I have had the opportunity to meet and listen to some of the most successful people in my life. Often, I wonder what makes them that - be it in their personal lives or their careers. Is it IQ? Is it EQ? Is it the marks they score in exams? Are they born that way? Is there a secret training program they undergo? :)
Well, while there are numerous success mantras easily available around the web, I decided to make my own list of traits based on what I have seen and heard. While this is definitely neither exhaustive nor the holy grail, I truly believe these traits are necessary to succeed - you may be running your own startup, you may be mulling over starting one, you may be looking to the next phase of growth within your organization or your definition of success is to be happy and content. The below list applies to all the above definitions of success.
1. See What you Want To See
Here’s the link to an interview of the oldest survivor of the holocaust - a 109 year young lady talking about the beauty in life despite the tough times faced.
Focus on the aspects you want to see, while being completely aware of the reality. Once you start dreaming of success, you shall get a taste of it.
2. Be Pushy And Do Not Give Up
I recently attended an event organized by TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Bangalore Chapter and heard Pekka Sivonen (Founder, AppCampus) and Ravi Gururaj (Co-founder, HBS Angels in India) in a conversation on what makes a startup successful. The context being Israel has so many successful NASDAQ listings despite being a country marred with unrest whereas India has a dozen at max. Israel has a culture of getting down and doing what it takes to get to a specified goal. There’s a word in yiddish “Nudnik” which means a pest / nagging person. They culturally are ingrained to persevere until they succeed.
Rovio, the makers of AngryBirds, had to try it 52 times before they made history. DrawSomething (the famous app) was born the 39th time. What if these creators gave up the 3rd time or 5th time or even the 35th time? Never give up.
3. Learn To Manage Failure
Here’s an interview of yet another famous and respected personality. As the program director of India’s first satellite launch mission, he took a decision to go ahead when the computer systems pointed to a flaw and adviced to abort the mission.
However, he made it successful the next year - he could have easily killed himself mentally over such an epic failure. Learn from your failures. More important, manage failures and get back in the game to succeed.
4. Embrace Uncertainty With Optimism
This is not the best of examples - but let me share it anyway. There’s an interview on the survivors of the holocaust to understand what made the survivors survive. In most cases, the survivors had a blind belief that they would live longer. Those who were less resilient and lacked willpower lost the game (in themselves) even before they lost in reality. In one case, the interviewee says how they used to break bread into multiple pieces just to feel they had more food than what they really had.
Nothing in this world is certain. Instead of brooding over externalities, be optimistic and survive for yet another day than to lose it in your mind even before the game begins.
If your startup is going to run out of money soon, do not continue to focus on getting that big VC funding that will remove the uncertainty forever. Or shutting shop. Instead, focus on improving the product, getting the next set of paying customers and retaining the current talent. Survive for another day. The big money will follow you.
If you are unsure of a future in your current job, do something about it to get to the next job - build those contacts which can help you 12 months down the line, start breaking down the goals into smaller tasks and disillusion yourself into being successful and develop optimism.
If you are facing a personal problem, start seeing the positive things around you.
Bottomline: Get optimistic - learn from the past, make the mistakes of the present, dream of the successes of the future.