The Keys to Success in Business and Life

Posted On: November 4

I read a very interesting book last night called, “Letters From Leaders: Personal Advice for Tomorrow’s Leaders from the World’s Most Influential People.” The book includes nearly eighty letters from those who have done so much to shape our world today-from Muhammad Ali to four U.S. Presidents, Mikhail Gorbachev, King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand and King Abdullah II of Jordan, and the Dalai Lama; from Cathie Black to T. Boone Pickens, Donald Trump and a number of Nobel Laureates. As someone who has studied leadership and life success for nearly 20 years I really enjoyed reading what these amazing people had to share.

As is typical with me, I could not help but look for a “pattern” in their thoughts and advice. Though they came from every corner of the globe, with immensely diverse backgrounds and experiences, it was amazing to see a VERY clear pattern emerge on what all of these highly accomplished people focused on. Here is my interpretation of the key themes that were present in nearly every letter:

  • Attitude is everything. Be positive, optimistic, engaging, spirited and happy. People like to be around happy people.
  • Build your house on a solid rock of education. Be a dedicated lifelong learner. Be curious. Ask lots of questions. Be an absolutely superb listener.
  • Take a risk, try something new. Life is a bold adventure or nothing at all.
  • Your integrity and your reputation are all you have, guard them carefully.
  • Surround yourself with smart, values-driven and caring friends, and then don’t be afraid to ask for, and give them, lots of help.
  • To be truly successful in life, find something you are passionate about and follow it with gusto.
  • Take good care of yourself. Health, vibrancy and vitality are essential for a long, happy and successful life.
  • There is more opportunity than you could possibly imagine, but you have to go look for it.
  • Lasting success does not come from chance, fate or good luck. Be well prepared, have a plan, set clear goals and remain focused on them regardless of circumstances or difficulties.
  • No success is ever achieved without diligence, hard work and unrelenting persistence in the face of inevitable challenges and failures.
  • Be kind and fair. Stay humble. Treat everyone with respect. Give back, help others, help your community.

That eighty of the most successful, accomplished and respected leaders in the world all say the same basic things are essential for life success is amazing to me, but they have lived incredible lives and have a unique perspective. We are lucky to have access to such wisdom.

I have read literally hundreds of books on business and life success and I can say with confidence that the list above is one of the best I have ever seen, not because I wrote it, but because it is the truth. I believe strongly that if you printed out that list and tried to follow it every single day, you would see tremendous positive results in your life.

I’ll close with my favorite quote in the book, it was from Walter Cronkite, “ There are no shortcuts to perfection .”

I look forward to your feedback and hope that you will pass this post on to anyone you feel would find value in reading it. Take good care – John

PS – Have you read John’s new book? Awesomely Simple – Essential Business Strategies for Turning ideas into Action. It is on sale at Amazon at 42% off the cover price!

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  1. Thanks Beverly – so very glad you enjoyed the post – and PLEASE pass a link to it along — I think a lot of people will get value from that list!

  2. Sounds like a great book… I just added it to my “must read” list. The themes are excellent, too. Thanks for sharing!

  3. The second to the last item called to mind the chapter in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers”. The chapter, entitled the 10,000 Hour Rule explained that to be really great at something, many of hours of practice are required. He talks about Mozart (and his early compositions not reaching the same standard as his later works), the Beatles’ Hamburg performance experiences from the early 1960’s to 64 when they finally hit it big, and the development of Bill Gates and his persistance at programming from high school on. Diligence, hard work, and persistance, especially in the face of obstacles, ensures success…Something in short supply in many students today. It’s one of the hurdles school personnel must overcome as we motivate our students so that we can continue to lead the world in innovation and genius.

  4. Great post John. I must say that it is ironic that all the various leadership books appear to all focus on the same themes. Clearly there must be truth to all of it. Thanks for providing us with more inspiration, a better outlook, and a positive mentality.



  5. Ahh, you touch on two key ideas Jim. I talk about the 10,000-hour rule in my new book — and explain that it is part of the 4-P’s of excellence: Passion, Persistence, Practice and Pattern Recognition. I also agree completely with your comment about students — I believe this is due in part to an inability to delay gratification – which is also a prime requisite for high-level success.

  6. John,

    this is really great list. Most, if not all, of the items should be obvious and known to most people. But since they are so easily forgotten, a summary like this is very handy!

  7. Dear John,

    Thank you for what it means to live a life, in one blog.

    Your gracious list serves as a wonderful reminder to never surrender to a mediocre life. The only life worth living is the one where you get to be your BIGGEST Self and your highest potential. Playing the “game of life” and playing to win is not about “luck” but creating your life by the choices you make. Knowing that how you chose to live was not only about you, but during your short visit you were one who touched, moved and inspired others to be there very best, simply by who you were BEING.

    That’s who you are for so many JS.

    Love you man.

  8. They are all equally important but number 3 is my favorite. Almost everything good that has happened to me in my life has come from just walking up to someone and introducing myself. Thanks John for putting this so concisely.
    Ted Brock

  9. Great thoughts – thanks for sharing a crisp but still comprehensive list.

    I also have similar views… excellence in business, personal life and general is something everyone should understand and try to attain. The website I maintain is also around excellence:

    Thanks again.

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