From Hollywood to Bay Street: Success is Defined By The Story You Tell
Whatever Happened to the "Leader" in Leadership?

Writing The Story Of Success - Why Does It Take So Long To Finish The Book?

It's easy to find a multitude of books and articles that offer advice on how to achieve success. From this week's bestsellers - "The Secret" and Wayne Dyer's "Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life", to the more traditional school of writing from Napoleon Hill, Anthony Robbins and Dale Carnegie, the self-help industry continues to be a multi-million dollar - perhaps even multi-billion dollar industry.

We all want to achieve success, yet for most it still seems elusive. How many of us wake up in our 40's, and wonder when we will finally start living our lives the way we envisioned it years ago? Why do some people achieve success in the material sense, yet others with equal talent don't?

If we could package "success" and sell it as a fail-proof formula, we would never have to work again. In our attempt to write the story of success into our lives, perhaps the secret lies in implementing the "little" successes (let's think of them as "sub plots") and working them into our lives at a deeper level. Perhaps we just need to see the little things, in our attempt to write the whole story. If the little things are taken care of, then maybe our chances of writing a positive outcome to our life story will increase substantially.

For example, if I look at what I did to achieve success in different areas of my life, the breakdown would look like this:

1) Success in selling...depended on...

  • writing a plan and following it through
  • knowing the product and the customer
  • visualizing what I wanted from each sales call (I literally "pictured" a successful outcome)
  • honing my people management skills
  • hard work, persistence and belief in my product

2) Success in marketing/communications/project management...depended on...

  • understanding my target market
  • doing the research
  • looking beyond the immediate task to see how each of my actions would affect varying stakeholders and touchpoints both inside and outside of the company
  • empathy and an ability to get along with people
  • ability to get "buy in" from stakeholders

3) Success in public speaking depended on...

  • an ability and desire to understand and engage the audience
  • research on the topic
  • organizing the speech to be sure it was clear in the audience's mind
  • practice, practice, practice

4) Success in my personal life depended on...

  • a decision that I would just "be myself" and see what happens
  • reaching out and maintaining friendships
  • honesty
  • a desire to share thoughts and ideas with others
  • staying open to possibility

In trying to understand what it takes to be successful, another thought occurred to me. Maybe we're already successful. Perhaps what we take for granted, is considered an accomplishment of grand proportions by others.

What is success to you? Have you achieved your level of material success? If so, what tips can you share with others? What do we need to do to write the story of success into our lives?


Karen Hegmann

Hi Quentin

Great to hear from you. Thanks very much for your well thought out comments.

I agree with you that success and happiness are related. I also like your idea of the concept of happiness being more holistic, in that if one area of your life isn't happy, it affects the rest of the areas.

I agree with you in that desire is an important component to achieving happiness, but sometimes desire and action (for whatever reasons) don't always equate to happiness. If you're not doing what you love to do, or are in the wrong field (using career as an example), then you could try all you want with little results and return.

So yes, desire is important - but we need to feel we're getting something back to feel happy about things.

Interesting points that you raised! Thanks again.

Quentin Evans

Hey Karen,

I'm inclined to agree with Lewis that "success" truly is a matter of personal definition. To begin there, I think, really would dictate whether created a "plan or strategy" is appropriate. For Lewis, I'm gathering that he also derived some tacit "success" simply from allowing himself to embrace any new adventure that came his way.
To that end, I absolutely love your concept that the little successes are actually what create the umbrella that one is "successful".
I think personally, I equate that idea with the notion of happiness (which for some is not too far removed from the idea of success).
Success in life, to me, is living as "happily" as I can. "Living happily" however, is really just a collaboration of all of my daily efforts to be "happy". Family, friendships, work, spirituality, philanthropy - although they are perhaps not evenly dispersed in terms of weight, my overall "happiness" is affected when I don't feel happy in one particular area.
I do think many of us live this way if even sometimes unconciously. It's why we often try to substitute fleeting emotive-stimulators (shopping, chocolate, alcohol) to "top up" our overall feeling.
To answer your final question then - or to not answer it actually - I would contend that in order to write the story of success into our lives, we must identify the building blocks that make up our "happiness/success" homes, and strive to maintain them to the highest degree possible each day.
Even within each of your 4 pillars - selling, communications, public speaking and personal life - the one point I feel is missing is that of "desire".
It's the desire to achieve happiness in each part of our lives that is most important to us that I believe affords us the energy to do all of the rest of the "work" required to be successful.
Definition + Desire = happiness. And for me, that's an equation of success.

Karen Hegmann

Hi Lewis

Thanks for your comment. I like your idea about having no plan or strategy. In University, they taught us to always have a plan..but perhaps our thinking becomes so structured that it leaves no room for intuition and gut feeling. If our mind is already made up, we might miss opportunities.
"Success" is also a matter of definition - as you suggest.

Thank you!

Lewis Green


Wonderful post worth thinking about. For me, I set my eyes on living free to take advantage of the next opportunity, whenever it occurred. No plans, no strategies, simply staying aleart for new adverntures. My life is a success, although not one deep in monetary wealth, by my own choosing.

The comments to this entry are closed.