The Art of Success

I have one major thought for you to ponder this week. Any true success is a work of art.

Despite what so many of the success gurus say these days, there are no truly scientific laws, or efficacious magical formulas, for success. Publishers can't figure out what makes a book a bestseller. Toy manufacturers can't predict the next fad. Shoe designers have no idea what will suddenly set a new standard for fashion. Equally good scientific polling, along with the best available social science, canąt deliver the election to both of the two main presidential candidates, current indications to the contrary notwithstanding. One will lose, despite everything. Two rival car dealers in the same town can read the same book on success, and, in principle, do exactly the same things as a result. Both cannot possibly be number one. Some ventures succeed and others don't. Some successes are outrageous, and others are quite modest.

Fortune may smile on you today and pull the rug out from under you tomorrow. Human beings have free will, and the responses of other people to what we do can never be completely guaranteed. The individuals we most want to please or motivate may embrace our projects, or reject them, despite our best efforts to the contrary.

No principles or guidelines of success describe absolute necessities. Because of that, there are no complete and reliable guarantees that if you do certain things, a specific result will unalterably happen out in the world.

A few years ago, it was reported that when the very talented and hard working contemporary actor Jim Carey was going through his early struggles in the effort to break in to show business, he wrote himself a check for ten million dollars and put it in his wallet until the day when he was sure he would be able to cash it. In a surprisingly short time, he was paid exactly ten million dollars for a starring role in a feature film.

Sarah Ban Breathnach had an idea for a book. Thirty publishers rejected it. She says she cried herself to sleep every night during those difficult days of failure. But she kept working on her book idea as if she already had a publisher for it. Then, one day, she clipped out a copy of the New York Times Bestseller List, whited out the name of the number one nonfiction book, and typed in the title of her project. She also changed the date to two years in the future. And in even less time, her book was published and came to occupy that rare and coveted spot in the New York Times. Simple Abundance subsequently has sold over five million copies and launched other bestsellers for the author in its wake.

How many people have read Jim Carey's well known story and then have written themselves a check for ten million dollars, or even more? How many are walking around with those checks slowly decomposing in their wallets? And how many aspiring authors are now clipping out the New York Times Bestseller List and desperately looking for some whiteout?

"Superstition, which is widespread among the nations, has taken advantage of human weakness to cast its spell over the mind of almost every man."
- Cicero (106-43 BC)

Jim Carey and Sara Ban Breathnach used their unusual techniques as strikingly effective personal motivational tools. But they aren't voodoo rituals. There is nothing magical about writing a check or altering a printed list. These acts were just a small but imaginative part of overall efforts involving talent, vision, energy, hard work, relationships, mistakes, learning, and luck. We know about them only because, in their case, the whole process happened to generate a very public form of accomplishment.

There is nothing mystical about success. No magic talismans or voodoo incantations can alter the realities we face in the world. And no formulas can force the hand of fortune. Real achievement doesn't happen that way. It's not a matter of strict science or the result of any manipulative magic. But it is a matter of art. There is a performance art to achievement. And, in fact, there are several arts of success. Will it surprise you to hear that I think there are exactly seven universal arts for attaining and sustaining success in life? If you've come to this website and are reading this little essay, you probably know about my 7 Cs of Success. As I've explained in the book True Success, in every enterprise, we need:

C1: A clear CONCEPTION of what we want
C2: A strong CONFIDENCE we can attain our goal
C3: A focused CONCENTRATION on what it will take to get there
C4: A stubborn CONSISTENCY in pursuing that vision
C5: An emotional COMMITMENT to the importance of what we're doing
C6: A good CHARACTER to guide us and keep us on course
C7: A CAPACITY TO ENJOY the process along the way.

You've often heard it said that success is not a destination, but a journey. Well, the same can be said about each of these seven conditions. We don't attain any of them completely, once and for all. We move more fully in the direction of mastering each of them. And in connection with each, there is an art. The art of success is thus like a rope of seven strands. They are:

1: The Art of Goal Setting
2: The Art of Confidence Building
3: The Art of Focus
4: The Art of Consistency
5: The Art of Commitment
6: The Art of Ethical Decision Making
7: The Art of Enjoyment

As we learn the practice of these arts, we do everything that is within our power to position ourselves to move more fully into the deep and sustainable forms of life success that are right for us. And, as in every performance art, the beauty resides first and foremost in the performance itself, regardless of any external result. But it is precisely the best performances that tend to create the best results.

May your creative performances flourish this week, as you apply in your life these seven arts of success.

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