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I want to be more successful


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How to be successful - eBook brought to you by VisualDNA

We’re often taught that success defines us. As children we're weaned onto the notion that our self-worth is dependent on how successful we are. When we do something successfully our whole person is given a global rating: ‘good boy,’ we’re told when we answer a question right; ‘good girl’, they say when we pet the long-suffering cat more gently. It’s no surprise, then, that you’re here trying to find out how to be a “success”, but before we go any further, it's worth reassessing what that means.


Don't be “a success”, do successful things
Forget the winning formula
Clarify your values
Don't wait for inspiration
Take action
Do things. Tell people.
Take responsibility.

To find out more about yourself and what makes you tick, take the free VisualDNA personality quiz at

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I want to be more successful

  1. 1. I want tobe moresuccessfulby Rose Cartwright,VisualDNA Life Coaching Editorand Jonathan Davidoff,MA, Honorary Psychotherapistand Research Psychologist
  2. 2. “I want to be more successful”We’re often taught that success defines us. Aschildren were weaned onto the notion that ourself-worth is dependent on how successful we are.When we do something successfully our wholeperson is given a global rating: ‘good boy,’ we’retold when we answer a question right; ‘good girl’,they say when we pet the long-suffering cat moregently. It’s no surprise, then, that you’re here tryingto find out how to be a “success”, but before we goany further, its worth reassessing what that means. I want to be more successful Page 1
  3. 3. What to do at a glance Dont be “a Dont brand yourself as a success or a failure success”, do according to the things you achieve. Sometimessuccessful things youll succeed, sometimes youll fail. Forget the People who dont succeed are often just aswinning formula ambitious/motivated/assertive as those who do. Clarify Set goals according to the kind of person your values youd like to be, rather than the kind of things youd like to achieve. Actualise Make success a pleasant by-product of self-actualisation. I want to be more successful Page 2
  4. 4. Dont wait for Get inspired on the job, not from your inspiration living room. Take action A great product needs a great idea, but an unrealised idea means nothing. Do things. Publicise yourself. Make your work known Tell people. to the world. Take Empower yourself by claiming ownershipresponsibility over your own successes and failings. I want to be more successful Page 3
  5. 5. Dont be “a success”, do successful thingsAs a fallible human, youve done good things and badthings. Maybe you succeeded in attaining As in yourGCSEs, and since failed in a professional capacitysomewhere. You cant be said, therefore, to be eitherwholly successful or wholly a failure – youve donesuccessful things and youve done unsuccessful things.Lets explore the importance of this distinction with alittle exercise: Think of one person whom popular opinionconsiders thoroughly evil – Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, etc.Do a bit of research into that persons history – theirchildhood, their relationships, what they did beforethey were infamous. Look for any evidence oftenderness, positive deeds or likeable traits; and makea list of them. (Hitler, for example, was lovinglydevoted to his mother). Humanistic psychologists such as Carl Rogersargue that if we are able to recognise that good deedshave been done by even the most evil individuals, itfollows that no one can be totally evil. We can co-opt this logic when we talk about I want to be more successful Page 4
  6. 6. success and failure. Labeling yourself as a successor a failure is a dangerously absolutist way ofthinking, because our whole being becomes definedby what weve done or havent done. Is it not muchmore healthy (and human) to concede that seeing assuccess is tenuous, and liable to change, no personcan ever really be an absolute success? Why onearth is this a good thing? Because it means we cantbe absolute failures either. We can (and will) fail,but our whole lives cant be defined by those acts.In your efforts to do more successful things, cutyourself a bit of slack and allow yourself to failsometimes. I want to be more successful Page 5
  7. 7. Forget the winning formulaThe bookshop shelves are packed with bestsellingself-help guides extolling the qualities possessed by allsuccessful people. There are even self-help guidesabout how to write successful self-help guides. Andthey all seem to agree that successful people are:ambitious, frugal, willing to take risks,self-motivated, tenacious, assertive, passionate Be more like them, we’re told, and you’re morelikely to succeed. But because so muchself-development literature only focuses on successfulpeople, they miss the glaring fact that unsuccessfulpeople are just as likely to possess these qualities. Itscalled the survivor bias – analysis focuses only onthose that have survived or succeeded. A ‘failure’ doesn’t necessarily fail because theylack any of the above, they fail because they made baddecisions, or did stupid things, or just becausetheyre—well—human. I want to be more successful Page 6
  8. 8. People often fail, in fact, because theyre far tooambitious, frugal, passionate, etc. So breathe easy andstop chasing the elixir, because there is no ‘winningformula’ which defines success. I want to be more successful Page 7
  9. 9. Clarify your valuesAs long as its something you passionately want, notsomething you absolutely need, you can start takingpractical steps to attain success. Start by clarifyingyour values. Instead of setting goals which you consider thebenchmarks of success, make a list of the valueswhich you think drive those goals. Why do you wantthat promotion at work? What are your deepestdesires for your own behaviour? Re-write your distantgoals into behaviours you can achieve in the present.For example:Replace ‘I will get promoted to the top of mycompany’ with ‘I will try to work diligently every dayReplace “I will lose a stone in the next four months”with “I will try to stick to my exercise plan”.Replace “I will have a girlfriend by the end of theyear” with “I will try to be open and receptive whenmeeting new people”. I want to be more successful Page 8
  10. 10. These goal-alternatives are not finite. They are notachievable in any concrete sense. But living by themand abandoning the cyclical and seldom-satisfyingpursuit of definable success, is paradoxically morelikely to bring about that very thing. I want to be more successful Page 9
  11. 11. ActualiseAmerican psychologist Abraham Maslow alsorejected a concrete definition of success, defining it,instead, as a state of self-actualisation – livingcreatively and using your full potential. This statesits at the very top of his famous Hierarchy ofNeeds, and refreshingly, he found examples of itflourishing in people from all walks of life: rich andpoor, famous or unknown, textbook successful orotherwise. To become self-actualised, Maslowposited, you need to do the following:Have a grip on reality. Exercise good judgement andlearn to recognise when youre being spun a yarn.Accept your flaws. Get to know your imperfections.Contrary to much self-help literature, an I can doanything mentality is rarely helpful.Be spontaneous. Exercise unprompted expressionsof creativity. I want to be more successful Page 10
  12. 12. Be autonomous. Dont rely on anyone else to dictateyour sense of self worth.Revel in solitude. Entertain yourself.Self-actualisers have healthy relationships with thosearound them, but also enjoy their own company.Be empathetic. Learn to see situations from otherpoints of view.Have a sense of humour. Dont take yourself too seriously. Whatever your definition of success may be, thetheory goes, you can meet it by self-actualising – bybecoming everything that one is capable ofbecoming, as Maslow said. Work towards harbouringthe above attitudes, and success will be a pleasantby-product. I want to be more successful Page 11
  13. 13. Dont wait for inspirationYou know when youre a teenager and you decide, oneafternoon, that today is the day when youre finallygoing to come up with that million-selling invention,that product so innovative that no-ones ever thoughtof it before? So you sit down and you rub your templesand you say think, think, THINK, and nothing comesto you? Thats because successful ideas often dontcome about in this detached manner. Most peoplelearn on the job and innovate as they go, so dont waitfor the light bulb moment, because you could bewaiting a long time. I want to be more successful Page 12
  14. 14. Take actionEver heard anyone crane back skeptically from amodern art painting in a gallery and say I could havedone that. To them we say Maybe you could, but youdidnt. And thats a crucial paradigm shift if you wantto get the core of success. Take an artist like Modrian. Arguably, thephysical execution of his paintings wasnt toocomplex. Perhaps you could have created somethingsimilar, provided with a ruler and the right paints;but being successful is about so much more thanhaving the right tools. Arguably his idea to createnon-representational artwork of black grids andprimary colours wasnt genius either. But success isalso about more than ideas. Its about the realisationof ideas, and the relationship between ideas andaction. Ideas need realising and realisations needideas. Simply sitting there wont do either. I want to be more successful Page 13
  15. 15. Do things, tell peopleOn one rather unassuming webpage with acumbersome domain name,(, student andgame developer Carl Lange boldly states Do things,tell people. These are the only things you need to doto be successful. And we think hes got a point. IfMondrians paintings were still shrouded in a loftsomewhere, the artist wouldnt have been nearly assuccessful. So follow Langes advice and make sureyou vocalise your endeavours: Come up with a thing you can talk about –something about which youre passionate, whether itbe a new invention, a business model, or a newvariety of prize-winning marrow. Attend industry events within your field, wheretherell be people who are likely to be interested inyour thing. Make contacts. Make friends. Tell people aboutyour thing. If its something youre passionate about,that bit should come easily. I want to be more successful Page 14
  16. 16. Next time any of those people hear anythingrelated to your thing, the first person theyll thinkabout is you. Its less about what you do, Lange argues, andmore about how you travel the entrepreneuriallandscape. You could have the biggest marrowknown to man, but if you dont wield it skillfully inthe relevant market, itll come to nothing. I want to be more successful Page 15
  17. 17. Take responsibilityThe curious rise of Australias biggest travel agent,Flight Centre, is often cited as a success story. BillJames and Screw Turner, two young Australians whowere living in London in the early 1970s, took a risk in1973 and used the last of their savings to buy a 1950sdouble decker bus. They fitted it with bunk beds and akitchen and started a humble tour company, TopDeck, which drove experience-hungry young travelersfrom London to Sydney. They expanded the companysuccessfully and later founded Flight Centre, whichturns over millions of dollars each year. Bill James tells their story in Top Deck Daze. Thebook is an important lesson in ballsiness in business,but its more so a lesson in being willing to fail, andaccepting responsibility for risk. At every stage of thebusiness growth, James takes responsibility for thebogusness of his plans, and as he employs morepeople, he is all too aware that a wrong move (his ownwrong move) could disrupt many peoples lives, notleast his own. I want to be more successful Page 16
  18. 18. When striving for success, make sure youreprepared to fail. Write down a list of all your failingsin the last year, no matter how minor. Even if it was assimple as arriving late to work. Next to each point,write down exactly how you were culpable for thatfailing. It might not have been your fault that therewere roadworks that morning, but it was still yourresponsibility to get to work on time. This exercise shouldnt be a downer. Remember,youre not a failure just because you fail sometimes.Rather, it should empower you into taking control ofyour own successes and failings, and re-emphasise thefact that youre the only person who can ultimatelydetermine them. I want to be more successful Page 17
  19. 19. I want to be more successful Page 18
  20. 20. Continue your journey Visit to find out about who we are and what we do and take the personality quiz What’s your goal for this year? Start the quiz now I want to be more successful Page 19
  21. 21. Keep readingI want to be more successfulHow can I rekindle my relationship?I never seem to have any time for myselfI’m scared of meeting new peopleI want to start dating again but I dont know howI’m stuck in a rut at workIve lost my job - what next?I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have fun I want to be more successful Page 20
  22. 22. Please share your thoughts...Now that youve had a chance to read some of thesearticles, please do let us know your feedback.Wed love to hear from you, so when youre ready,email to share your thoughts.All your feedback will help us make the journey better. Did you find this article useful? Learnt a new tip that you can incorporate into your daily life? Feel free to share it with friends via email, Facebook, or print it out and post it to them if youd like. © 2012 VisualDNA All rights reserved