Bill Cottringer

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose.” ~ Bill Gates.

Having both attempted and researched the phenomenon we call “success” now for nearly 7 decades, I have reached the conclusion that there are seven main building-blocks to every long-term success. This conclusion applies to achieving long-term success in any endeavor, whether it be: Getting good grades in school or promotions at work; being a great parent, teacher or employer; having a satisfying marriage or good friendships; making a million dollars in business; being an Olympic athlete; changing lives for the better as a therapist; saving lives as a doctor, police officer, EMT or fireman; discovering a cure to a deadly disease; or having an admirable military, athletic or political career. There is no reasonable doubt that these seven building-blocks all work together as an integral part of every great success and so, the only question that remains for research is the weighting of each factor in degree of importance and influence on results.

1. Definition of Success.

When you think about it, this isn’t such an odd place to start. How you define something determines the lion’s share of how much of it you have or don’t have. Defining external success as wealth, health, power, influence, professional achievement and recognition, fame, popularity or setting a record involves very different prescriptions. The very same is true if you define success internally—sense of making progress, contentment, satisfaction, peace of mind or happiness. The only reasonable definition of success is what you get from doing what you do to get it. Also, the opening and closing quotes make important points with this definition to be duly considered.

2. Hard-Wiring.

Every success requires a certain amount of mental and physical hard-wiring that in turn requires more of a dose of these other building blocks to compensate, in making raw potential into refined reality. It is not that a person with an average IQ or physical ability can’t become an astrophysicist or Olympic athlete, but rather it may be a little more difficult and take a little more time. And, there is no rule against a person not using such hard-wiring to be completely satisfied with an average life, being content with the happiness and success that brings him or her. A fellow author, Anil Bhatnagar, once reconciled the underlying dilemma of free will vs. determinism this way: “Although an orange seed may not be able to grow into a great oak tree, it can certainly become the most fruitful orange tree in the orchard.”

3. Software.

Research identifies two main software skills related to success: Emotional intelligence and resilience. Emotional intelligence is the awareness of how your own and other’s feelings, perceptions and communication about these things, can get in the way of productive interpersonal relationships necessary for success. Resilience, or the ability to bounce back, involves learning the importance of success often being a result of surviving a series of painful failures, from the important lessons that inevitable failures teach us. These two software skills may be the equalizer when hard-wiring is a little light, but there is a third element in between hard-wiring and software worth mentioning. This is grounded spirituality in which there is a profound humility, awareness of and alignment to the laws of nature and commitment to something bigger than yourself.

4. Motivation.

Motivation is also part of emotional intelligence, but it deserves special attention here. The type of motivation that drives real success is intrinsic motivation—competing against yourself rather than others, for an internal sense of achievement and progress, that only you know when you have it or don’t. This type of motivation is always a more powerful driving force that lasts longer than competing against others for external rewards, that never seem to be satisfying enough. However, motivation can only inspire your potential for success, and it always needs the discipline of relentless effort to be realized.

5. Discipline.

Regimented self-management of effort is a determinative factor in success in reaching your goals and without it, the goals stay goals. One of the more important aspects of discipline is to know the few things to quit and the many to never give up on. Another important aspect of discipline is resisting the tendency to give up after making an arduous effort to achieve your goal, when results may be just around the next corner, which you want to give up getting to. Sometimes all that is needed is the self-discipline to change something in your approach.

6. Creativity.

Competition today is so pervasive and demanding of us all, that the only way to stand out is to either do something nobody else has ever done before or do something common in a very new and unusual way, better than anyone else. Just like success though, how you define creativity determines how much or how little of it you have. But like common sense, creativity is not quite so common. Why is that? Because you can’t see it with a closed mind that would rather find clever answers than pose important questions. Successful creativity is an opportunity to be curious and see past what you are looking at.

6. Timing.

Life is loaded with moments of danger and opportunity—do I go this way or that way, to avoid danger and make the most of this opportunity? Abraham Lincoln had a very intriguing saying: “Life usually gives you two big opportunities to get something important that you want, and so it is a good idea to know when the first opportunity has already come and gone.” Good timing is often a matter of recognizing that second great opportunity after you are more prepared to take it on. Good timing is another name for luck where effort and opportunity collide serendipitously.

Maybe the main choice you have in coming up with your own unique success prescription is what quantity of these seven quality ingredients you decide to use in your own personal recipe. And if this is your second opportunity, don’t miss it. The good news is you don’t have to re-invent the whole wheel, but just make your own special improvements, at the right time.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” ~Albert Schweitzer.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); and Thoughts on Happiness (Covenant Books, Inc.) Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067 or ckuretdoc@comcast.net.