How I Got Into Studying Success | I was on my way to the TED conference in California. I’d been going there for years. And on the plane, in the seat next to me was a teenaged girl and she came from a really poor family but she wanted to get somewhere in life. As I tapped away at my Mac she kept asking me questions and inevitably she said, “Are you successful?” I said, “No, I’m not successful. You know… Bill Gates. There’s a big success”… But then I told her abo ut some of the stuff I’d done, and at the end of it all she said, “Oh. Well you are a success. So, you know, how do you get there?”… So I get off the plane, I go to the TED conference, and I’m standing there in a room full of the really successful people in all fields – you know, science, arts, business, entertainment – when it hit me: why don’t I ask them what helped them succeed and find out what really leads to success for people in all fields?
The Process of Categorizing Success | I tear apart every interview I do and if one paragraph was about how the
person loved what they did, that went into “passion.” If they told me they worked hard and explained all that, that went into “work.” And I started with a blank slate. The only question I ever asked them was, “What helped you succeed?” And I left it up to them to tell me. So I didn’t set them up in any way, which I think is important.
The 8 Traits of Success |
- Trait #1 | I start with “passion” because if you love what you do, all the other seven things will come automatically.
- Trait #2 | Work. All successful people work very hard without exception. Martha Stewart said to me, “I’m a real hard worker. I work and work and work all the time.” She also said, “Don’t expect others to do your work for you.”
- Trait #3 | Focus. It’s a question of being focused as opposed to being all over the map. And generally, successful people are only good at one thing. They’re not great at everything. They suck at everything else because they focus their whole lives on one thing.
- Trait #4 | Push. Successful people just keep pushing themselves, and that’s what I mean by “push.” Richard Branson said to me, “Whatever you’re doing in life, just push yourself to the limits.”
- Trait #5 | Ideas. One great idea has taken many people from the bottom to the top. Bill Gates once said, you know, “I had an idea – building the first software for micro computers.” And that sure took him to the top!
- Trait #6 | Improve. It’s like successful people are on the continuous mission to improve themselves and what they do. Robert H. Dennard, who came up and invented dynamic random access memory that make all our PCs possible, said, “Innovation comes from believing that everything has the potential to be improved.” And that includes us. You know, successful people are always trying to improve themselves.
- Trait #7 | Serve. This is an important one that people sometimes tend to forget. Andre Malraux, the great statesman, once said, “To command is to serve. Nothing more, nothing less.” You know, we tend to think that leaders are served by others, but actually the great leaders serve us.
- Trait #8 | Persist. I made it number eight because you’ve got to persist through all this stuff!
Principles I Live By | One thing about success is that it can change you. My advice is that when you become successful, don’t change. Whatever you did to get there, don’t change. Warren Buffett still lives in the same house. He’s lived there his whole. He still drives beat-up cars until they fall apart. Don’t change.
Work-a-frolics | I called my father a work-a-frolic… not a work-a-holic. Work-a-frolics love what they do and my father loved work, even though he never would tell you that. He always brought his work home. Worked at night. He was an accountant, a bookkeeper. And would be humming away at the table with his old calculator and happy Even though he’d say, “Well, back to the old grind,” you knew he loved the “old grind.”
Choosing Between Balance and Success | You’ve got to make a choice: do you want personal life balance, or do you want big success? The more success you want the less balance you’re going to have at any particular time. So it’s a matter of choices and the good news is, over time, you can achieve both. But you have to have them sequentially, not simultaneously.
Being Self-Motivated | All I can do is say, “If you want to be successful, here’s the things that are going to help you.” I can’t motivate you, really. You can only motivate yourself. What I find is a lot of successful people had a hunger for one reason or another. And it can be because, like James Cameron, your father said you’d go nowhere and you’d be nothing. So you spend the rest of your life trying to prove to yourself – and to him, or whatever – that you can be something.
Finding What You Love | I always think that finding a job you love is like finding a person you love. Sometimes you’ve got to go out on a lot of really bad dates before you find the right one.