Four Factors for Success
When I was young, (in my teens, I think), my grandfather told me that to be successful, you need three things: competence, hard work, and honesty.
This makes sense of course – I can’t image anyone attaining long-term, sustained success in any venture while lacking one or more of those qualities. Of course some people might attain temporary success without being competent, hard-working, or honest, but that success is bound to come to an end at some point.
Competence is obviously important – you can’t get far if you’re just not very good at your job. You have to have some sort of knowledge or skill in your particular domain just to get a seat at the table. It is necessary, but not sufficient, for success.
The flip-side of competence is hard work. There are plenty of smart yet lazy people. Competence is like the potential to excel at something, but hard work is what turns potential into actuality. But they go hand in hand – hard work can quickly turn into “spinning your wheels” if there isn’t some competence to back it up.
Third, even if someone is competent and works hard, it doesn’t mean that other people are going to want to work with them. That is why honesty is important. Honesty, or more broadly integrity, ensures that you can form mutually beneficial relationships with others. A competent and hard working person who is dishonest might get far temporarily, but it isn’t a sustainable long-term way to do business.
At the time that my grandfather told me this advice, I didn’t give it too much thought. But upon later reflection, I had this idea – I could imagine there being a competent, hard-working, and honest person, who still was not successful. Now of course everyone defines success in different ways, but setting that aside, I figured that there must be another factor to account for success beyond the first three factors.
The fourth element to success that I came up with was this: a strategy.
While it is necessary to be good at what you do, and put in hard work, and have honesty and integrity, you need a strategy to orient yourself toward a goal, to formulate the steps to get from Point A to Point B, and to monitor your progress along the way. A competent, hard-working, and honest person could easily just end up stuck in place – but with an effective strategy, a person has some goal or end to which his competence, hard work, and honesty can be applied. A strategy is like a guiding light, without which all of one’s best intentions and hard work can result in aimless wandering.
So in summary, I’d propose that there are in fact four elements for success: competence, hard work, honesty, and strategy.
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