I like to view success as a skill not unlike any other. I think it can be learned. If you apply discipline and form good habits you will get better at success.
Perhaps there are elements of heredity or good fortune that might bring a person success or the appearance of it. But those are less common and tend to be fleeting. In fact, if you have not learned success as a discipline, even good fortune could end up making you worse off in the long run.
Success is the ability to imagine a desired end and achieve it. Both components – the imagining and the achieving – are important. The thing that connects them and ties ideas to outcomes is a willingness to pay the price. Many people imagine lovely things and get upset or confused when they don’t get them. But few are realistic about whether or not they actually are willing to do what it takes.
How can you learn the discipline of success? You learn by doing. First imagine something you want. Then think through what it will take to achieve it. Decide if you’re willing to pay the price and if so, fully commit. Now begin taking the steps and don’t stop until you achieve it. That’s it. Each time you accomplish what you set out to you begin to form a habit and become accustomed to the process of success. For this reason, as with any other skill, start small. Think of modest goals and ends that aren’t too far off. Practice achieving them and you not only get whatever the end was, but you learn how to succeed. Do it over and over. Once you’ve mastered success as a discipline, you can apply it to more grand and ambitious ends.
I don’t mean to imply that you can succeed every time you try anything. Skills don’t work that way. You can’t master piano playing such that you’ll never make a mistake and you can play anything perfectly the first time. But we all recognize piano playing as a skill that can be cultivated through discipline and the formation of habits. Success is the same. You can teach yourself how to imagine a goal, commit to paying the price, and reach it.
Isaac Morehouse is president of Praxis.