What is the Single Most Important Ingredient to Your Success?
There is one trait common to most all human beings – the desire to have success. Regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, or cultural differences, we all want individual success in our lives. Our differences lie within our own definition of success – mine likely being different from yours. Success has different meaning to different people; some want to be millionaires, some want to make one-hundred thousand dollars a year, some want a professional vocation, and some want to be successful entrepreneurs while being a stay at home parent.
Regardless of the definition in terms of what success means to each of us, we are all in pursuit of it. In fact, humans are pre-programmed for betterment. So much so, if you were to google books within your area of defined success you would find thousands on each individual topic; from being a millionaire to any entrepreneurial endeavor you can image. We all chase this idea of success.
So, if success is the desired outcome for most all of us, is there a particular recipe for achieving it? Is it the same recipe whether I want to be a millionaire or a fitness model, or is it different? I suspect if you bought books written by the leading gurus on each of those topics, they would certainly have a different path with unique tactics to attaining their particular success. But, would there be some common overlapping traits to each of these goals? There obviously would be.
Regardless of how different those topics are, there would certainly be common characteristics or behaviors that would help one achieve success regardless of domain. These common traits are probably not a secret to you, in fact you have likely heard them many times before; be focused, motivated, dedicated, goal oriented, visualize the outcome, driven, spend more time on your goal than anything else, etc. We could probably make a long list of the positive characteristics that one would need to attain success, no matter what the topic was. Then, beyond those common traits there would be specific behaviors or tactics to attaining success in each specific area. For instance, becoming a fitness model would require a very precise diet, whereas that trait would really have nothing to do with becoming a millionaire.
So, if we are already familiar with the common or overlapping successful character traits, and we can find the specific behaviors or tactics in thousands of books written for each particular area, then why aren’t more people “successful” in their desired domain? You can bet there are a lot of people out there who want to be millionaires or fitness models, but they aren’t. They may have even started toward that goal, but stopped short of reaching it. Why? What holds these people back from being a millionaire or fitness model if the exact recipe is provided in black and white? Is it a lack of effort or desire? Maybe it is a lack of goal setting or drive? Perhaps a lack of time, or are we just plain lazy?
The reality is, if we are not successful in our desired domain, it’s probably a combination of many things we are doing wrong, likely both behavioral (poor diet) and psychological (lack of drive) in the case of the fitness model. So, why do we fail in these areas? Is there one key trait responsible for this? I will ask it another way. What if I asked you to identify one key ingredient to being truly successful, no matter what the domain was – the single most important factor to success. What would that be? Is it even possible to narrow this down to one single key component, despite the broadness of domains to be successful in?
I believe there is one key attribute – it’s our resilience.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, resilience is defined as, “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens” or “the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc..” I have always said, we are not defined by the adversities in our lives, we are defined by how we manage them. That’s resilience.
So what makes resilience the single most important character trait, beyond all others, that would allow us to be successful at anything we do no matter what the domain is? Resilience is at the core of all other traits. In other words, you can’t maintain the other traits, like drive or motivation, without having resilience to stay that course when life gets tough.
Have you ever dieted for a competition? I have – it’s a miserable experience. Have you ever trained for a jiu jitsu competition at the Pan-Am World Games? Again, it’s a grueling and miserable experience of training multiple times a day and even working through injuries. Even becoming a millionaire has a very specific disciplined and calculated risk taking approach. After all, people don’t get rich with mutual funds; they get rich by taking calculated risks which is stressful and comes with certain amounts of failure.
Beyond the millionaire dream, even working your way through medical school at UCLA or building your own business from the ground up can be very stressful and taxing on your psyche. What about working a part-time night job so you can put yourself through nursing school all day? This will certainly cause most people to question whether the outcome is worth the effort. Add to all of this, life is constantly throwing curve balls at us; relationship issues, financial distress, physical stress, death, health issues, misfortune and all of the other bad things we deal with on a regular basis.
It’s for these reasons we lack motivation or drive to put in effort. It can cause us to lose our discipline or lose our focus, and spend our valuable time distracting ourselves with social media because we don’t want to face the stress and anxiety of it all. It’s for these reasons we give up and shelve our dreams for a more opportune time – when life calms down. The stress of life causes us to want to give up, change course and forgo our pursuits. Giving up is the easier path. How many people drop out of medical school every year because it’s just too much to deal with in addition to the stress of everyday life? How many people start a new business but then quit when things don’t go exactly as planned and they deplete their entire initial investment? This is such a common path in life.
The one antidote to all of this is our resilience. The one character trait that keeps people going, keeps the motivation and drive present, allows us to bounce back after adversity, despite whatever roadblocks life throws our way is… resilience. Everyone experiences some form of hardship, adversity or failure in life. If you think Donald Trump has not failed in life at many things, you’re not in touch with reality. In fact he has filed for bankruptcy four times – and so what. He is still one of the most successful and smartest business men in the world, because he has the ability to bounce back after adversity.
The point is, every single great fighter gets knocked down onto the canvas. The difference between champions and a soon to be dropout lies within their resolve – their resilience. The great fighters get back up to fight another round despite their body begging them to stay down. Every entrepreneur experiences financial setback, the successful ones grit their teeth and keep moving forward despite the emotional rollercoaster of it all. Every champion level fitness model drags themselves out of bed each morning despite their painful muscles and calorie depleted bodies. The one common character trait in all successful people is… resilience.
Mark Divine, former Navy Seal, talks about this concept in his book, “Unbeatable Mind: Forge Resiliency and Mental Toughness to Succeed at an Elite Level.” He describes one characteristic common to all successful candidates of the grueling Navy Seal’s BUD/S training program. No other single characteristics matters as much; not size, strength, toughness, conditioning, etc. The one trait common to graduates is their resilience. As Divine describes it, they have “heart” to get through the program. They find a way, an inner strength different from physical strength, to make it through the next grueling evolution or even just to the next meal. They either have or quickly developed resilience. The ones who don’t, quickly ring the bell – the traditional manner in which candidates drop out of the program.
Are we born with resilience or do we develop it? Tomorrow, in Part Two of this series, we will learn the origins of our resilience and also see that we have the absolute ability to develop this key character trait at any point in our lives. Join me in Part Two.