Monday, December 8, 2008

The Secrets of Success?

This is the 100th post for

Are there secrets of success?

Thousands of authors have written tens of thousands of books promising the secrets to finding whatever your definition of success might be. Most of the books are simply padded versions of all the stuff your parents told you: have a goal, work smart and hard, give something back.

However, there is an increasing body of knowledge that shows what really does lead to success. Below are three wonderful resources that actually can lead you to the promised land.

In Mastery, by George Leonard, the concept of plateaus is key. Leonard says that when we are attempting to master any pursuit we will reach plateaus; those frustrating times when we don’t seem to continue to lose weight, or improve in our pursuit, or step up to a new achievement. He emphasizes the importance of continuing to strive, to practice, in order to break the hold of the plateau and move to the next level.

There are two types of practice: First, you continue to do what you have done. Second, you use “determined practice” that focuses on your weaknesses increases your chances of jumping to the next level. In Talent Is Overrated, author Geoff Colvin, explains the importance of determined practice and why it is the secret (there’s that word again) of top achievers.

And who are the top achievers and do they really have secret (ok, I give up) strategies? In Outliers, Michael Gladwell’s new book, we find that if there really is a secret it definitely is practice and top achievers spend about 10,000 hours practicing their skill.

Try this exercise: Look into your life and find some activity, skill, talent that you enjoy or appreciate. Calculate how much of your life has been spent practicing. I did some quick math and discovered that I have spent about 5,000 hours presenting seminars and 6,500 hours in gyms lifting weights. Looks like I’ve got a distance to go.

If you are going to read the books in order of logic or importance, read Mastery, then Outliers, then Talent Is Overrated.

Finally, the word “secret” infers something others don’t have. In reality, there are no secrets. There is….having a goal, working hard and smart, and giving something back.

Have a great week!

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