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Everyone is looking for THE thing that will vault them, or their business, to success and riches.

What is the nugget — the one thing that if you knock yourself out on — that will truly make a difference in your career?

It Drives Me Crazy

The experts and pundits promulgate their version of success and their approach typically is to shrink their advice down into one or two points they believe are the essence of winning.

After all, if you can boil success down close to a single factor, people will more easily understand the advice (and the promulgators will be heroes).

It’s intellectual dishonesty to propagate such a simplistic view to succeed.

Success not that easy. It can’t be explained by one or two variables.

Success is a journey.

1. Single Wins

It’s made of a series of single wins, each one different from the other, reflecting the unique circumstances surrounding each challenge undertaken.

Rarely do problems show themselves with a noticeable common denominator; each one requires a slightly different problem-solving approach that draws on different skills and competencies.

Successful people understand that it is rarely the Hail Mary pass that sets them apart from others in the crowd, rather, it’s the string of little achievements consistently delivered that separates them from their peers.

2. Incremental Gains

Successful careers are based on “baby steps”; small incremental gains — nano-inches — that purposely and relentlessly move toward the end goal in mind. The ability to distill the end game into a number of smaller objectives is critical and the patience to achieve each one of them is essential.

Shortcuts are few and far between in today’s world full of complexities and uncertainty; doggedly pursuing small forward-looking goals that serve the greater purpose is the most practical way to get things done and to be recognized as an achiever.

3. Mistakes

I know of no successful individual who has made zero mistakes; quite the opposite. They all share three attributes: one, they have all made their fair share of mistakes; two, they will learn from each mistake to minimize the chances of making the same mistake in the future and three, they tweaked their plan to reflect what they have learned from making the mistake.

Success eventually is a function of the tries someone makes, and you can’t try a lot without stumbling along the way. Accept and welcome the fact you will make mistakes, just be sure they serve your personal development process and that you act quickly to remedy them.


4. Pain Tolerance

We live, work, and play in an extremely complex environment to succeed. Organizations have their own political landscape, bureaucratic rules & processes as well as the personal bias that makes it exceedingly difficult to get anything done. What works on paper rarely works in the face of these forces; intellectual energy alone is woefully inadequate to accomplish anything.

Progress depends on how much emotional energy someone is prepared to put into a task to see it through; no emotion = little or no progress.

And it also depends on how much disappointment can be absorbed into the face of roadblocks and setbacks, while still looking for ways to continue moving forward. When obstacles are constantly encountered, one needs a high tolerance for “pain”; if not, defeat is inevitable.

5. Passion

Ever see a successful person who is “sorta” interested in what they’re doing? I haven’t.

In fact, the profile of a winner contains these descriptors to succeed:

  • Passionate
  • Mindlessly driven
  • All in
  • Totally possessed
  • Dangerously committed

These traits are demonstrated by someone who is guided by right-brain energy rather than left-brain logic. Someone who understands that it is not a theory and textbook principles that drive results; rather the relentless energy applied in the face of perpetual roadblocks encountered along the way.

6. Imperfection

Successful people don’t seek the perfect solution to anything because they know that perfection is a trap that robs them of valuable time and energy necessary to execute their solution and move forward.

I have known people who were prepared to spend copious amounts of time to try and make their chosen path 20% “more perfect” than the approach they have in hand. It’s a travesty, really, because the best method to deliver a winning solution is to get busy implementing an imperfect solution and improve it on the run.

Perfectionists don’t want to do anything to succeed. They are mesmerized by the possibilities and are risk-averse — traits of mediocrity, not greatness.

The intellectual master plan rarely yields a star. It’s more of the practical human traits that separate special successful people from the herd.

The Bottom Line

Winning is all about baby steps and nano-inches. Pain tolerance and screw-ups. Trying and imperfection.

Pay attention to these subjects if a successful career is your end game.


Written By
Roy Osing is a former President and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience covering all the major business functions including business strategy, marketing, sales, customer service and people development. He is a blogger, content marketer, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead. You can also read more of Roy Osing's articles at his website.

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