There is a long history of studying leadership. People are fascinated by leaders. Leaders are profiled on television, in biographies, and discussed online. People want to become leaders, and/or want to help others become leaders.
The reasoning is that there must be a secret to success because not everyone is successful. And the path to success might be the (hypothetical) connection between habits and success.
We know that educated people aren’t always more successful than uneducated. We know what a happy home is not a guarantee of success. We know there doesn’t seem to be any external factor which produces success. So, we figure, it must be internal.
The reasoning suggests a four step process:
- find successful people
- identify their habits
- make their habits your habits
- you will be successful.
Here Are The Problems
Step 1 (finding successful people) is a problem It’s not difficult to find rich people but the richest people might not be successful, if you value family, generosity and humility. So the initial problem is defining success.
Step 2 (identifying habits) is much easier. Once you’ve identified what success is, identifying the habits of successful people isn’t that hard. There are many good studies on the characteristics of people who are successful leaders.
Step 3 is fairly easy, too. Making habits is pretty straight-forward. Given time and effort, most people can acquire many, if not all, of the characteristics leaders have.
Step 4 (your becoming successful), the news isn’t good here. Although you can identify some of the habits successful people have, they are not you. Your mileage will vary. Indeed, your mileage is almost certainly going to vary.
One characteristic of successful entrepreneurs, for example, is the ability to adapt. But if there is adaptation, there are changing circumstances. And changing circumstances means luck.
If a magic genie offered you three wishes, wish for good luck. At some point, you are going to need it.
I know a fair number of people in show biz. Some are quite talented. Some are less talented but more lucky. There are singers who have better voices than those headlining on Broadway. But they don’t know the same people. They weren’t roommates of someone’s cousin. They weren’t in the right place at the right time. If you get to choose between talent and luck, choose luck.
If you want to be in show business because you love acting or singing, you can spent your life joyfully doing those activities. You might also have to have a day job but you’ll be a successful journeyman.
If you want to be a “star,” you will most likely be disappointed. Only a fraction of actors make more than the minimum SAG dues. The Metropolitan Opera can’t employ everyone who wants to sing there. Only a few have a blog that makes more than $200 a year.
Become a journeyman, a craftsman. Do the work because you love it. Define success by your internal standard, not external markers.
Here’s What To Do
Make an inventory of your talents, skill and habits.
- List them all. Everything you can think of.
- Put them in a hierarchy. Rank them by importance, effectiveness and completeness. Put your best habits on top and your worst on the bottom.
- Break the worst habits and enhance the best ones.
Need Some Help?
Here’s a place to start. I made an Excel file with 75 habits listed alphabetically. Add to the list, delete those that don’t apply and then rank them from highest to lower importance. There’s a column to define success and four columns to input how many times you did that habit.
I am making a short 5-day email course on how to break a habit. You can sign up here if you’re interested. It’s free. (The course is free, signup is free, habit-breaking is free).
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