The Secret to Success

Why do people succeed? How do they do it? Don’t we all want to know the secret to success? Countless numbers of self-help books have tried to discover it. The media always speak of the latest success story. And no matter how old it gets, we still love hearing about rag-to-riches stories. What is the key to success?

One way I have tried to tackle this question is through biographies. I have always been curious to see how the rich, famous and powerful found their success. What special activities did they do? Who did they know? What was their motivation and their inspiration? Because of this natural fascination, I must have read at least fifty different biographies and autobiographies in my lifetime. It didn’t matter who the person was – businessman, scientist, doctor, writer, politician, holocaust survivor – I was always looking to see how other people did things differently.

And my conclusion is…

There is no Secret

There is no single piece of advice – a secret limited to only a select few – that will make you successful. In fact, you already knew that.

You see, when I say there is no secret to success, what I mean is that everyone already knows the secret(s). A formula for success most certainly exists. In fact, you have heard it hundreds and thousands of times. They are:

Work diligently, be passionate – love what you do, be kind to others, have patience, know thyself, think positive thoughts, step outside your boundaries, think outside the box, have a commitment to service, dream big, have persistence, be courageous, respect others, speak up, be yourself, be grateful, have a good attitude, follow your dreams. And so on…

All these cliches advices, adages and old sayings are the keys to success. These lessons have been learned, followed and shared for thousands of years, from the earliest Greek Philosopher’s to modern day blog posts.

There is nothing new under the sun…

Yet, each time I read these words of wisdom, I find something new. No matter how many times I have heard them, they mean something different to me each reading. There is a reason I believe these “secrets” are called secrets. Because we are able to draw fresh inspiration from these proverbs over and over again, their renewable nature is the mystery itself.

Much like the classic vase and faces optical illusion, the common wisdom we all know and take for granted is in fact not so common at all. Each person will interpret the “secrets to success” differently. Some people will see the vase, some will see the faces. As with the secrets to success, each saying can be viewed in infinite ways.

For example, the advice of “hard works pays off” meant different things to me at different stages in my life. When I was preparing to take the MCAT, I could see the correlation between time and effort studying to a good test score. The more I studied, the better I did on practice tests, and the better my eventual score. Similarly, there were other times when I saw what would happen when I did not put in any effort. After each experience, I would view and reaffirm the concept “hard work pays off” in a different light.

One habit I frequently do is to take a old saying, motivational quote, proverb, verse, prose or any advice and dwell on it for a week. For instance, I would choose a quote that particularly speaks to me such as “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” And for that entire whole week, I would start my days thinking about this quote and throughout the day see what it means to me. And sure enough, throughout that week, what turns out to be a simple sentence becomes a profound life lesson. I start noticing areas where I fail at because of lack of enthusiasm. I become more aware of the powerful effects a contagious enthusiasm can have on others. And at the end of that week, I have gained a very valuable and powerful lesson of success.

So really, there is no secret to success. At least not in the hidden sort of way. Instead, we all already instinctively know the secrets to success. The real mystery is decoding what they mean to your life at this point in space and time. If you can unravel the secret from these timeless words of wisdom, you will have found your secret, and your success.

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