The Secret to Success in Business and Life

Written By Dave Lavinsky
small colorful hearts forming a big heart

A few years ago, authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner wrote a great book entitled “The Leadership Challenge.” In it, they told the story of U.S. Army Major General John H. Stanford.

Despite flunking sixth grade, Stanford got into college on a ROTC scholarship. After college he survived multiple tours of duty in Korea and Vietnam. He later rose to prominence in the military and then in the public sector, eventually becoming the superintendent of the Seattle Public Schools where he took public education to a new level.

In the book, Stanford is quoted as saying the following:

The secret to success [in life] is to stay in love. Staying in love gives you the fire to ignite other people, to see inside other people, to have greater desire to get things done than other people. A person who is not in love doesn’t really feel the kind of excitement that helps them to get ahead and to lead others and to achieve. I don’t know any other fire, any other thing in life that is more exhilarating and is more positive a feeling than love is.”

So there it is: the secret to success is to stay in love.

Makes perfect sense.

So let me take this a step further and identify things that you should be doing to stay in love with your business so you can be more successful.

1. Choose businesses and product/service lines wisely. For those of you who are choosing a new business to start, or choosing a new product or service line to launch, all other things being equal, choose the one that you’re most passionate about…the one you really love. Launching anything is really hard work, and if you love it, like Stanford says, you’ll have the extra fire to help you succeed.

Most people choose businesses and product/service lines purely from a revenue or profit potential. If you choose based on what you love, you can get your customers to love it too…as they say, the money will follow.

2. Delegate your “likes” and “dislikes.” To stay in love, you need to be working on the aspects of your business that you love doing, not what you “like” doing, and certainly not what you “dislike” doing. For instance, if you are dealing with customer service issues, and you hate doing it, then stop. You’re probably doing a bad job at it, and it’s killing your energy which disallows you from performing great on the tasks you do love.

I know it’s often hard to do this, because in entrepreneurial organizations we need to wear many hats. But if you fall out of love, the consequences will be dire.

Make a list (right now, this post will still be here when you’re done), of 3 things you love to do, and 3 things you don’t. And then make a real effort to stop doing the things you don’t love doing (don’t just blow them off; find someone else to do them).

3. Hire people you like. Yes, we all want to have the best employee for every position, but how about if that person is really annoying. We’ve all had an annoying co-worker or employee at one time or another, and these people become cancerous to organizations. You want to be able to come to work each day and be excited to see your team. The moment you lose that excitement, your love of the business will fade, as will your employees’ love…as will your success.

4. Talk to others about your business.  As the saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side. What I’m talking about here is that often as an entrepreneur, you’ll think a lot of others have it easier. Maybe you’ll think that this other entrepreneur in a different business has it much easier. Or that that this corporate honcho has it made.

The reality is that everyone thinks everyone else’s life is easier, and your life as an entrepreneur is probably pretty good. So go out and speak to other people about their jobs and companies. You’ll hear a lot of folks complaining about their hours, their customers, their bosses, their employees, etc. That’ll make you understand that you do have it better than you think, and will help you stay in love with your business.

Bottom line is this: Stanford is spot on when saying that the key to success is to stay in love. Love is such a powerful emotion. It gives us immeasurable energy, and allows us to fight well after when the average person would have given up. These are key traits of a successful entrepreneur.


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