If you’ve ever been frustrated at trying to get ahead but seem to be hitting the same wall over and over again, then it’s worth considering that successful people were once where you are now.
Successful people failed a lot before they became ‘an overnight success’. They encountered obstacles and difficulties along their path. They faced dead ends and paths that seemed to go around and around in circles. They too felt helpless and powerless at times to change their luck.
I often liken the path of life to a maze, where you need to find the route through to your ultimate goal and destination on the other side. But it’s not a straight route. More often than not it’s a convoluted route of lefts and rights, back and forths, twists and turns.
Sometimes you turn left and hit a wall. Sometimes you turn right and hit a wall. Even the way forward is often blocked.
With no clear way through, and no end in sight, it can be despairing and seemingly futile to keep going.
Yet a successful life is ultimately the triumph over one’s self, a great part of which is the conquest over doubt and despair.
Doubt and despair cause you to stop trying, put your tools down, and succumb to the belief that you’ll never achieve your dreams.
That you’ll forever be trapped in the maze of life and never find your escape route.
But successful achievement only comes to those who keep working toward their destination, to keep moving forward at all times.
This is usually achieved through unyielding faith in what you are trying to achieve and trying to become. Faith, in this sense, is the antidote to doubt and despair. As such, you need to keep taking big doses of faith and self-belief, because doubt and despair will always be a part of living in this world and persistently work to undermine you.
Doubt and despair won’t ever go away; they are part of life. But you can control them. You have the power to limit their effects on your state of being and annul their negative influence over your efforts to succeed.
Successful people know this. Unsuccessful people probably don’t. Which is why, despite their doubts and despair, successful people know they must keep focussing on their faith and keep putting one foot ahead of the other, one step forward at a time, to keep striving for what they want and believe in.
Just like climbing a mountain: you don’t fly to the top or get there in one giant leap—you get there one step at a time.
They also know and fully comprehend the definition of success as Earl Nightingale defines it:
Success is the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal.
Success is progressive, not an end in itself. It is a process. It involves action and doing that will help you realise your goal.
Failure is regressive, to give up and go back to what you were doing before you embarked on that ‘fantasy’ that good meaning people told you was beyond your capabilities and would only lead to grief and frustration.
Failure is to lose faith in what you want to do and become, to throw your hands in the air and stop trying. It is to be inactive and cease doing the things that will realise your goal.
Imagine failing 10,000 times before you happened upon success. That’s what Thomas Edison did. He tried 10,000 different ways to create the electric light bulb before he discovered the right way to do it. But he didn’t let failures get in the way of getting what he wanted. Rather, he used his failures to propel him towards success. He had unyielding faith in what he wanted to achieve.
As he said:
“I didn’t fail 10,000 times. I just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”
He had a success mindset. He had faith. So did Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketballers of all time, who claims he missed 10,000 shots and that’s what made him great.
So too Colonel Sanders, creator of Kentucky Fried Chicken. His idea for fried chicken and his recipe of secret herbs and spices was rejected 1009 times by the people he approached to back his venture. But he didn’t give up. He too had faith, and in keeping his doubts and despair at bay he created a billion-dollar global business.
Thomas Edison wasn’t the only inventor trying to perfect the electric light bulb at the time. Nor was Michael Jordan the only basketballer. Neither was Colonel Sanders the only person with a great idea for fried chicken.
But whereas others failed to progress and succeed where they did, Edison, Jordan and Sanders had unyielding faith. They kept moving in the direction of their goal and eventually arrived at their destination. They knew the difference between failing and success—the difference between arriving at your chosen destination or not—is to keep moving forward in spite of anything else that may be happening around you. To have a vision of who you want to be and what you want to achieve, and have faith to quell the doubts and despair.
So what then is the X-factor? What do successful people have that others don’t? How do they strengthen their faith where others weaken theirs?
They have broad SCOPE.
SCOPE: Self-Assuredness—Vision. Attitude. Belief.
In my previous article, Why Success in Anything You Do Depends on Your SCOPE (and Your Failure Too), I introduced the concept of broadening or increasing your SCOPE to develop the success habit of completion:
S: Self-assuredness and Self-belief
P: Planning, Preparation and Perseverance
E: Energy, Effort and Enthusiasm
This discussion will now focus on S: Self-assuredness and Self-belief. Other articles to follow will focus on developing the other remaining aspects of your SCOPE.
One of the most striking features of people who seem successful, and who others aspire to emulate, is their self-assuredness. They have an air of certainty and conviction, and seem to lack any self-doubt or insecurities. With an eye on the future, they are focused on what they want to achieve and aren’t anchored to their failures in the past.
They are someone who others say, “She knows where she’s going.’
Yet hope as we might, just as there’s no magic wand you can wave to instantly transform your body into a fit, athletic, muscular physique, there is no magic wand to increase your self-assuredness and self-belief. Some genetics do come into play, but generally your fitness and physique is a result of discipline and the habit of regular exercise. So too with self-assuredness and self-belief—it requires regular mental workout.
Although success is multifactorial and differs from person to person, successful people do however share common traits that you can replicate in your own endeavours:
- Successful people have a clear vision of what they want and who they are—they know their “I am”
- Successful people have a success attitude—they know their “I will”
- Successful people have steadfast self-belief—they know their “I can”
All three traits—I am, I will, I can—build your faith in who you want to be and what you want to do.
It’s like a mantra: “I am! I will! I can!” The more you repeat it in the gymnasium of your mind, the stronger your faith muscle becomes.
Unsuccessful people, however, have mind fog and no clear vision of what they want, or even who they want to be. They have an attitude of failure. They also are lacking in the self-belief department. They have a weak or atrophied faith muscle.
So the first step to broaden your SCOPE, and thus transform your failures into success, is to build your faith muscle, and this you do by:
- #1: Clarifying your Vision—I Am!
- #2: Amplifying your Success Attitude—I Will!
- #3: Reinforcing your Self-Belief—I Can!
#1: Clarifying Your Vision – I Am
“I am” is the most powerful statement of being there is.
In fact, there is no other statement of being. Everything you think about yourself and explain who you are to others begins with, “I am.”
I am… a teacher, doctor, lawyer, banker, bus driver, student, cleaner, husband, wife, mother, father, brother, sister.
I am… Australian, American, European, African, Asian, Arabian, Indian, Polynesian, Latino, citizen of the earth.
I am… a warrior, lover, activist, hippy, musician, footballer, baseballer, priest, rabbi, imam, writer, ballerina, artist, soul of the world.
In my book, It’s Up To You! Why People Fail to Live the Life they Want and How to Change It, I discuss how everything begins with who you are, your “I am”. From you arises all your thoughts, dreams, hopes, desires. From you arises the beginning of all inspiration and motivation for being the person you want to be and doing the things you want to do.
From you arises your purpose and meaning, as well as all the plans and strategies and mechanics of how you can be and do what you want.
Your ‘who’ is the foundation upon which your ‘what’, ‘why’, and ‘how’ is built.
So you need to know yourself, and know yourself well. This means knowing who you are now and who you want to be. Successful people know the importance of this, and they make a habit of continually defining who they are and identifying their “I am”.
There is a great exercise you can do to get to the core of your “I am”, which, if you’re struggling to get a clear picture of who you are and who you want to be, I thoroughly recommend. It’s a psychology-based exercise that I call, “Knowing Thyself”, and it’s simply this:
- Get a pen and paper and sit down somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed for 30 minutes.
- Write a list of numbers 1-20 down the page.
- Next to each number, write the words “I am…”
- Starting at No.1, describe who you are by completing each of the 20 statements “I am…”
You’ll find the first 10 statements relatively easy (I’ve given you a few clues already of what to write in the “I am” statements above). The next 5 are moderately more difficult, and the last 5 will be the most difficult and take the most amount of thought and time to complete.
But by the end of the exercise, you will have 20 statements about yourself that all begin with the powerful words, “I am”.
Now for the hardest part: of all 20 statements about you, is there 1 single word that represents the totality of who you are and who you want to be? A kind of umbrella word that captures the essence of you?
For me, my 1-word is prescriber. It defines in all aspects—doctor, author, transformologist, mentor, motivational speaker—who I have been, who I am now, and who I want to be. I like this word ‘prescriber’ because I want to be somebody who helps you to prescribe your future. My 1-word succinctly and effieciently describes everything about me: who I am, what I do, why I do it, and how I do it.
Now, it took me about 12 months of determination and thought to find this word, even though it was staring at me right in the face for a long time. The point is, finding your 1-word will take effort on your behalf, but it will certainly be worth your while, and, in any case, just be sure it isn’t already staring at you in the face.
#2: Amplifying Your Success Attitude – I Will
Failures happen as much to successful people as they do to unsuccessful people, probably more, because successful people keep trying no matter what and it’s only natural the more you try the more you’ll fail. The more you swing, the more you’ll miss. But you’ll also succeed more too.
As such, success is by an large a numbers game. The more you understand this, the more you’ll succeed. It’s called “The Law of Averages”.
I remember a story about George Herman “Babe” Ruth, one of the most famous names in US baseball history, and someone who epitomised The Law of Averages. He was the first person to hit 60 home runs in a season and is considered the greatest baseballer of all time. Babe Ruth was someone who wasn’t afraid to strike out, and his attitude of ‘keep swinging’ and ‘every strike brings me closer to the next home run’ helped the NY Yankees to many titles.
But it wasn’t always so straightforward. In one famous, series-clinching game against Philadelphia, he’d already failed in two previous innings. His third time up to bat in the last innings was crucial. With bases loaded, NY needed a home run to win. Babe Ruth stepped up to the plate, but was 0-2 in the blink of a speedball (he apparently swung so hard at one pitch he fell over onto his back). Dusting himself off, he readied himself at the plate again, then swung and hit the ball out of the ground, one of the biggest hits ever seen at the time. NY won.
When interviewed after the game and asked what was going through his mind when 0-2 at the plate and facing defeat, he is reputed as saying, with composure and self-assuredness, something along the lines of: “I knew if I kept swinging, the Law of Averages would work in my favour.”
You see, although Babe Ruth hit over 700+ home runs and had over 2,200+ runs batted in (RBI) over the course of his career, it isn’t so well known that he also struck out over 1300+ times—which means he struck out almost double the number of home runs he hit.
But he had faith in his abilities and faith in the Law of Averages. As long as he kept swinging, he was confident the Law of Averages would ensure the results would eventually fall in his favour.
Like Babe Ruth, if you want to succeed you just have to keep trying. You have to keep swinging. You just have to keep working at it until you achieve the results you’re after. And there you have it, the master-word, which is ‘work’.
People who succeed not only have great faith, they have a great work ethic.
They want to work. They love to work. They love to keep swinging, to keep giving it a shot.
They have a great attitude to work and keep trying because they know where they’re going, and they know that to get there they have to keep putting in effort, thus doing their bit to allow The Law of Averages to work in their favour.
As we know, faith without works is dead. It’s no surprise then, that people who habitually fail don’t make the most of The Law of Averages because they don’t have a great work ethic; they actually have a work phobia, a fear of doing (which is called ‘ergophobia’ or ‘ponophobia’).
They have a poor attitude to work because they generally don’t know what they want or where they’re going, so the return on investment isn’t there for them. It just isn’t worth the effort.
It isn’t worth the effort because they focus on the misses, the strikes, not the hits. Imagine if Babe Ruth only focussed on his 1300+ strikeouts (that’s actually 3900+ strikes). He would never have summoned the effort to keep swinging, he would never have hit 700+ home runs, and the world of baseball would have missed out on the greatest player to stand at the plate.
Thankfully, he had a success attitude, not a failure attitude. As Zig Ziglar reminded us,
“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”
Attitude is the magic word. But it isn’t too difficult or require magic to change a failure attitude to a success attitude if you want to: it’s more or less a simple exercise in perspective. It can be as simple as looking at things from a different angle, which can be all the difference in succeeding or failing.
But what is a failure attitude? What is the difference between the attitude of success and the attitude of failure?
From my experience, a failure attitude is any mindset or thought processing that encompasses any or all of the following:
- Blame—blaming others, the situation, lack of money, know-how or resources, or anything else other than yourself for your failures and the refusal to acknowledge your part in the result or situation you find yourself in.
- Losing first, winning second—believing that you are already going to lose or not succeed before you’ve even started and that any wins you might achieve are the result of good luck rather than good performance.
- Excuse making—being more invested in why you failed or lost than what you can do to find a solution and succeed.
- Mediocrity—accepting less than the best, both from yourself and from others, but mainly from yourself and what you are capable of being and achieving. Mediocrity is nothing less than the refusal to utilise your talents and maximise your potential in order to become the person you’re capable of becoming.
- Entitlement—believing the world owes you a living and all you have to do is sit back and wait for the good things to come your way without you having to do anything.
So here’s what you need to do to change these failure traits into success traits. It’s not too difficult, but you’ll need to work keep working on it day after day until they become a habit (21 days is usually a rough estimate to override old habits and establish new habits):
- Be Response-able: Take responsibility for what you’ve done, where you are now, and where you’re going. Don’t react with blame, which can be instinctive but nonetheless controllable. Rather, respond maturely with leadership. It’s your life. Take the lead in defining who you want to be, determining what you want to do, and designing how to achieve it. Then take responsibility and do it.
- Win First, Learn Second: Focus on the saying, “I never lose: I either win, or I learn.” Successful people learn from their mistakes and failures. They constantly improve upon where they went wrong. They have a vision of winning, of seeing themselves cross the finish line, and use failures as stepping stones to get there, thus transforming failures into success because they refuse to sit down and stop—they progressively move toward their worthy ideal.
- Be Solution Focussed: As well as staying focused on your vision and goals, take on board the success habit of turning problems into opportunities. Focus on the result you want, not the problem getting in the way. Deliberately and intentionally seek out solutions, because that’s the best way to turn a problem into an opportunity.
- Think BIG: There’s no such thing as an average person, only an average mindset. Your potential is only limited by your thoughts and beliefs about yourself. Therefore set goals that you see yourself achieving, not goals that you only hope you’ll achieve. Think BIG. Think no limits. Set BIG goals that are actually the minimum of what you can achieve, not the maximum limit of your success. Use these BIG goals as steps to your next big thing, not a ceiling that caps a limit to what you are capable of achieving.
- Be a Person of Value: The world owes you as much as you are willing to owe the world. It’s been said, “You reap what you sow.” This means what you put in, you get out. Put nothing in, get nothing out. Put rubbish in, get rubbish out. Put value in, get value out. Some call it karma, some call it The Law of Attraction. So to fully maximise this law and use it to your advantage, be pro-active about it and be a person of value: think how to create and add value to this moment, and act with the intention to create and add value to this moment. Even if the results don’t work exactly as you had intended or in your favour, you can still rest in the knowledge that your intentions were good and you meant to add value—this alone will fill your mind with the sense of joy, security, acceptance, peace, and freedom. This is fulfillment. What, then, does the world owe you?
To work on these traits and develop new habits and attitudes of success, a powerful exercise is to say “Yes, I will…” before each statement:
- Yes, I will be response-able!
- Yes, I will win first, learn second!
- Yes, I will be solution focussed!
- Yes, I will think BIG!
- Yes, I will be a person of value!
*Note: The difference between failure and success can often be measured in the use of one word. People who fail without succeeding tend to say, ‘I wish…’ They only wish for something, to be somebody, to do something. In respect to the above success habits, they will say, ‘I wish I was response-able.’ ‘I wish I could win first, learn second.’ ‘I wish I could be solution focussed, to think BIG, to be a person of value.’
Successful people don’t wish, they say ‘I will…’
#3: Reinforcing Your Self-Belief – I Can
You might be familiar with the American fairytale, The Little Engine That Could, which has been told in many formats, including films by Disney and Universal Studios. It goes something like this:
A small red engine is pulling a toy-filled train to a town on the other side of a mountain. The toys are for the children of the town, but the engine breaks down upon reaching the mountain.
A toy clown jumps out of the train and flags down other engines to help them get to the children. First, a shiny yellow passenger engine, then a big black freight locomotive, and finally a rusty old engine.
The shiny passenger engine is too pompous and refuses to help. So too the big freight locomotive, who is too important to bother helping. Even the rusty old engine is too tired and old to help out.
Finally, a little blue locomotive arrives. Although she tells the clown she is only a switcher engine, and has never pulled a train or been over the mountain, she agrees to help them get to the children on the other side.
“I think I can,” she puffs, and couples herself in front of the toys.
She starts up the mountain, puffing as she goes, “I think I can, I think I can…”
Halfway up, the gradient increases and she struggles with the heavy load, but she continues to puff, “I think I can… I think I can…”
Ever higher she goes, struggling with the increasing steepness of the grade. “I think… I can, I think… I can…”
Nearing the top of the mountain, she almost stops, slowing to a crawl, but never giving up, “I… think… I… can, I… think… I… can.”
Then, drawing on bravery and hope, she reaches the crest and makes her way to the children below, delighted with her success, “I knew I could, I knew I could, I knew I could.”
Although this is a tale for children on the value of optimism, self-belief, and hard work, it has meaning for adults too.
What would the result have been if the brave little engine said instead, ‘Nah, I don’t think I can. I’m too little. I’m not strong enough. Surely, some other train is better than me for this job.’
I once made a calculation on how many negative words the average person says to him or herself in an average year. I based it on the amount of thoughts psychologists estimated goes through a person’s mind on a daily basis, coupled with the estimate that of those thoughts, 80% are negative. The results are staggering:
The average person has 3-17 million negative thoughts per year.
That’s astounding. Now let’s multiply that by the average lifetime of 80 years: 240-1,360 million negative thoughts per person, per lifetime (and yes, that’s 1.36 billion at the top end).
But just imagine the person who has 1.36 billion positive thoughts in their lifetime.
Imagine what they could achieve. Imagine the power of good they could do for others and their community. Imagine the paradise they could create for the world.
Imagine if it were you.
The first step to broaden your SCOPE, and thus transform your failures into success, is to build your faith muscle, and this you do by:
- #1: Clarifying your Vision—your ‘I am’
- #2: Amplifying your Success Attitude—your ‘I will’
- #3: Reinforcing your Self-Belief—your ‘I can’
Did you notice the 3 vital words of success in this article? These 3 words, when used habitually and with intention every day, have the power to change the quality of your life and transform your failures into success. They are:
- Your 1-word—that single word that best describes who you are, what you do, why you do it, and how you do it.
- The master-word—work.
- The magic-word—attitude.