The more I find new books to read, documentaries to watch, or other examples of successful individuals, the more I find that much of the information is incredibly biased.
Most stories of success are crafted AFTER the individual reaches the goal, not before. While this makes complete sense, it misses something.
Hindsight can be deceiving. If we find successful business owners and then explore their characteristics, traits, habits etc. we might think this clues us into what it takes to be successful.
Years ago a friend of mine got promoted in his company. He was an entry level employee doing a lot of manual labor. Every time I saw him he was complaining about management. Once he was promoted to a management position all he complained about was the workforce! Regardless of which side of the coin he was on, he couldn’t see the other side.
The reality is that the systems around those roles are different and those systems are what is determining his perspective. That means that we may think people that are different are making poor decisions but if we were in the same position we would likely make a similar decision!
That same bias shows itself when we search for reason behind successful people. We start to examine their after version assuming that will show us the before version as well. The before version is who they were to get to where they are and the after version is who they became once they arrived.
Here is an extreme example. If a book came out next week, written by a lottery winner, explaining how they became a lottery winner, most of us would not buy it. We know the odds of winning the lottery and the fact that it is about extreme luck more than strategy or hard work. It doesn’t matter what tips they provide, it really won’t help us.
If we take multiple lottery winners who all used the same strategy, would this become more compelling? If 50 lottery winners said they used a specific strategy when they bought their tickets would it mean that we simply have to use their strategy and we can win?
Hopefully this starts to show you how misleading it can be to find a bunch of winners and then ask how they got there.
Every year an NFL team will win the Superbowl. It will happen and it happens because their system is set up to crown a champion. The winner keeps going in the playoffs. At some point, there will be a winner and loser until there is only one team left.
The team that wins tends to say similar things as to how they did it. But it’s funny that most people ignore the fact that many other teams did the same exact thing. Suddenly we think that it is easy to be that successful, just follow their tips and advice.
But life is much more complex than this. The reality is that there isn’t one way to reach a high level of success. There are as many success strategies as there are success stories. The reality is that there are numerous ways to reach a goal.
I remember listening to a very successful business owner tell about some of his strategies for turning the business into a success. He made a comment that has stayed with me for years. He said there are a lot of ways to be successful, but he only knows this one. Then he went on to explain how he grew the business.
There really are many different ways to reach a goal. But in all my attempts the only way that consistently works is to evaluate, build and grow the systems and habits around the goal. Yes other ways might work, but I have not been able to consistently succeed using them.
This has been the only thing to work for me. Not visualization, or risk-taking, or outsmarting competition, or or even outworking others. Elements of these things may be involved but they aren’t the reason I reached the goal. The reason that I reached the goal is because I put systems in place that slowly and consistently helped me to work towards the goal.
It never happened overnight and always took hard work. But by addressing the systems and habits in my life, I was finally able to start to make progress. The more progress I made the more likely I would reach my goal.
Caroline Arnold, author of Small Move, Big Change, says “We are each driven by a system of unconscious habits and preferences nurtured early in life and entrenched through repetition. These established behaviors and attitudes form a kind of autopilot, which quietly and efficiently manages most of the routine tasks and decision making that we perform each day, preserving precious mental energy and initiative for new learning, problem solving, and idea generation.”
The systems and habits in our lives are incredibly powerful. Yes there are numerous other ways to accomplish a goal, but for me, this is the only way that has worked.