The Secret to Success: No One Knows the Secret

Success isn’t something you accomplish. It is something you feel.


Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, showcases the impact of rare and unpredictable outlier events and the human tendency to find simplistic explanations for these events, retrospectively.

One such outlier is that fifty percent of the wealth in the world is controlled by one percent of the population. The ideals of success, fortune and fame are constantly being flashed in our faces like a pair of double D’s that don’t have a parental control option. Contrary to this false yet effective advertising, acquiring these ideals is not the norm.

Not only are we obsessed with success, we are equally obsessed with dissecting it. The irony is that we use the information gathered from the dissection of success and re-package it, which allows for success to be recycled and reused.

Some of the common slogans which show up are: “Work your ass off. No, don’t work your ass off, work smarter. Fake it till you make it! No, be authentic. Authenticity is the key. Advertise. It’s all about marketing.

We believe that we have cracked the code, but this is an example of our human tendency to retrospectively provide simplistic explanations for a complex phenomenon. We are causation junkies and if X plus Y doesn’t equal Z, then we are going to find Z and kick his ass!

Nobody can predict the multitude of random occurrences that must come together to create success. When it comes to our own experiences, we are biased towards selecting moments in our lives that we consider to be “tipping points” and we overvalue those while undervaluing day to day behaviors. “Tipping point” moments are more memorable and glamourous while the day to day stuff feels like minutiae.

A common belief is that the cream of the crop rises to the top; but can we say without a shadow of doubt that all people who work hard will become successful or that those with natural talents will have their day under the lights? Or is it true that the right opportunity can far outweigh a strong work ethic and an absorbent amount of talent? Predicting success is like reading a few books in a vast library and drawing fixed conclusions from what we have read rather than what we haven’t.

We have become such “experts” at dissecting success that we take for granted the necessary forces required to make this phenomenon possible. These dissections are a cause of concern because many of us believe if we replicate the actions, we are guaranteed success. However, when we replicate the actions but not the results, it is easy to be discouraged.

The ideals of success, fortune and fame are deeply embedded in society, but it is important to distinguish between these ideals, which are often sandwiched together like a six-inch BLT from Subway.

Success is a subjective phenomenon which is experienced by a person in the way that they interact with the world and how those interactions create a sense of satisfaction and overall fulfillment. Fortune is the amount of DOLL@R$ in a person’s bank account and fame is the amount of people who know a person’s name. Many people acquire fortune but never find success and many people seek out success only to find fame.

What happens when we replicate the actions but not the result? Do we keep writing, filming, or producing content?

Many of us don’t. A lot of people start off with the best intentions and see that their work doesn’t gain the traction they expected and after feeling disappointed, they stop. The process of creation itself can be so difficult that we need more than other peoples’ validation to keep us going. In fact, gaining too much traction, too soon, could be worse for a content creator than a modest gain in momentum.

We must keep creating for the sake of creating itself. When our concern shifts from, “Did anyone hear my song?” to “Am I going to be able to make music tonight?” is when we give ourselves a chance to be successful. This is when success is not tied to an outcome but is tied to an action and it is the interaction with that action that creates fulfillment.

Perhaps success has a much simpler explanation than all the dissections of it indicate. Maybe success is just walking down the street, wearing your own shoes without a desire to trade them in for a different pair.



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