4 Secrets of Achieving Outrageous Success

April 9th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Why are some people so much more successful than others?

After thinking about this on and off for almost 3 decades, I’ve reached the conclusion that 4 factors are responsible for success:

1. Hard work — “work smarter, not harder,” is largely B.S. Yes, you have to work smart. But most of the really successful people I know have a puritan work ethic, despite the claims of some of them to the contrary.

2. Persistence — the only way to ensure permanent failure is to give up. Successful people never give up.

3. “Smarts” — successful people are either highly intelligent or have some aptitude that helps them in achieving their goals.

4. Luck — some people are just luckier than others. They are fortunate to be born with an aptitude (#3 above) that makes money in today’s society. Or they benefit from timing: market factors align favorably with their ventures and goals.

I am debating adding a fifth factor to my list above: ambition.

Financial talk show host Bill Bresnan began a lecture once by asking the audience: “Why are you not rich? Because you don’t want to be rich.”

People who achieve success — fame, wealth, building a company, launching a product, inventing — do so because doing so is important to them.

The difference between a humble successful person and an egotistical one?

The humble achiever acknowledges the role #4 played in his success, and the egotistical one does not.

Do you think my 4 (5) factors above adequately explain why some people are so much more successful than others?

Or am I missing an important factor required to achieve success?

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26 responses about “4 Secrets of Achieving Outrageous Success”

  1. Dianna Huff said:

    How do you determine success? Is it by money only?

  2. Lisa Taylor Huff said:

    I both agree and disagree, depending on the points you raised. I think the world’s most successful people got that way as a result of knowing how to leverage the Law of Attraction to their advantage, COUPLED WITH some of what you described in your points. The Law of Attraction (LoA for short) tell us that you get what you focus on, you reap what you sow, and is the “intention” part of “attention + intention = results”… there are many ways to describe the Law of Attraction but basically it’s that because everything in the Universe is energy and like energies are attracted to other like energies (quantum physics), then we automatically create/attract whatever we turn our energies toward… both the good and the bad.

    So, to your points and do they adequately explain success:

    Hard work. Yes and no… I do think there is a difference between good old-fashioned hard work and STRUGGLING. Successful people who are using the LoA are willing to put reasonable, if not extreme, efforts into creating what they want, but they do not seem to struggle or SUFFER endlessly to do it. The hard work is a joy to them because they are focusing on creating something they really want and feel good about. So I think there is a subtle distinction to be made here: Hard work, YES; struggle and beating your head against a wall, NO. If you’re struggling, take another path around, through or over, or back away completely and try something new. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” – Ben Franklin.

    Persistence and smarts. Absolutely necessary for success. I’ll buy that! Also the ambition part if by ambition you mean when someone has a strong desire to create something that matters to them. In other words, they have to want it and care deeply about it happening, independent of whether or not there is a big pile of money attached to it. I read that Bill Gates has been known to say that if money were the point of the work he’s been doing all his life, it wouldn’t be worth getting up to go to work in the morning. Oprah Winfrey seems to attract abundance, not because she’s seeking it but because she’s focused on doing work she absolutely loves and where she can make a difference. So the ambition has to be for something more than money in order for someone to be “successful” — and then the money is a lovely by-product that is a well-deserved bonus!

    It’s the “luck” factor I don’t agree with because I don’t believe in luck. It suggests randomness, a “coincidence” and things being “accidental” and I don’t believe in those either. This is where I think the Attraction principle comes in. It’s the component that I think replaces this idea of “luck”. Luck suggests that we have no influence or control over the outcomes and Attraction suggests that our energy influences (attracts) what we’re getting. If we don’t like what we’re getting all we need do is shift our energy in the right way and things will begin to change. Someone whose energy is fearful, pessimistic and negative is no doubt attracting MORE things to be fearful, pessimistic and negative about, whereas someone who is focused on feeling good, on creating positive things, on thinking positive things, and on taking positive actions that support those positive thoughts and feelings, THAT person is going to find it much easier to achieve what they want and therefore will feel he/she has “succeeded”.

    So, to sum up: the Law of Attraction (consciously applied) PLUS your points of ambition, hard work (but no struggle), persistence and “smarts” = a Very Successful Person.

  3. Doe said:

    It is luck because it is not just Law of Attraction that govern this world. We have many other Law involved in. Law of Attraction is just one of the Law. It’s luck because there are many other things than just Law of Attraction. Can’t explain everything in one comment though ;)

  4. Bob Bly said:

    DH: Good point. My answer: everyone has to create their own definition of what success means for them. Mine is: I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it — and get paid very, very well for it.

    LTH: Many people swear by LoA. I have to say, however, that I am skeptical, as it has never worked for me.

  5. Jim Logan said:

    Great question Bob! I think #2 is a big key to success. I’d add “Taking Action” to your list.

    Successful people take the steps necessary to be successful – make the phone call, write the letter, ask for help, ask the dumb question, visit, etc.

    Successful people act and willingly take action. Which in my opinion is the real secret behind the Law of Attraction. Sitting around thinking about being a success doesn’t make you successful…being clear on what you want and taking action to get it does.

  6. Bob Bly said:

    Jim: how do you see “taking action” as different and distinct from #1 “hard work”? Also, I am not conversant in LoA, but if the Law of Attraction just means “sitting around thinking about being a success,” than I certainly agree with you: action, not thought, is more likely to produce results. Perhaps the LoA crowd disagrees.

  7. copywriting services said:

    Hi Bob,

    What an inspiring post.

    I am a copywriter in the making. I handwrite the classics like crazy. Infact, I love doing it, over and over again.

    I am told the fastest way to become successful is to “model”.

    Is it still a valid notion?

    Or am I wasting time ?

    Edward Santosh

    PS: My friends and foes(my household ;) alike swear that my writing has become way better than what it was just a few months ago.

  8. Suzanne Ryan said:

    Bob, using my own roller coaster experiences as the observatory, I would have to say it is 1, 2, 3, combined with a strong inner focus. A decision to concentrate and get it right…and to dig into my inner reserves to get it right.

    When I have practiced any of the above components on their own, or together without the focus, I have floundered horribly.

    Maybe focus is persistance? or ambition? But yet, I see it as something different.

    As for LOA…bought into it for a short time….but I find it a lot more useful to be 100% in touch with my inner core (focus).

    One of the earliest lessons I learned is that you can’t be afraid to fail and you had better be damn ready to learn from your mistakes….

  9. Bob Bly said:

    Edward: modeling is not the ONLY route to success, but for most, it is the surest, quickest route. 9 times out of 10, you will do better learning what successful people do, and doing the same things they do, than ignoring their precedence and reinventing the wheel on your own. Exceptions? Of course.

  10. JB said:

    Perhaps one way to, at least partially, bridge the luck/no-luck worldviews is by the concept of awareness/vision. Sometimes luck is merely one person’s superior awareness of situation, context, points of leverage, political issues, etc. combined with a vision of what to do with this awareness, which direction to travel, etc. Of course, the first 3 factors you cite are required otherwise the person of vision/awareness is merely a dreamer/prophet.

  11. Stacey DePolo said:

    Great list, great qualities, I agree. But isn’t it maddening how many people you know who have all of these qualities, and are NOT successful? What about people like George W. Bush, who have none of
    them–except persistence–yet achieve “success” by their own measure anyway? Notice that successful people usually hang together, right? Maybe that’s the key.

  12. Jim Logan said:

    Bob, I think Taking Action is close to persistence. Successful people I know never accept failure as an outcome. Sure, they abandon failed ideas, but they try a different approach. To me, Taking Action is about doing the things we know we should or ought to do, but don’t do for whatever reason…often fear. Fear of failure or rejection.

    If you eliminate failure as a possible out come, the worst you can achieve is a temporary setback. Food for thought.

    Regarding LoA, my understanding is the emphasis is placed on positive thinking and sending “messages” to the “universe” on what you want and desire…then taking action on the thoughts that enter your mind (I’m not a follower of LoA). In my understanding…the key is taking action…making the phone call, sending the letter, initiating the engagement with others, etc. Without action, the rest is for not.

  13. Bob Bly said:

    My understanding of LoA is if you think about what you want, verbalize it with positive affirmations (“I am rich” and not “I want to be rich”), and visualize it, you will manifest it in your life. Others claim this works and I have no cause to dispute them, but it does not work for me. It does make logical sense, however: whatever you focus on, you tend to work on, consciously or subconsciously. Example: I am working on a direct mail package on weight loss. I suddenly see great articles on weight loss in my daily reading. I am sure the media did not coincidentally start covering weight loss more since I started the project. Rather, my mind is subconsciouly programmed to concentrate on my desire: in this case, to get good source material on weight loss.

  14. John Kelly said:

    Although I could probably outwork almost anyone, in the past I chose not to. In other words, I was the antithesis of HARD WORK. I was LAZY. I was smart enough to figure out how not to work to hard. Despite this, today I am successful in many facets of life: financial, family, etc.

    But, oh, the things I could have accomplished if I had worked hard!

    This is not to say HARD WORK isn’t important when it comes to succeeding. It plainly is. Today, I’m a hard worker and will become even more successful.

    I think a missing ingredient in your mix is either choosing the right mentor or having the right mentor choose you. That was a missing piece in my life looking back. Not complaining here, only saying that I had to figure out everything on my own. I did, but it took a long time.

    My own advice — to those seeking such advice — is to simply ask. Ask those who know how how they do it. Most successful people are honored to give someone else their secrets.

  15. Marek said:

    Bob, thanks for asking this question. I am, let’s say, a few years after starting my career of little independent agency. When looking back, I can confirm the importance of Persistence / Taking Action, Smarts and to Learn from others or mistakes. Often you can get used to work more. But do not underestimate Independence too – it makes everyone stronger and more succesfull.

    Good discussion, thanks!

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    [...] Bob Bly talks about four or five characteristics that successful people seem to have. It gives me some food for thought. I’m not the success I know I can be, and I often wonder why. If I go by his list, hard work and ambition seem to be the traits that I need to work on. What about you? [...]

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