May 10, 2019

Ten Principles of Success You NEED to Practice

So here’s what happened. I was working on research for a completely different topic, having a little trouble zeroing in on the main idea, when I stumbled across a list I had written some years ago. As it turns out, the list consisted of ten points -or principles- about success, and it became instantly clear that THIS was to be the next project.

The principles in the list that follows are not necessarily gentle, comforting sentiments. They are neither warm nor fuzzy, though they are intended to be helpful.  And by the way, that warm, fuzzy feeling people try to use to inspire you can actually be a destructive thing. 

Why is that? 

It’s because of the Participation Trophy Effect, which gives one the false impression that any outcome is acceptable - praiseworthy, in fact - even when the results are less than stellar.  They say, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” and this kind of feel-good approach to success based on repetitive unconditional affirmation is a perfect example of good intentions gone wrong.

This approach actually does more harm than good in the long run.  Part of this is because it holds us back from producing our very best results by failing to provide a motivation for improvement. But this method is also ultimately self-defeating. At some point, you will inevitably encounter serious criticism (now it might be a fair, unbiased, valid critique of your performance, or it might be someone trolling you - either way, the result is the same). If our only exposure to feedback has been in an echo chamber of safe-space trigger-free bubble-wrapped mumbo-jumbo, any criticism that comes our way will likely be crippling.

A truly meaningful, positive self-image can only be built by realistic evaluation. Warm, fuzzy feelings pale in comparison to the satisfaction you feel when you have actually had to overcome some serious difficulties in order to accomplish something.  So, the following comments are intended to point you toward something spectacular, and then push you forward.

1. Make a commitment: one that is meaningful; one that you truly believe in; one that does not hinge on someone else's approval

~Joshua 24:15
And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

So you have to know what it is that you want. In other words, you have to define your goal. And no matter what your goal is, there will be somebody out there who says you can’t or shouldn’t do that. If you wait for everybody to be on board, you’ll do a whole lot of waiting… and not much else. And that brings us to the next point…

2. Once you have chosen what this commitment will be, do not falter; do not give up; and most of all, do not expect it to be easy.

~Proverbs 24:10
If you faint in the day of adversity,
Your strength is small.

The Apostle Paul faced a lot of adversity, but he never gave up. Look at what he had to say in 2 Corinthians:

~2 Corinthians 11:24-27
From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness…

~2 Corinthians 12:9-10
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

So basically, Paul is saying that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

3. Be prepared to sacrifice other things for that which you have chosen; most of all, free time.

~Romans 12:1
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

That idea of a living sacrifice deserves a lesson all on its own. But for now, suffice to say that nobody ever found success by sitting around doing nothing. Now don’t get me wrong - we all need some down time every now and then. Rest is important. What we’re talking about here is time which could - and should - be better spent doing something productive, rather than sitting around all day, watching videos on YouTube.

Moving along…

4. You DO NOT have a right to succeed; success follows hard work.  What you do have is the right to work toward something - and the freedom to fail. 

In Proverbs chapter 6, we see a great illustration of the contrast between someone who wastes their time and someone who uses time wisely and works hard.

~Proverbs 6:6-11
Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain,
Overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.

How long will you slumber, O sluggard?
When will you rise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to sleep—
So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man.

Hard work and efficient use of time are important - very important - but there is one painful lesson which we all have to lean at some point. No matter how much you plan or how hard you work…

5. Failure is a part of life. You will fail sometimes, but failure is not defeat… unless you give up. 

~Proverbs 24:16
For a righteous man may fall seven times
And rise again…

~James 1:12
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Now it is my opinion that the greatest basketball player - ever - was Michael Jordan. You know, Chicago Bulls, TWO threepeats in the 1990’s? Here’s what he has to say about failure…

“I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Man, he totally owns his failures. Which brings us to our next point…

6. When you fail, do not blame others.  Learn from your failure, and work harder to achieve future success.  
We all fall short sometimes, and there is always a lesson to be learned when that happens. Success is great, but it is only in failure that we learn specifically what we need to do to get better.

~Proverbs 24:31-32
And there it was, all overgrown with thorns;
Its surface was covered with nettles;
Its stone wall was broken down.
When I saw it, I considered it well;
I looked on it and received instruction:

~Proverbs 10:17
He who keeps instruction is in the way of life,
But he who refuses correction goes astray.

You know that saying about how doing something the same way over and over again while expecting to get better results is the definition of insanity? Yeah, that’s pretty much what all this boils down to. You have to use your failures as stepping stones - building another, new, better step each time, until you finally reach your goal, and grab hold of that brass ring!

Unfortunately, a LOT of people expect to claim the prize without doing all that pesky heavy lifting. But…

7. Mediocre results do not deserve great rewards.  If you want great rewards, work harder and raise your own personal standards.  Then work even harder, and you just might get results worthy of reward.

~Proverbs 12:27
The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting,
But diligence is man’s precious possession.

So, you’ve gone hunting, and you’ve killed a deer. Now if murdering Bambi was your goal, well fine, you’re done, I guess.

You’re also a big fat jerk.

Because the point of the hunt is to bring in food. Killing the deer is only part of the job. The easy part, really. Because after that, you have to clean it (skin it, gut it, butcher it, get it ready to cook and eat). But if you leave the job half-finished, you never get that juicy, succulent, venison steak. All you get is a rotting, stinking corpsified carcass.

8. Great work and fabulous results often go unnoticed and unappreciated.  During these times, the work must be its own reward.  

The unappreciated genius is a common cliché in modern life, But clichés, like stereotypes, exist because they are often true. Sometimes you WILL accomplish something truly remarkable - spectacular - earth shattering - and the only feedback you get is..


The Bible has an answer for this.

~Colossians 3:23-24
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,

~Proverbs 22:1
22 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,

As we all should know, a person of good character does not need constant affirmation in order to keep doing the next right thing. But let’s say you do get some positive feedback. Then what do you do?

9. When you succeed, acknowledge the work of those who helped you achieve that success before you accept your own pat on the back.  When you are congratulated, simply say, “Thank you.”

~Proverbs 11:2
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom.

~Proverbs 27:2
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips.

You probably don’t want OR need to hear another sermon about how pride goeth before a fall. We’ve all heard it many times before, so I’m just going to leave that one sitting here. 

However - I should mention that folks can spot a phony a mile away, so don’t even mess around with expressions of false humility or long, embellished acceptance speeches. Just flash a smile and say thank you.

And if you’re an introvert, like me, with some real self-esteem issues, you’re going to be your own worst critic, and you’re going to have a tendency to downplay, or even outright belittle, your own accomplishments.


If the spotlight of public congratulations makes you uncomfortable, the same advice I just gave those “other” guys applies just as well: Smile and say thank you. And you know what? When you do that - and I had to learn to do this, so trust me here - you will begin to feel more confident about your own abilities. When you just accept the positive feedback with a thank you, the knowledge that you have done something noteworthy actually becomes internalized - it becomes part OF you, rather than just an intellectual acknowledgement that OTHER people recognize your work. You begin to genuinely appreciate yourself and your accomplishments - which is something a lot of introverts aren’t very good at. The so-called “attitude of gratitude” has many, many applications, and in this case, it serves to build you up for future successes.

Which of course brings us to our final point:

10. Do not think that success brings an end to the hard work.  It simply means that you are ready to work toward the next goal.  

~Philippians 3:13-14
Brethren, I do not count myself to have [a]apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Now yes, when you reach the end goal of a long journey, you do need to take a moment to catch your breath. The Bible makes a big deal out of the idea of REST. But once you have rested, there is always something more that you can do. So, as a famous fish once said…

“Just keep swimming.”

And before I wrap this up completely, keep in mind that you need to practice these 10 principles every day. I mean, just getting out of bed and getting to work on time can be a struggle. Every day brings opportunities for you to practice being more successful, and it’s in those small, insignificant, daily chores that we find the building blocks to build a truly successful life.

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