“There are no limitations to the mind except those we acknowledge.”— Napoleon Hill
The Principles of Success
What does it take to succeed in life?
I recently asked myself that very question. After spending the greater part of two decades studying and analyzing some of the most successful people in the world, I came up with my personal definition of what it means to succeed in life.
Through that analysis, I uncovered six core principles to success that seemed to be prevalent in the men and women who achieved greatness in their own rights.
But, first, let me backtrack a bit.
Journal Entries to My Unborn Son
The concept for this post actually came to light in a different way than usual for me. Normally, my posts are based on my general desire for understanding and improving human behavior. In fact, as you’ve most likely come to see, I have a mild obsession with things like habit development and self-improvement.
In an effort to improve my life over the years, I’ve set out to understand as much about human behavior as I possibly can, and in turn, to help convey that information to all of you.
But this post was sparked by something a bit different, so let me explain.
I have a son on the way. Right now, he’s two months away from being born and I get to feel him moving around in my wife’s womb every single day. That, in-and-of-itself, is a miracle. But, the reason for this post actually came about as a result of journal entries that I’ve been writing to him entitled, ‘To My Unborn Son.’
In those entries, my goal is twofold: 1) to teach my unborn son all that I can about life and this world, and 2) to convey as much of my present-day thoughts and emotions as possible.
So, in an effort to educate him about the important things that really matter, I knew that I had to speak about success, and define just what that means in this world. I didn’t want his judgment to become clouded as he aged, nor did I want him to focus on the wrong things during the pursuit of his goals, whatever those might be.
And, while I’m not sure what his precise definition of succeeding is going to be when he becomes a man, I wanted to share with him my thoughts about success, garnered through my personal experiences and through the careful analysis of the great achievers; I wanted to share with him the six core principles of success that I unearthed as a result of my research.
For that reason, every morning without fail, I’ve been writing to him, expounding on each of these six principles. Through those journal entries, I realized just how important this information is, and how much everybody else would benefit from it as well. While some of it might seem obvious, these six core principles to success are often overlooked and ignored.
But, by providing this code of conduct for living a successful life, it helps provide a framework for which we can judge ourselves. While some of us may tend to cut corners when it comes to these six core principles of success, true success lies at the very heart of embodying them through-and-through from here on out.
But, What Does True Success Really Mean?
So, with that being said, I knew I had to take a careful inventory from the lives of successful people. I also knew I had plenty of collective wisdom garnered from my experiences over the years. But, my main goal was to understand what successful people were doing differently than others. What values did they uphold? What things were important to them? How did they think, feel, and act that allowed them to succeed?
I know that, to most people at least, success in life is indicated by one barometer, and that barometer comes in the way of their finances. But, we can’t expect to make and retain an abundance of money if we don’t first work on some of the foundational elements of who we are, what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it.
For the most part, we tend to get caught up, chasing after things that we think we might want in life, or that we’ve been conditioned to chase after, with disregard for the big picture. What do I mean? Well, we’ve seen it time and time again portrayed by the media in their incessant effort to highlight famous falls from grace.
The media tend to highlight those who had it all, but then lost it all. Why? Well, one reason is likely because misery loves company. But, through these portrayals, there is one silver lining. The people who chase after money, with disregard to the six core principles in life, will see themselves fail. But, those that embody these principles wholeheartedly, get to the top and stay there.
Now, I’m not entirely vilifying greed here. Greed, to some respect, as Gordon Gecko once famously said, “Is Good.” But, greed, at the cost of all else is bad. And, greed, to the degree of accumulation in an effort to employ these six core principles, is okay. As long as the greed doesn’t consume us, then Thoreau’s words of, “Everything in moderation,” rings true.
Often, it’s hard to break away from what we know. It’s hard to reach new understandings about life and just what truly matters when we’ve been so conditioned to think and behave a certain way. But, regardless of who we are, what we do, or where we live, these six core principles will help pour a solid foundation to achieving all that we set out to achieve.
When we move away from these, the likeness of succeeding at any endeavor will be fleeting. While some might taste the victories of sweet success in life, it will only be temporary. If you want true success and you want it to last, make sure that you harbor and wholly embody these six core principles and allow them to guide and direct your every thought, emotion, decision, and behavior.
#1 – Gratitude
The first core principle to success in life is gratitude. While most people might not consider this to be a fundamental principle of successful people, it most certainly is. But, what does it mean? Well, we all know that it’s quite simple to want certain things in life. It’s easy to say we wish we had this or that we wish we had that.
But, how many people are able to take an inventory of what they have, and be truly and utterly grateful? And, why does it take some calamity or strife for us to appreciate what we have right now, in this very moment? In fact, gratitude is what makes up the very foundation for mental health and happiness. Could you imagine trying to succeed in life without both of those things?
But, this core principle to success is nothing new. The bible itself is laced with numerous quotes on gratitude. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” While Psalm 118:24 states, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
In the Koran, statements about gratitude are also plentiful. In An-Naml: 40, it says, “This is by the Grace of my Lord to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful! And whoever is grateful, truly, his gratitude is for (the good of) his own self, and whoever is ungrateful, (he is ungrateful only for the loss of his own self). Certainly! My Lord is Rich (Free of all wants), Bountiful”
In virtually every religious doctrine – from the Bible, to the Talmud, to the Koran and beyond – and in the doctrine of every successful person, exists the core principle of gratitude. Without being grateful for what we have, how could we appreciate what we’ll have tomorrow? Once we move away from this state of lack and towards a state of abundance, it’s far easier to succeed. Our mind, body, and spirit can align in perfect harmony.
#2 – Integrity
The second core principle to success in life is integrity. Warren Buffet once said that “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” And nothing could be further from the truth. But, for a lot of us, integrity doesn’t take center-stage in our lives. We’re focused on the short term gains rather than our long-term name.
But, even though some people might be guilty of compromised morals or a lack of integrity, it’s not too late to change our ways. Without integrity, we can’t succeed in life, plain and simple. Think about it for a moment, everything in life requires trust. Trust is the basis for absolutely everything in this world, as the new Web economy evolves, trust is taking center-stage more and more.
Trust, through online reviews and other resources, helps to garner the reputation of any person, place, or business. When the trust is high so is the reputation, and it can lead to tremendous amounts of success. But, as soon as trust is broken through some under-handed means, then rebuilding that trust is incredibly difficult.
In our personal lives, trust comes in the way of a credit score. A simple 3-digit number helps to lay the foundation of just how much we pay for things like car loans, mortgages, and credit card interest rates. So, since trust is at the heart of our personal and professional lives, it should be paramount that trust shouldn’t be violated. If we make a promise to someone, we absolutely must keep it.
For businesses, this means delivering goods or services as promised, on budget, and on time. For people, this means paying for things at the agreed upon rate of payment. But, trust extends even further than that. Even if you fail in business, as long as you can retain your reputation, picking back up and starting over again is easier. Destroy that trust and watch virtually all the doors close in your face.
#3 – Value
Something that I’ve spoken a great deal about in both my books and other blog posts, is the core principle of adding value. Over the years, Google search engine algorithm has used the foundational concept of value as one of its premises to ranking in its results. It argues that rank is determined by an algorithm that combines several factors. But, at its basis is the inherent value tied to the various listings. The higher the value, the higher the rank in search.
Similarly, in life, the people who succeed in all aspects are the ones who provide more value to the world than their competitors. For businesses, this translates directly into profits. Businesses like Microsoft, Apple, Johnson & Johnson, and countless others, all have high-value propositions. You get more in value of goods and services than you exchange for your hard-earned money.
The basis of everything in life, including success, is value. Value lies at the heart of it all. We go to the best doctors because we know that they will always deliver a high-valued services. The same thing applies for restaurants, shops, and other service-oriented businesses. We’re constantly seeking high value in life because everyone wants to feel like they’re getting what they paid for and more.
So, if there ever was one core principle to success, it most certain is value. As an employee, a business owner, or a person in general, as long as you add more value to this world than you take away form it, you will succeed. Stop adding value, and watch your chances of success begin to dwindle. Always add an exceedingly high amount of value, no matter what.
#4 – Persistence
In the book, “Art of Persistence,” that I penned, I exhausted the topic of not giving up. I spoke at length about the subject of persistence, and highlighted some well-known examples of famous people that didn’t give up. And, although I’m not the first person to speak about persistence (nor will I be the last), it’s clear that this is a topic that has both plagued and helped people in the past, and will continue to do so into the future.
Persistence is the art of not giving up; it’s the art of digging in your heels, even when there seems to be virtually no hope at all that you’ll see things through. Over time, we progress, and as long as we don’t give up, we improve, regardless of how slowly it might be. This is one of the most important messages that I wanted to convey to my son. I want him to realize how important it is not to give up.
I know in the past that I’ve failed at many things, and have encountered endless setbacks and upsets. I wanted to throw in the towel in many situations in life, and sometimes, I did. But, I always picked things back up again later on. I persisted. I didn’t give up, even though I suffered enormous amounts of pain in all areas of my life.
Whether you’ve failed in life at many things, or you’ve failed at only a few, you most likely realize the importance of persistence. Looking back at things, we can all see how we could have or should have kept pushing forward, even in the face of failure. In fact, some of us might have friends or family members that we know who didn’t give up in their pursuits, and are now reaping the benefits of their struggles.
So, if something means enough to you, deep down inside your heart and soul, you can’t give up. That’s a resounding principle to success. That’s why Benjamin Franklin kept pushing forward even after 10,000 failures to invent a commercially-viable electric lightbulb.
That’s why J.K. Rowling spent the better part of 7 years writing the first Harry Potter book, suffered through 12 rejections by all the major publishing houses in the UK, went through a divorce, the death of her mother, and living on government assistance all while pursuing her dreams. She never gave up. And you shouldn’t either.
#5 – Loyalty
There comes a time when all of us must choose who or what we’re loyal to. Flip-flopping from side to side will never help anyone achieve lasting success. Loyalty is also built upon the foundation of standing up for what you believe in and having a moral footing, so to speak. What do you believe in? What or who are you loyal to?
Often, we might switch sides on the drop of a dime. But, loyalty, to the people around you and causes that you believe in, is a core principle to success, because it defines who you are and what you’re willing to stand up and fight for. Being loyal is a trait that’s also rare in this world, and is considered to be one of the defining characteristics of successful people.
In a book calle The Millionaire Mind, by Thomas J. Stanley, he states that “92% of all millionaires are married”, and that “the typical couple in the millionaire group has been married for 28 years”. He goes on to state that 8 out of 10 of us believe that having “a supportive spouse” was a fundamental cornerstone to achieving economic success.
So, whether it’s in your personal or professional life, always ensure a high-degree of loyalty. Don’t flip-flop from side to side. Make this into one of the cornerstones of your life, helping to define and shape who you are. Not only will this help you succeed economically, but it will also give you peace of mind and allow you to sleep better at night.
#6 – Contribution
It’s not enough to simply try to succeed on our own. We have to ensure that we’re contributing to society. Whether that’s a monetary contribution or a contribution of one’s time, the act of contribution is a core principle of success. But, why is contribution so important? Well, what happens when we contribute is similar to what happens when we fill our hearts with gratitude – we move away from a state of lack and towards a state of abundance.
In the state of abundance, it’s far easier for us to achieve our dreams; it’s easier for us to move closer to our hopes and desires. But, when we live in a state of lack, it helps to stifle us and take away our creative energies, filling us instead with fear, anxiety, and worries. Find a way that you can contribute today, no matter how big or small, and carry out that act.
Some of the greatest influencers of our time past and present, are contributors. But, if you don’t contribute now, say $10 from $100, how could you expect to contribute in the future, say $10,000 from $1,000,000. Some people might say, sure, when I have lots of money, I’ll contribute. But, it’s actually the exact opposite. As we amass our fortunes, our minds aim to guard and protect it rather than give it away.
Learn to contribute now, today, no matter how small it might be. Set your mind up to create a habit of contribution. If you can only afford to contribute your time, then do just that. You don’t have to over-think this; all you have to do is just do it.