Good luck!


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