Facebook Twitter LinkedIn


Success is an open secret

Success is a strange thing. Everyone wants it, but at the same time no one really knows what it is. And because of this confusion, an individual’s pursuit of success can often be fraught with disappointment, disillusionment and even self-destruction.

The problem is that many of us, especially when we’re young, tend to chase after society’s/someone else’s ideas of what success looks like. You know—the big house, the sports car, a flashy watch, designer clothes, etc. It’s a trap that many of us fell for and still continue to in some way or another.

There is of course nothing wrong with enjoying the material rewards of success, but if money and expensive objects are what you use to define your success, you’ve got it all wrong. Success—and this is something Evolve believes in very strongly—is a state of mind.

Success is in everything you do, no matter how big or small. It’s getting out of bed the moment your alarm ring instead of hitting snooze; it’s eating a healthy breakfast instead of grabbing a pastry on the way to work; it’s dressing appropriately in clothes that fit you well; it’s doing every aspect of your job with total focus and attention to detail until you’re satisfied that it’s as good as it can be; it’s treating everyone with the same courtesy and respect and never using your position to treat others unfairly; it’s looking after body and mind by exercising and reading books that challenge you; and it’s about being steadfast about spending regular and meaningful time with your loved ones.

Selfie of a smiling man with a baby and a woman in the background, exercising on a grassy mountain.
Photo by Derek Owens on Unsplash

Success is essentially something you can attain for ‘free’. It is not exclusive to CEOs or professional sportsmen or social influencers with a million followers. In fact, a bus driver who every day commits to make sure his bus is clean, treat his passengers politely and drive as well as he can, then returns home to spend time with his family even if he’s exhausted is much more successful than the business owner who treats everyone around him/her like minions. The latter will also be stuck in the never-ending loop of constantly upgrading their outward appearance instead of looking inwardly and developing their self-awareness.

A great majority of people believe that once you achieve certain outward attributes—wealth, acclaim, position and power—you are successful. But this is wrong. It actually works the opposite way round: when you strive mindfully for inward success—all those healthy habits and behaviours we spoke about above—outward success, i.e. recognition and material reward, is sure to follow. I’m not saying that the hard-working bus driver is eventually going to become a millionaire, but by dedicating himself daily to his work and his life, he has a much greater chance of upward mobility than the others who do the bare minimum and expect their lives to improve.

‘The Strangest Secret’ is 1956 spoken word record by Earl Nightingale, an American speaker and author who focused largely on personal development and man’s search for meaning. ‘The Strangest Secret’ is widely available on YouTube and other platforms and is well worth a listen, no matter where you are in your journey. Given that it was recorded 64 years ago, one or two parts are less relevant, but the majority of what is said form part of an important and enduring truth.

Nightingale expresses many of the same ideas mentioned in this article, but he also makes some beautiful and profound statements about our pursuit of success and its true meaning. Ultimately, Nightingale comes to the conclusion that success is not some complex and mysterious thing. Instead, it is rather simple, a strange and open secret—success is having a goal and the willingness to do what 95 percent of people won’t do. It’s as simple as that.

Some quotes from ‘The Strangest Secret’:

  • “When we say about five percent achieve success we have to define success, and here’s the best definition I’ve ever been able to find: Success is the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal.”
  • “A success is anyone who is doing deliberately a predetermined job because that’s what he decided to do deliberately. But only one out of 20 does that.”
  • “Some of us have goals, some don’t. People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going—it’s that simple.”
  • “We become what we think about.”
  • “George Bernard Shaw said, ‘People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are; I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.’”
  • “Your limitations are self-imposed.”
  • “Ideas are worthless unless we act on them.”
  • “Success is not the result of making money; making money is the result of success.”
Woman walking on a road that splits into two directions, with a lighthouse in the distance.
Choose your own path and pursue it.
Photo by Dan DeAlmeida on Unsplash

Latest insights

Special episode – Article review

Show notes: (2:11) Intro to article ‘10 insights and trends for business leadership in 2021’ (2:43) There are no perfect leaders (4:27) A leader must demonstrate what it means to be a good follower (5:01) Manage expectations around risk and innovations (6:11) Understanding different motivations (7:42) Good leaders should be present (8:59) Change management (9:57) … Continued