I’m not here to hawk any self-help products, yet like many book writers I will make the bold claim that I know the formula to success… and it is simple. Surprisingly simple — and widely overlooked or ignored.
I’m not saying that this formula will make you rich. I’m not saying it will fix every problem or solve every situation. It is neither a magic bullet nor a cure-all.
What it is, though, is the core thing that you already do whenever you are successful. “Successful people” are just those who apply it more often and more effectively than others.
- Identify where you want to be
- Identify where you are
- Make an attempt at something that will bring you closer to where you want to be
- Identify mistakes
Simple? Yes. Too simple? Well, I would argue that many people understand this idea, but completely ignore it.
Let’s try a very practical real-world example…
Being Good in Theory
I have developed literally dozens of apps, and these apps continue to sustain me (by and large). I am asked probably once a week by aspiring app developers and computer programmers how they can become successful in the AppStore, Android Marketplace, etc. I ask them what they have tried so far, and I have noticed a trend…
They each have tried to write an app, but in a “theoretical” sort of way. They get some software to compile and an app to run, but generally never submit it to the store for sale. These people are very smart and very commendable – they often spend their time working on a cool idea “in theory.” In other words, they develop some esoteric app that they may or may not finish. Which is great — if you definition of “success” is to solve a theoretical problem.
However, most people define “success” as making money off the endeavor and having the apps used by people. The thing is, most of these aspiring app developers seem to expect that some day they will finish their long work on some big cool app that will become wildly successful.
This is not how success works for 99% of people in 99% of cases.
Almost every business is built, piece by piece, from small successes. My success has come from building many many apps and releasing them each for sale. Instead of starting on some huge project that may or may not be interesting/useful/profitable, I started with lots of little games and utilities and tools. Each one might only have made a few dollars per month, but that was a little closer to my goal. I remember when I first started making enough money to buy myself a sandwich each day from my app development – it was a very happy day for me. The next app I released doubled that amount. The next app after that payed for my rent each month. The app after that let me expand my business.
What was most important is that I learned what the steps were (and mistakes might be) in order to achieve true success by using these steps. If my first app had been wildly successful I might have made some great money for a little while, but I would have probably crashed and burned soon after. Why? Because I learned a lot from building lots of little apps that people actually use, instead of theoretical apps that never saw the light of day. By leaning to satisfy 10 customers, I prepared myself to satisfy 100, then 1000, and so on. I chose projects that were easy to complete but might have a market, so each one cost me little time and effort to make at first, but taught me something new about how to succeed in the app marketplace.
Or, More Generally…
I am always hearing people say “I want to do…” with an air of predetermined self-defeat about them. Here’s what I’ve noticed:
- People who say “I want to learn to cook” (for example) often never seem to start learning
- People who know how to cook, instead, always seem to say “next time I will…”
Notice the difference in word choice here. The self-defeatists say that they want to do something, as if the decision is out of their hands, or they do not have time or the task is too big/impossible to actually be achieved. Those who actually succeed simply say “I will.”
It is not a matter of arrogance, it is a matter of experimentation. Just because you will try cooking a pie tonight does not mean that it will turn out good. You might fail completely, several times even. Yet…
Someone who has tried to cook is already a chef (albeit of questionable skill)…
Someone who wants to try to cook probably will never be one.
Or, as the Buddhists might say…
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step