Over the years I’ve been blessed to meet many people whom I consider successful. Of course this is a subjective assessment, but go with me on this for a minute. Some folks have achieved tremendous financial wealth, while others seem filled with peace and purpose. I know an older gentleman who started near the bottom and worked hard to build a better life for his family. Now he takes great pride that his children are doing even bigger things built upon his foundation. I also met a few younger folks who use their money and influence to fuel good causes like education and research. You may have read about a few people who were terrible public speakers, but now they speak and teach on big stages in front thousands of people. A few years ago my boss was a gentle, intelligent, inspiring, powerful woman who worked her way to the top of the food chain in a male-centric banking profession. Last week I sat one table away from a young gentleman who helped his family build a little city in quite literal terms brick by brick. Then, there are a ton of other people who only dream about reaching these heights, but the never wake up the part of their mind that can make these things a reality.
What separates the dreamers from the winners? Part of me wants to chalk it up to the particular financial, educational or social opportunities that life handed each of them, but that approach is problematic. When we take a closer look it’s clear that the distribution of the various opportunities among these people varies a great deal. Some had more than others no doubt, but I’m not convinced that just having these tools at their disposal gave them the true advantage. You can probably think of several people who seem to have every good gift at their finger tips: an excellent education, living in a thriving economy, ability to travel the world, a supportive family, start-up money and other things. Yet, so many of them fail miserably at living a meaningful, successful life.
As you get to know more successful people, regardless of how you define success, one thing becomes abundantly clear: they think differently! The circumstances on the outside may be good, bad or ugly, but inside their minds something different is happening compared to the persistent dreamers. Some of them know how to articulate this difference, while others have just found ways to process life differently.
I’m not sure how old you are, but if you keep living long enough you will realise that while these external factors do matter, the real barriers to your success are right inside your mind. That’s right. It’s convenient to blame other people and situations, because then we get to relax a bit and not take personal responsibility for our lives. There is a silent war in play night and day for your mind. Every hour you have to decide which side is going to win.
There are limiting beliefs about how much a person “like you” should be allowed to achieve. Self-doubt makes you re-think and discard ideas that may be exactly what you need to move from the place where you are right now. Modern conveniences are conditioning your mind for instant gratification and short term focus. If a webpage takes too long to load we click away and forfeit whatever useful content lies within. If the delay between a tap on our phone screen and an open app takes too many milliseconds then it must be time to upgrade the operating system or get a whole new device. Many people clicked away from this blog post as soon as they realised it they may have to read more words that the average meme.
Television shows, modern books and movies teach us that hello, I love you, and was it good for you, can and should all happen within one day of meeting a person, otherwise they are playing hard to get. Moreover, they walk us through this intricate sequence in 30 – 60 minutes, or less if you deduct the commercials and on-demand fast forwarding. Against this backdrop let me submit to you that building meaningful, lasting success is more of a process than an event.
Media, social and otherwise, bombard us with the wonderful highlights of people’s lives, but seldom show the years of mundane activities and practice that slowly inched them into the spotlight. Discipline, not passion, will sustain you when the work lacks glamour or applause. I’m well aware that a few seemingly fortunate souls do get catapulted to the front of the line for various reasons (that often involve a viral video or tweet). When it comes to life, you’re talking with one of the most impatient of our generation here. So trust me, I understand the frustration.
Set your mind for the long game get and remind yourself daily that you are worthy and capable of epic things! If it happens sooner, that’s great. I’m not talking about lowering your ambitions or setting small goals. In fact, I’m recommending the exact opposite. Set goals so big that you know it seems impossible to for them to mature in a year. Make your plans and ambitions big enough, exciting enough, that your brain can barely imagine the immense joy you will feel when they materialise. This will set a fire burning so hot in you that hopefully you won’t even need an alarm to wake up each morning.
The real battle my friends is not with other people, it’s in your own mind. Bet on you.
Dalan is a private banker and host of Focus The Fire podcast (focusthefire.com) sharing essential career advice for ambitious young professionals.