The Art of Finding Success


When do you know that you’re successful?

Is is money, title, power? No. Experience from studying hundreds of successful people in all walks of life shows me you are successful when:

You are working towards, are on the brink, or have met your dream life and career goals while you remain a solid citizen. 

You are viewed as a “good” person: responsible, honest, and fair. You have not, will not, do not let the business political system corrupt you. The upshot is your co-workers truly like, trust, and respect you — and your family members do too.

You have a good reputation, you have the character to back it up, AND you know how to stand out from the competition, ie. be visible (but in a good way).

Protect Your Reputation

Part of being successful is protecting your reputation. You have to be willing to pay a ransom for your good name. 

If you have any notoriety in your community, industry, or company, what you do is carefully watched by people who like you and those who don’t like you. Your behavior and actions have to be “perfect.” 

But “perfect” behavior is like beauty — it’s in the eye of the beholder.

I hired a consulting firm in my home town. The agreed-upon fee for their project was $6,000. To my surprise, when the project was finished they billed me $9,000 saying they had done extra work for me. 

I had no choice but to pay the top dollar. I had to pay ransom for my good name. A reputation of not paying would be an even higher price to pay.

The consulting firm would be eager to spread chatter that, “She doesn’t pay her bills….she reneges on deals…don’t do businesses with her.” 

They wouldn’t spread the word that “we charged her 50% more than agreed upon….we surprised her with a claim of more work…we were not open or square in our dealings with her.”

The ill repute doesn’t stay in the neighborhood either. 

A posting on one business owner’s blog (for the world to see) reads, “Don’t do business with M__ L__ in San Diego. He is dishonest, doesn’t pay his bills, and will, hopefully, soon go out of business.” 

Bad word spreads fast. It spreads even faster on the internet.

To avoid the situation happening in the future I outline my understanding of our work agreement (even if they have also), and get written confirmation. I allow nothing nebulous or ill-defined to occur without immediate clarification and I document date, times, and content of discussions. 

These two rules go for work associates, partial friends and full-time friends if I’m doing business with them.

Still, with all that effort, misunderstandings will occur. I usually elect to pay some bumped-up fee to keep heads cool. Sometimes the best practice means you pay ransom for your good name.

Have Good Character

Your reputation can be managed (as any good politician will tell you). But no matter how much PR you do, your character will eventually show up. 

So it’s not enough to just have a good reputation, you need to have the character to back it up.

Having good character is to your benefit. You’ll not only sleep soundly, but you’ll never have to worry about being “caught in the act.” 

Being a solid citizen is the ultimate de-stressor. Consider these three truths:

  • Fame, popularity, and riches go away; only character endures.
  • Ethos is established at the top, and you’re the top in your world.
  • People want to trust you, so make it easy for them.

This isn’t to say you should be fault-free (no one is!), but you should try to do the right thing in every situtation.

Your reputation can be managed (as any good politician will tell you). But no matter how much PR you do, your character will eventually show up. The Art of Finding Success Share on X

Be Visible!

Reputation is your good name. Being visible is making your good name known.

It doesn’t mean that you embellish your work, are pretentious, show off, seek the limelight, have a popularity contest, or over self-promote. It means you:

  • Go the extra mile.
  • Go out on a limb.
  • Distinguish yourself.
  • Care about what you’re doing (more than you care about being photographed doing it).
  • Stand out, but not grandstand.

When you communicate — which you have to do all of the time with everyone in some manner or another — you are deemed as: impressive, memorable, credible, genuine, and collected. 

You set a good example of personal empowerment and leadership and you help infuse it in others.

Being visible can be as simple as this story told to me by a client: “I remember joining this several-billion-dollar company years ago right out of college, and I happened to see the CEO unexpectedly walk by my cubicle one day. I stood up, went out to him, and introduced myself. He asked, ‘Do you know who I am?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and explained that I had just joined the company, and he said, ‘Well, keep up the good work.’ And then he made a point to stop at my cubicle months later when he happened by again.”

In talking with CEO and C-level executives, they tell me:

  • “Get noticed early in your career and preferably by the top people; that’s how you get anointed.”
  • “Unless you fight against it, in business you can become like a rock in the river, tossed, turned, and ending up pretty much like every other one.”
  • “Being visible is not going to every Starbucks and introducing yourself to everyone.”
  • “It’s not who you know, but who knows about you.”
  • “The best way to be visible is to tell others how great your team is. You must toot everyone else’s horn. And if you don’t have a good team, lie that you do, and then go change your team. The ones who tell me they are wonderful themselves always make me wonder if they are.”

The Measure of Success

Money, title, and power may be an outcome of success but’s that’s not what makes you a success.

True success is found in wholeheartedly living out your goals and remaining a solid citizen. You are doing well and you do well by others.

What greater legacy could there be?

If you are looking to advance your career, consider coaching to help you achieve your goals. One of my clients stated, ““From Debra’s nuanced advice I figure it’s added $400,000 to my income over the last four or five years.”Contact me today to discuss coaching, or if you have a group of emerging leaders, for a speaking engagement.

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