The Formula For Success That’s Been Followed by The Icons of History
Everybody wants success. It’s the ultimate goal. But when you take the first step to achieving any meaningful goal, you will run into roadblocks.
You’ve heard it before: “If at first you don’t succeed, try again.”
Setbacks create opportunities for you to become stronger, wiser and better.
Turn every obstacle into an advantage
Faced with impossible situations, the likes of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, John D. Rockefeller, Amelia Earhart, Andrew Carnegie, Epictetus, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Thomas Edison turned obstacles into opportunities.
These men and women were not insanely brilliant, lucky, or gifted. Their success came from the timeless philosophical principle of turning adversities into opportunities.
Without a philosophy to guide your work and life, you will relentlessly succumb to your excuses, distractions, and impediments.
Some people see obstacles as a puzzle to solve. Others see obstacles as an opportunity to grow. Others see obstacles as threats. Still, others see obstacles as meaning they cannot succeed.
Your view of barriers to achieving your goals affects how you react.
Amelia Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Amelia overcame the roadblocks that stood in her way and made history. She observed, “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”
Benjamin Franklin dropped out of school at age ten. His parents could only afford to keep him in school until his tenth birthday. That didn’t stop him from pursuing his education. He taught himself through voracious reading and eventually went on to invent the lightning rod and bifocals.
Van Gogh is considered one of the greatest artists of all time, yet he sold only one painting the entire time he was alive. Even though he made no money, he still painted over 900 works of art.
Though his persistence went unnoticed when he was alive, Van Gogh proves you don’t need external validation to be proud of the work you create. He once said, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
General Dwight D. Eisenhower once made this announcement when the Allied Expeditionary Forces of the US lost their shit in the face of the rush of German troops (a final blitzkrieg of 13 divisions totaling 200,000 men).
“The present situation is to be regarded as opportunity for us and not disaster,” he commanded. “There will be only cheerful faces at this conference table.”
The Allied forces went on to win the goddamn Second World War.
If you see obstacles as the world being against you or as meaning you failed, you are likely to give up. But the obstacle is always the way.
In his book, “The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, Ryan Holiday said:
“All great victories, be they in politics, business, art, or seduction, involved resolving vexing problems with a potent cocktail of creativity, focus, and daring. When you have a goal, obstacles are actually teaching you how to get where you want to go — carving you a path. “The Things which hurt,” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “instruct.”
Failure shows us the way — by showing us what isn’t the way. Failure is only a setup for a comeback. Failure builds resilience and endurance. With each failure, you’ll learn something new. In the process of creating or building what you want, you develop strength, wisdom, and unique perspective.
Epictetus says, “Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own submerged inner resources. The trials we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths.”
Every obstacle is an opportunity to improve
“I will persist until I succeed. Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult. I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking.” — Og Mandino
When you work on any big goal, your motivation can wax and wane. Sometimes you’ll feel motivated; sometimes you won’t. But it’s not your motivation that will produce results — it’s your action. The decision to persist. To make progress even when you don’t feel like it.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” says Marcus Aurelius
Persistence allows you to keep taking action even when you don’t feel motivated to do so, and therefore you keep accumulating results.
On Dec. 10, 1914, a massive explosion erupted in West Orange, New Jersey. Ten buildings in legendary inventor Thomas Edison’s plant, which made up more than half of the site, were engulfed in flames. Machinery worth millions and all the papers pertaining to his lifelong research were burnt to ashes.
Later, at the scene of the blaze, Edison was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.”
Thomas Edison’s persistence was exemplified in his famous quote, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
A.H. Wilson, his vice president and general manager, told The Times after the flames died down: “There’s only one thing to do, and that is to jump right in and rebuild.”
People who persist no matter the obstacles, sooner or later are bound to succeed. Despite the setbacks, it’s in your best interest to turn obstacles into stepping stones. Don’t choose to complain, or worse, to just give up. These choices do nothing to get you across the finish line.
Elbert Hubbard once made a profound statement about the importance of not given up. She said “A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.”
Giving up is not an option
“If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence. Determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down seventy times and get up off the floor saying. “Here comes number seventy-one!”~ Richard M. Devos
A lack of persistence or “giving up too soon” is one of the most common reasons for failure in any endeavor. A little more persistence, a little more effort is sometimes what you need to get closer to the goal.
Once you create a belief that there is an obstacle you can’t overcome, you stop looking for solutions.
Greatness is not measured by what is accomplished. It is measured by how many times you pick yourself up and try again.
If you are facing an impediment, remember what Leo Babauta once wrote about choosing to move in the direction of your dreams even if it’s uncomfortable.
“When things get tough or uncomfortable, we tell ourselves: it’s OK to quit, it doesn’t matter, we’ll do it next time, we’re not disciplined enough, we suck at this, we can’t do it, it’s too hard, it would be nice to take a break, life is too short to struggle, we deserve a reward, just this once won’t matter, we’re going to fail, it’s better to fail quietly, we just don’t feel like it right now, let’s not think about this, hey a squirrel! So what can we do if our story is working against us? Change the damn story. Create a song to sing about yourself at the epic hero of your dreams. Sing this song daily, and be proud of it. Go after the dream, fight the forces of distraction and dullness and self-doubt, rise up to be your best self. You are the writer of your story, the composer of your song, and every moment is a chance to rewrite it, a new draft ready to be crafted into something better.”
Challenges scare you but, if you do nothing, they grow and become unsustainable situations.
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” says Maya Angelou.
The journey of life can be wonderful, terrible, exciting, frightening, enlightening, confusing, or a beautiful maze.
The bitter truth is, the more you accomplish, the more things will stand in your way. There are always more obstacles, bigger challenges. You’re always fighting uphill. Get used to it and train accordingly.
When J.K. Rowling said, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life,” she hit the nail on the head.
Whatever the obstacle is, tough times happen for everyone. Understand that each battle is only one of many and that you can use it to make the next one easier. It’s important to mentally prepare yourself for the changes that will come down the road.
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Eighty percent of success is showing up. —Woody Allen
Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, “Make me feel important.” Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life. —Mary Kay Ash
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. —Sally Berger
Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: Could have . . . might have . . . and should have. —Louis E. Boone
A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him. —David Brinkley
An individual’s self-concept is the core of his personality. It affects every aspect of human behavior: The ability to learn, the capacity to grow and change . . . A strong, positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success in life. —Dr. Joyce Brothers
The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible—and achieve it—generation after generation. —Pearl S. Buck
People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing. —Dale Carnegie
Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most often makes for success. —Dale Carnegie
I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that it’s not the answer. —Jim Carrey
There are people who have money and people who are rich. —Coco Chanel
I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite. —G. K. Chesterton
If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich. —Tao Te Ching
Success is going from failure to failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. —Winston Churchill
In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure. —Bill Cosby
There is a vast difference between success at twenty-five and success at sixty. At sixty, nobody envies you. Instead, everybody rejoices generously, sincerely, in your good fortune. —Marie Dressler
A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do. —Bob Dylan
To dream anything that you want to dream, that is the beauty of the human mind.
To do anything that you want to do, that is the strength of the human will.
To trust yourself, to test your limits, that is the courage to succeed.
Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value. —Albert Einstein
If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got. —Albert Einstein
Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful; and you will accomplish your objective. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children . . . to leave the world a better place . . . to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure. —Sven Goran Eriksson
Something must die in order to grow—your old habits, your old self, your old thinking, your old life—must be weeded out for the seeds of success to grow. —Doug Firebaugh
Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. —F. Scott Fitzgerald
Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. —Henry Ford
To try and fail is at least to learn. To fail to try is to suffer the loss of what might have been. —Benjamin Franklin
Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally. —David Frost
The real contest is always between what you’ve done and what you’re capable of doing. —Geoffrey Gaberino
You measure yourself against yourself and nobody else. —Geoffrey Gaberino
It isn’t what we have, but what we do with what we have that defines our success. —Eva Gregory
The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps . . . we must step up the stairs. —Vance Havner
If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks; but obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it. —Michael Jordan
The difference between those who succeed and those who fail is almost always in their capacity to simply keep trying. —Kajama (Thursday, March 6, 2003)
Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail. —Charles F. Kettering
Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward towards success. —Charles F. Kettering
A man may fall many times, but he won’t be a failure until he says someone pushed him. —Elmer G. Letterman
I’ve had great success being a total idiot. —Jerry Lewis
My mantra has become: Know no boundaries. This does not suggest reckless abandon, but an open mind that asks, What would I attempt to do if I were sure I wouldn’t fail? —Joan Lunden
Often the difference between a successful man and a failure is not one’s better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his ideas, to take a calculated risk, and to act. —Dr. Maxwell Maltz
I will persist until I succeed. Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail, I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult . . . I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking. —Og Mandino
The victory of success is half won when one gains the habit of setting goals and achieving them. —Og Mandino
Defeat may serve as well as victory to shake the soul and let the glory out. —Edwin Markham
The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. —Michelangelo
Every time you accomplish a goal, you develop the strength and wisdom to accomplish the next one. Success begets success. Keep focused on it, and don’t let anything get in your way. —Chuck Norris
Striving for perfection is the greatest stopper there is . . . it’s your excuse to yourself for not doing anything. Instead, strive for excellence, doing your best. —Sir Laurence Olivier
Material success may result in the accumulation of possessions; but only spiritual success will enable you to enjoy them. —Nido Qubein
If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world, but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all. —Anna Quindlen
What exactly is success? For me it is to be found not in applause, but in the satisfaction of feeling that one is realizing one’s ideal. —Anna Pavlova
People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves, they have the first secret of success. —Norman Vincent Peale
Instead of always harping on a man’s faults, tell him of his virtues. Try to pull him out of his rut of bad habits. Hold up to him his better self, his real self that can dare and do and win out. —Eleanor Porter
The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential . . . these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence. —Eddie Robinson
The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. —Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent. —Marilyn vos Savant
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. —Dr. Albert Schweitzer
Failure is not the worst outcome, mediocrity is. —Dharmesh Shah
You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try. —Beverly Sills
Put your heart, mind, intellect, and soul even to your smallest acts. This is the secret of success. —Swami Sivanada
Those who believe in our ability do more than stimulate us. They create for us an atmosphere in which it becomes easier to succeed. —John Lancaster Spalding
He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much;
who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
who has left the world better than he found it,
whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.
—Bessie Stanley, Lincoln (Kansas) Sentinel, November 11, 1905
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant. —Robert Louis Stevenson
We are all at risk of something. Of ending up exactly where we began, of failing to imagine and find and know and actualize who we could be. The only difference is the distance of the leap. —Cheryl Strayed
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to lead the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. —Henry David Thoreau
If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat. —Lily Tomlin
You only learn how to succeed by failing, and no success is possible without it. —Brian Tracy
A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves. —Lao Tzu
In the game of life it’s a good idea to have a few early losses, which relieves you of the pressure of trying to maintain an undefeated season. —Bill Vaughan
Recipe for success: Study while others are sleeping; work while others are loafing; prepare while others are playing; and dream while others are wishing. —William A. Ward
I know the price of success: Dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to happen. —Frank Lloyd Wright
Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude. —Zig Ziglar
Some goals are so worthy that it is glorious even to fail. —Author Unknown
Measure wealth not by the things you have, but by the things you have for which you would not take money. —Author Unknown