When we think of success, one of the images that comes to mind is often one of a businessman (or woman) decked out in a suit, standing at the top of a high-rise building, and looking out over the streets below.
We associate business with success in this way for a number of reasons.
Firstly, success in business often brings money and riches. Secondly, success in business suggests a certain level of skill and ability and tends to yield a higher status and importance as a result. For all these reasons, business and success go hand in hand in our minds and for many, those are the specific heights that we are aiming for.
But is business success really what you want? How can you go about getting it? And what might you unwittingly be doing wrong that could be sabotaging your own success?
Let's take an in-depth look at what it means to be a success in business, and how you should go about getting there.
Be Careful What You Wish For
The first thing to remember is that you should be careful what you wish for. For many, the idea of success in business is a very romantic and idealistic one. It’s something we might spend a lot of time daydreaming about. But as is very often the case, the reality isn’t always what you might have expected. And it might not even really be the dreams that you’re having.
Let me explain.
Many of us associate success with the business. We've already explained this and it seems to make sense on the face of it.
But another of the reasons we hold this association in mind is that we have been trained to think this way. Over many years, we have seen images of successful people almost always wearing suits and wielding power. This is how success is depicted in the movies and in the books.
We think of the film Limitless or maybe Wolf or Wall Street (despite the fact that both these movies were really lessons against seeking too much power, too quickly). Maybe you want to make your parents proud? Maybe you plan to follow in their footsteps?
The image of success that your grandma has is linked to business as well, after all! But this can then lead to your downfall. If it means that you then chase after things that don't really bring you joy. If it means that you become the head of a big delivery company, or of a corporate legal team. Maybe it means you become a procurement manager.
Whatever the case, you can end up taking a stuffy job and being a ‘suit’ and attempting to get rich that way. You’ll start at the bottom, put in the hard graft and the work, and climb the corporate ladder. But is that really what you want? Not only are you now facing years possibly decades of working hard with very little reward, but you’re also going to be working toward something that may not be all that gratifying.
Sure, the pay is good when you’re standing in that high-rise, but do you really want all that responsibility? And do you feel all that passionately about the product or service your company is providing? The price of success is often that you end up staying late until 8 pm or 10 pm that you have to deal with people shouting at you down the phone and that you are responsible for millions of dollars.
All so that someone can get their boring parcel delivered on time. Or so that a dubious business can avoid a lawsuit.
Is that really your image of success? And what do you spend the money on? Expensive clothes? A car? Was it really all worth it? In many senses, this is not really a success. And not only that but if you take this route.
If you climb the corporate ladder, put in the work, and do your time, then you actually won’t be as successful as you possibly could be. Think of any massively successful businessman: Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk.
How many of them started a boring job and then 'worked their way up'? No: they started passion projects. They looked for things that no one knew they needed yet. They innovated. Trailblazed. They came up with completely fresh and novel ideas. And because they did that, they were able to have breakthroughs that no one could have imagined: reach heights that were truly unprecedented.
So, here’s the strategy. Learn to separate ‘income’ from ‘wealth’. If you read any guide on the money mindset, you’ll see that the two absolutely do not go hand in hand. Then learn to separate your status at work from your personal sense of pride and accomplishment. You know what? If you write a brilliant novel in your spare time and not one person reads it then that should still be just as rewarding.
So, I want you to take some time out. To find your passion and to follow that path. But do it on the side. And view your day job as what it is: a necessary evil to help you get by in the interim. Over time, you can turn that passion into a way to make money. Then maybe you go part-time. Then maybe you go full-time. Then maybe you quit your day job.
Why Passion is Crucial for Success
When Elon Musk created SpaceX, he was not the massively well-known name that he is today. Musk was a relatively unknown name whose mission was to encourage the private sector to venture into space. No small task. But you know what? Musk did it. And his explanation one of his explanations was that he aimed big. Many of us feel that we need to reign in our dreams and goals.
We have been led to believe that aiming too high will end in disappointment, will make us look foolish. But the reality is that aiming high is actually precisely what you need to do. Because when you aim high, you inspire others. When you have something exciting to say and when you are clearly excited about it yourself then people listen.
It’s so much more inspiring to hear someone tell you they want to go to space than it is to hear someone say they’re a hairdresser (though if that’s your passion, there’s nothing wrong with that!). If you’re reading this, then there’s a good chance you’re in the internet marketing industry. Let’s say you are for now. You might have a plan to launch a website, sell an ebook, make some money. There are two ways you go about that.
One is the cynical way. The way where your heart isn’t in it. The way that you see time and time again. This approach involves looking for the hottest new niche in the market. Whether or not that’s a niche you’re interested in doesn’t really matter. Then you buy some content, maybe hire someone to write some, maybe pump out a little yourself by just regurgitating what you already can find online.
Then, you lace into that content as much SEO as you possibly can. You do everything you can to make the site sell. You cover it in ads. You call it something like The Best Fitness Site Ever. And you wait for the cash to roll in. But that will not work. Why? Because there’s no passion.
If you tell them to write you the latest, most exciting, newest content then you still won’t do well. Why? Because they aren’t you. They can’t speak for you. They don’t know your point of view. And they probably don’t know the topic all that well either. So, they’ll do their research. Learn it thoroughly and try to write something great. But it will be safe. Generic, boring content. People will visit the site and they’ll see that.
The site has no personality. No tone of its own. No mission statement or purpose. There is no passion or love behind it and so no community grows behind it. The site dies. That’s why the thousands of low-quality sites never make it big. Think of the sites that do make it.
Those are sites like MOZ blog, Tim Ferriss' Four Hour Blog, Pat Fynn's Smart Passive Income. The Verge. The BBC. Forbes.
These are sites that are written by passionate experts. They are sites that have unique, engaging, and brilliant content. And unique, brilliant points of view that are unique to the brand. They have high production values, slick design, thriving YouTube channels.
Do you see the difference?
Think about the sites that you read on a daily basis. I bet they are either:
A) Large teams of enthusiastic professionals
B) Single, passionate individuals
None of them will be spam designed to quickly make money. None of them will be overly SEOed. You can’t create amazing quality unless you are passionate about the topic. You have to love doing it. You need to put everything into it. You have to want to spend your free time writing articles, answering fan-mail, and tweaking the logo. It mustn't feel like a job.
If there isn't a topic for a website you feel that way about, then being an internet marketer isn’t for you. You need to find what you are passionate about. Your calling. That is how you become Elon Musk and not 'tired, overworked, stressed Dad who works himself to an early grave'. Do you see the difference? You can't fake it. You have to love it.
Presenting the Image
But I know what you’re thinking: it’s all good and well having the dream and the vision but you also need the skill and you need that business persona. And it’s true. If you’re going to lead, inspire and get investments then you do need to learn to present yourself and you do need to learn to be taken seriously. And this is a skill that will help you in every other aspect of your life too.
So how do you go about it?
The simple place to start is with the realization that you are a brand. Your name is your own personal brand and just like any business brand, it is your job to protect that brand in a professional manner. You know how it is so important for a website to be correctly spelled, to have great design, to pay attention to even the smallest details?
It’s the same thing with you.
You need to present yourself in a way that inspires confidence and trust. You need to make sure that every interaction that other people have with you is a positive one. You need to present the face of a service that people can trust. You need to gain the confidence that you know what you’re talking about. You do this to begin with by conducting yourself in a professional manner.
That means that you put in effort and hard work into everything you do. Whether it’s that boring 9-5 that you're just ticking over with, or whether it is a client who is very much small time in your eyes. If you don't give them 100% of your attention, if you rush things or if you make a silly mistake, then that is a black mark against you. If you say you are going to get a piece of work in by a certain deadline, then you make sure you do that.
You never know where amazing opportunities might come from. And you never know what one interaction might lead to. If you deal with someone in a poor manner, or you do a sub-par job, then word might spread. If you do an excellent job, you just might get offered something. The same goes for any work that you put out with your name on it. Make sure it is excellent quality.
Next, you need to make sure that your presentation is perfect. That means learning to communicate. Learning to present yourself in a professional manner. I highly recommend getting classes to help you with public speaking and elocution. This will help you to get your point across in a way that other people understand. It will teach you to sell yourself, to thrive in interviews and to win clients and backers.
You also need to think about the small details of your appearance. How are your nails? How is your hair? Do you have a nice suit? Are you in good physical shape? All of this has been shown in countless studies to make a difference. People want to bet on the winning horse and if you look like you can barely keep yourself together, then why would anyone believe that you’re going to be able to run a business?
Sell a product? Provide a great service? Again, tiny things make the difference here: things like your shoes, how polished they are, how the laces are tied. Be constantly improving yourself and investing in you in order to make a better impression. Meditate. Get enough sleep. Have enough vitamins and minerals. Be ready to take those opportunities when they come.
And learn to see opportunities where you don’t expect them. Because it won’t always be obvious. Think of Sylvester Stallone who wanted to become a famous actor. He was turned down from all the acting jobs, so he eventually got there by writing a fantastic script for a movie. That movie was Rocky and he would only sell the script if he got the leading role.
The rest is history.
Opportunities might present themselves to you that don’t seem directly related to your goal. But adapt, learn to see the alternate routes. Because success in any area can lead to success in another. It builds confidence, it gives you connections and resources. This is called springboarding, where you use one 'win' to launch you to the next.
If you turn down an opportunity because it doesn’t seem to exactly match your plan, then you can end up missing out on something that could have been huge. Always be looking for that next move. Business is like a massive game of chess. And once again, this is why you always need to put your best foot forward. Making the right impression and protecting the brand opens those opportunities.
Keep your goal in mind, keep winning and keep taking that next step. Don’t let yourself become comfortable. And use the lessons from our other guides to get over your fear of risk and failure to keep taking those chances.
If you do all this, then you never know where your drive and your effort might take you. THAT is how you become a success in business.