The Absolute Secret To Success- But Be Warned, It Can Hurt!

Sausage SizzleThe telecommunications executive looked at me expectantly, awaiting my answer to the most critical question of all: “How do I drive my career to ‘success’?” Oh- I knew the answer. And shared it. He was disappointed. As I knew he would be. Bet you will be too- because it is NOT EASY, though very, very simple. Here it is.

Many of us think about what ‘success’ means- what it looks like for me and how I’ll know when I get there. It’s one of life’s tough questions, and often takes years- if ever- for us to get clarity on ‘what’s it all about?’- for us.  There is good news though. While nailing what ‘success’ means can be a long journey, the answer on how to get there is right in front of our noses. Seriously. Achieving ‘success’ is built around one very simple habit. And here it is.

The most critical single quality for success is self-discipline.

“Ho hum” you might well say. “Is that it? Surely there is more to it than that?” Truth is, there isn’t.

As Elbert Hubbard defines it, self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.

According to Brian Tracy, there are three steps in Hubbard’s approach.

Step One: Making yourself do what you should do. Easier said than done. You have to use strength and will power to force yourself into motion, to break the power of inertia that holds you back.

Step Two: Doing what you should do when you should do it. Yes – you have to take action. But you have to take it at the right times. You have to make plans, develop a schedule, then do what you’ll say you’ll do. You have to keep your promises to yourself and others.

Step Three: And you have to do it whether you feel like it or not. The true test of character, says Tracy,  is when you do something you know you must do whether you feel like it or not. This is the greatest test of self-discipline. Fitness guru Michelle Bridges has a great tool to help on this. She calls it “J.F.D.I” . When you know you need to get started but really, really don’t feel like it, then “Just ‘F**king Do It”, she says. But there’s a twist. You must J.F.D.I…. but, do it for just 10 minutes. If after 10 minutes you don’t want to continue, then stop. According to Michelle, it’s extremely rare people stop after 10 minutes. Once you get started, you get the momentum and away you go. Give it a go. It works!

What Is ‘Success’ To Me?

So- keep thinking about and evolving what ‘success’ looks like for you. I have thought about it long and hard, and am still trying to figure it out. But I reckon I am very close to nailing what ‘success’ is for me. And like most of my realisations and insights, it’s not original. I stole it from somewhere else. In this instance, a movie: “Papadopoulos and Sons” The failed business tycoon, now working in his brother’s fish and chip shop, when asked what success means to him, answered: “Success is the amount of joy you feel in your life.” Powerful.

So for me it’s about where I get my ‘joy’ from…. From a new Aston Martin?- NO, pleasure yes maybe if I had one, but joy? NO! From watching my son running towards me on a Friday night from the sausage sizzle stand at the local rugby ground where we are watching his sister play touch, sausage and sauce in his hand? YES! Pure, unadulterated joy fills my heart. Once you get clarity on where the joy comes in your life, then work with relentless self-discipline to do what you need to do to increase those moments. That’s my conclusion anyway about success, and how to get there.

The message today, stolen from others and rebadged here, is about achieving the success you seek through self-discipline, summarised in these wise words of Brian Tracy: “Your ability to endure….. to continue taking action step by step, in the direction of your dreams, is what will ultimately ensure your success. If you keep on keeping on, nothing will stop you.”

This applies equally to short term projects- striving for a promotion, winning a major new client, losing 10 kilos, running that marathon. It is not just about the big picture issues, but is absolutely all about the small steps along the way. If you want to achieve your goals and ‘success’ in whatever you are doing, get clear on the outcome, and then focus all your energies on the self-discipline. And- make no mistake- it is VERY HARD to do. Well- I find it so. I know what I need to do, but struggle to push myself over the line to genuine self-discipline longer term to get it done.

Keep on keeping on- NOTHING will stop you if you do that. Good luck!

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27 Responses to The Absolute Secret To Success- But Be Warned, It Can Hurt!

  1. Russ November 6, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Spot on again Chris! I know in our world and probably most worlds you have to be disciplined in an ‘ill-disciplined’ environment!!

    • Chris Savage November 6, 2013 at 11:17 am #

      Thanks Russ

  2. Shona November 6, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    I really needed to read this today. I was getting really stuck on step 3 this week. Will instead keep on keeping on! Thanks Chris!

    • Chris Savage November 6, 2013 at 11:17 am #

      Thanks Shona-good luck with whatever it is!

      • Shona November 20, 2013 at 11:36 am #

        I felt the need to come back here and tell you! It all worked out and I am so happy (and grateful) that I stuck with it and didn’t settle for anything less…. what a difference some wise words, and two weeks, makes! THANK YOU

  3. Jon Snead November 6, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    One of your most powerful Possums, spot on.

    • Chris Savage November 6, 2013 at 11:30 am #

      Thanks Jon!

  4. Paul Alexander November 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    this is brilliant

    it’s the definition that makes this the best post ever – I now know what my old man meant!

    can I come and work with you?

    • Chris Savage November 8, 2013 at 11:41 am #

      Paul- good to hear!

  5. Wendy Novianto November 7, 2013 at 2:11 am #

    Powerful! Less dreaming more doing. Thanks for the reminder. Permission to tweet it.


    • Chris Savage November 8, 2013 at 11:42 am #

      Permission granted Wendy- hope to catch up when I am in Jakarta in a couple of weeks. Chris

  6. Margaret November 7, 2013 at 6:55 am #

    As I lined up with my running partner in -3 degree (Celsius) on Sunday to run my first marathon I was cold and nervous and thought 2 things: 1- I told everyone I was going to do this because you told me to in a Possum’s post and in the training session we had in Toronto and 2- JFDI because I knew 10 minutes in I would forget the cold and the nerves just like I had forgotten that I was too hungry/tired/cold/hot to run in all the training runs leading up to it because I JFDI. I was brutally cold from kms 22-27 as we ran straight into a headwind off of the lake but the rest of the time I kept telling my running partner to JFDI to make our goal time (sub 4 hrs) despite the windy and cold conditions. We did it and are ready for the next one!

    • Chris Savage November 8, 2013 at 11:42 am #

      Margaret- fabulous story. I am so proud of you. Well done!!!!!! Chris

  7. Aryeh Sternberg November 7, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    I’d add that one should evaluate what they spend their time on in their lives and what they want to achieve, then set their priorities and activities as Negotiable and Non-negotiable. As the titles imply, one set of activities you’re willing to trade, the other set are rock solid and cannot be moved.

    If you’re going to lose those 10KG, then you make exercise and diet non-negotiable.

    If you plan to spend more time with the kids and less time lost doing those extra bits every night at work, stop negotiating out of your family time and make it happen.

    As you said, success is defined by each of us as our own thing, which changes and transforms as our worlds change. But at the end of the day, the power of true happiness from someone we love is hard to beat. Money, a great body, position and entitlement, their all means to an end.

    You decide what that end is.

    • Chris Savage November 8, 2013 at 11:43 am #

      Thanks Aryeh!

  8. Chandler Nguyen November 7, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    “Once you get clarity on where the joy comes in your life, then work with relentless self-discipline to do what you need to do to increase those moments.”
    Thanks for these words Chris. They are powerful.

    • Chris Savage November 8, 2013 at 11:43 am #

      Pleasure Chandler- appreciate your support.

  9. John Shanahan November 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    Good one Chris. Cigars are there to remind you how hard it is. JOY..Wouldn’t it be great if we could see all humans as our son with a sausage

    • Chris Savage November 8, 2013 at 11:44 am #

      True John!!

  10. Robert November 7, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Thanks Chris, brilliant! Not just for me but for a good friend struggling at the moment. Small steps and determination. Oh what sense that makes.

    • Chris Savage November 8, 2013 at 11:44 am #

      Thanks Robert.

  11. Justin Di Lollo November 8, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    This is a great post, Chris. It happened I was talking to my coach about exactly the same thing on the day this arrived – small conceptual universe! I have long disliked the word “discipline” because of the negative connotations and my coach has suggested “conscientiousness” instead. I’m off to be conscientious now.

    • Chris Savage November 8, 2013 at 11:44 am #

      Good point Justin!

  12. Wendy Cole November 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Great post. Reminds me of what Albert Gray in 1940 says in his essay… “The common denominator of success – the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful – lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.” Prefer your understanding and articulation to Gray’s. I’ve just re-tweeted your post. Thanks Chris!

    • Chris Savage November 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

      Pleasure Wendy! Thanks!

  13. Cobber November 13, 2013 at 2:37 pm #


    One of your best ever. Great piece.

    • Chris Savage November 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

      Appreciated Cobber!

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