10 Timeless Ideas About Success

If you look back and see what good thinkers have had to say over past years, you’ll find that most of the ideas on what makes success are timeless. Even Aristotle held forth on success: “All men seek one goal : success or happiness. The only way to achieve true success is to express yourself completely in service to society. First, have a definite, clear, practical ideal — a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.”

Here are some more thoughts, albeit a bit more recent than Aristotle.

1. “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” (David Brinkley)

One of the first lessons successful people learn is that they have to constantly overcome the psychological obstacles of doubters, naysayers, critics and nasty competitors. All while they are working hard at what they’re really trying to accomplish.

2. “Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.” (Dale Carnegie)

I love Dale Carnegie quotes. They don’t usually require an explanation.

3. “I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it.” (Jonathan Winters)

Success requires patience. It isn’t instant. It’s a continual process. And sometimes it’s a cumulative process. You can’t wait for the final success of each of your projects before starting the next. If you did, just think how long it would take to know your success if you planted a peach tree and waited for the fruit before planting the next.

4. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” (W. C. Fields)

Fields may have been making a funny crack, but he was right. You need to know when persistence becomes perseveration. Develop a sense of what’s probable and improbable. Or, to quote Kenny Rogers, “know when to hold ’em; know when to fold ’em.”

5. “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” (Bill Cosby)

Whether you’re employed or in your own business, you can’t be all things to all people. Working at something is a necessity, but over-working and trying too hard will just wear you down. And trying to achieve other people’s values instead of your own is guaranteed to depress you and disappoint them.

6. “Formula for success: rise early, work hard, strike oil.” (J. Paul Getty)

Realize that no matter how hard you work, how smart you are or how many opportunities you have, you can’t beat just plain luck.

7. “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” (Albert Einstein)

Who do you think is going to be remembered best by family, friends and, later, history: the guy who spent all his time trying to get rich and richer, or the guy who discovered how to make people’s lives better.

8. “Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.” ( Mark Victor Hansen)

Now, that’s a longer explanation of Nike’s slogan: Just Do It.

9. “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Stop once in a while and examine if what you are doing is worthwhile. What value are you accomplishing? You only get one life. Are you defining success as how much you have in material things? Or in what you can point to in pride as having contributed to a better life for those you love. What are your most cherished values anyway?

10. “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” (Albert Einstein)

Yes, I know I gave you two quotes from Einstein. But after all, sometimes I think his ideas are worth twice as much as most other top thinkers. In this quote, he reminds us that you have to know what you’re doing in depth. Then you have to work and practice hard enough to outdo the competition. It may be true, as other’s have said, that having passion for your endeavors makes them easier and more likely to be successful. Nevertheless, you’d better have a good underlying structure of knowledge and action.