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Industry Insights

Let's Get Real About Success

It’s amazing what a little crisis can do for one’s appetite for learning. Faced this past year with rapid changes in our industry, challenges in business and a dismal economy, I responded by burying myself in books, attending conferences and tuning into podcasts and webinars. I even hired a consultant to help guide me to the answers to all my problems. There were times I was tempted to think that I simply needed to find some single elusive secret. You know the one – the secret to success.

If such a secret exists, it must be that there is no secret.

The secret is a myth. Belief in the myth sells books, consulting services and conferences. Is that to say we can’t learn anything from books or those with expertise? Absolutely not. On the contrary, I found that there are a multitude of things we need to know, do, commit to and ask for. It is the immensity of what it takes to succeed that gives credence to the idea that there must be some secret to it all.

I’m convinced there is no single trick. But I have narrowed in on four things which I think are essential if you want to begin to affect change in your life and realize results. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to lose weight, make money, save money, build relationships, manage a team, re-position a brand, produce a product, maintain a healthy marriage, be a good parent…you get the picture. At a minimum these four things are required:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Hard Work
  3. Discipline
  4. Prayer
    And that’s pretty much it. Let me explain.


It’s hard to succeed at anything without knowing anything. At the very least we need to know a little about ourselves. Knowing ourselves better equips us to decide how to apply ourselves and stay motivated. Knowing our definition of success helps us determine if we’ve reached it or not. Knowledge brings about awareness – awareness of problems that need fixing or opportunities waiting to be grasped. If we’re not aware, we’re nowhere close to succeeding.
Beyond awareness there are natural laws, fundamentals, principles, skills, techniques, strategies, experience, evidence and trends which we need to gather, analyze and understand. This can be done by going to school, training, reading, inquiring, experimenting, practicing, reflecting, observing and good ol’ intuition. Knowing stuff teaches us to do stuff, which is next on the list…

Hard work

I didn’t say work. I said hard work. Great results do not come from mediocre efforts. Big change or big results demand Herculean effort. There is no secret to hard work either…just that it needs to be done. Resigning ourselves to the fact that our life will be characterized by hard work will get us much farther in the long run than wishing for a miracle.

“Even when opportunity knocks, a man still has to get up off his seat and open the door.” —AUTHOR UNKNOWN

Unfortunately, work is painful. When we work we feel it. We tire. We ache. We stress. If you want a toned body, you have to burn away the fat. Burning is not a particularly pleasant sensation. Neither is stretching, straining, or tensing. But that is what you should expect if you want results. Remember the old adage…No pain, no gain. However, our natural inclination is to long for what we want, but flee from what it takes to get it.

Having a clear vision of the results we seek helps. A vivid vision of what could be is sometimes enough of a motivating factor. Passion, though, is the king of motivating forces. Passion literally means suffering. People with a passion for something are willing to suffer for it. A master artist with a passion for his craft is willing to put up with long hours hunched over the canvas tediously adding each individual stroke until at last his vision is realized.

But what if you’re not particularly passionate about the results you seek or don’t personally benefit from them? What if the result is simply a matter of doing the right thing? Then what? To keep ourselves on task despite the way it makes us feel we need…


This is the thing we need to add to knowledge and hard work to enable us to get through the discomfort that stands in the way of results. Our minds are not always stronger than our bodies but I believe they are the only thing that can be.

“Stubbornly persist and you will find that the limits of your stubbornness go well beyond the stubbornness of your limits.” —ROBERT BRAULT

We are easily distracted or tempted to abandon our quest. Discipline keeps us focused and on track.

We can be discouraged by setbacks and discomfort. Discipline pushes us forward again.

We can be afraid. Discipline encourages us to dig deep for courage to face the unknown.

We can be stalled by indecision. Discipline enables us to choose a course of action and move on.

So let’s say we know something. We work hard. We’re disciplined and focused and stick with it even when the going gets tough. It’s still not enough. There are no guarantees. Despite what thousands of self-help books preach, we are not in control of our destiny.

After all, “stuff” happens. Consider health, culture, economy, family influences, the actions of others, etc. These all lie beyond our control and yet have a major impact on our successes or failures. Success or results, then, are ultimately gifts that we need to ask for. Which is why the last thing on my list is…


Despite all our gained knowledge, our best efforts and determination we are nowhere unless our Creator looks on us in favour and blesses us, unless He give us an abundant measure of His grace, unless He fills us with His spirit, unless He informs our understanding gives us direction and discernment.
Success, then, is not about what you know or what you do or how you do it. In another’s words – “Success isn’t about who you know. It’s about You-know-who.”

We ought to start each day on our knees. Only He can prepare our minds to know, prepare our hands for work and prepare our feet to walk the path set out for us.

Written by Jason Bouwman, RGD

January 6, 2010