Success is something we all desire. However we define it and whether we will admit to it or not, we all long for the badges and symbols that will say we have achieved what we set out to do in this life.
For some, it is a big house and a luxury car, for others, it is a stadium full of hordes of loyal supporters, chanting praises and promising everlasting loyalty; for others still, it is the pride taken in seeing all of one’s children graduate, marry and bear children, in that order; and for others yet, it may be the warm glow that spreads through the soul when one finally gets to wear the uniform that declares one a true mudzimai weruwadzano (Christian womens’ union member).
Libraries the world over are bursting at the seams with books on the subject of success from Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, to The Secret by Rhonda Byrne; readers the world over have endorsed and recommended these success manuals by purchasing them in their millions with the hope that they will indeed reveal that illusive magic ingredient that will catapault them to greatness.
But what really is the secret of success? Does it exist? What is the mysterious ingredient that makes some succeed in the very same conditions and with the same resources where others fail?
Is there a common denominator that successful people share?
These questions have all been asked before and by studying successful people, one can try once more to answer them.
Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, said in an address at Yale University in October last year: “I am often asked, ‘I want to become powerful.
What’s the secret to it?’ I don’t believe in that kind of glib four-sentence reply or one-book answer about how to become powerful.
But there is an attitude towards life, a way of looking at things, a way of thinking that all these people that I have been studying, they all share this way of looking at the world.”(www.powerseductionandwar.com)
Of course, if anyone had ever delivered the conclusive answer to the question of success, there would be no need for any more books on the subject and we could all go home and practice the teachings in the certain knowledge that unabated achievement was well within reach.
One of the most amazing trends concerning success is that it tends to attract more of the same.
Consider the subject of love and you will observe that people are only attracted to those who already seem attractive to others.
Young wives are often heard lamenting about how they marry a man whom no one wants, but no sooner do they “clean him up” than hordes of women are suddenly pursuing the object of their makeover!
In his manual, The Art of Seduction, Robert Greene charges the student of seduction to “appear to be an object of desire”. After all, no one wants what no one else wants!
But it’s not only in love that this holds true. The real reason that nothing succeeds like success is because every small victory provides the courage, motivation and “feel good” factor that inspires the next success.
And so we find that even if the first accomplishments are small and slow, pressing on will build on these and result in more accomplishments. Small achievements, completed in succession, will grow into big successes.
We all know the story of David and Goliath from the Bible. What many don’t know is that before he took down the giant Goliath, David had smaller victories; first with a lion and then with a bear.
So essentially David was creating a track record of success, which served him well for his moment of greatest triumph.
One element of this story that few people ever talk about is that before stepping out to challenge the giant, the little boy David asks:
“What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine?”
It is only after David is told that the king will give great wealth as well as his daughter in marriage, plus tax exemption for his family, that he volunteers to challenge Goliath, after verifying the details of the reward more than once! Dare we deduce then, that David had to be sufficiently incentivised in order to take the risk?
And from that, can we therefore go on to conclude that a strong stimulus is one of the key ingredients to success?
I wonder whether the king’s offer would have been sufficiently attractive to David if it didn’t include the hand of his daughter in marriage? How might the story have ended then?
Relations with the opposite sex are often seen as a key indicator of success.
A man who is doing well will be expected to attract many beautiful women; similarly a woman who is very beautiful (because of course this is how we traditionally measure success for a woman!) is thought to be a magnet for rich and powerful men.
To this end, there are many websites offering advice under such fascinating headings as “Easy ways to look more attractive”, “Unleashing your inner bad boy”, and my personal favourite, “How to never run out of things to say”!
When all is said and done, you have to concede that a lot of success must carry an element of luck. Sure, it’s not the whole story, but we can argue about how many lines of the story it should take up.
Some believe there are no formulae at all; that you simply set about your business and fate, or God, determines your rate of success.
The original quotation for today’s headline is from social critic, moralist and historian Christopher Lasch , who in fact said: “Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success”!
Whether it is success itself or the appearance of success which draws more success, I am not sure. What I do know is that I am not ready to discount hard work, determination, courage and passion as the basics for a successful life.
Are these the real “magic ingredients” of success? I don’t know — I’ll let you know when I become successful!
Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity. Readers’ comments can be sent to email@example.com. Follow Thembe on www.twitter/localdrummer