5 Keys to Unlock Success

Everybody wants to be successful. We dream of wealth, power, influence, and happiness as if they are the ultimate destination in life. We assume that we will someday reach a level of “success” where all worries will vanish and wildest dreams will be fulfilled. Yet, as we gain more real-world experience, those accomplishments are more hollow than anticipated. The beautiful home and luxury car are nice, but they don’t create the fulfillment we expected. Why?

This question plagued me when I was younger. I just couldn’t understand why, in spite of a variety of accomplishments, I continually felt less than successful. What was I doing wrong? What could I change in my life to finally achieve success? All the pieces of the puzzle started connecting when I stumbled upon this quote in an audio recording called The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale:

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”

It was a moment of revelation: success was a mindset instead of an event, a journey rather than a destination! I took that concept and ran with it, testing it out in each area of my life. The more my efforts aligned with my ambitions, talents, and personality, the more rewarding the results became. For the first time, I understood what true success meant to me—and it had nothing to do with the number in my bank account.


The 5 Components of Success

I firmly believe that every person needs to align with their own version of success, so I developed a model to help explain exactly what it takes. In this model, there are five specific components of a successful mindset:

  1. Self-Awareness – The most critical component of success is an awareness of who you are: your base desires, motives, personality, and passions. In the words of Aristotle, “Knowing thyself is the beginning of all wisdom.” This self-awareness creates an essential foundation for the subsequent components.
  1. Vision – Any achievement must begin with a vision, or an objective we desire. Napoleon Hill said, “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” This step is limited only by your imagination.
  1. Progression – Success requires the ability to make some degree of progress. While you may lack the tools, education, and resources to reach your objective today, you must continually be working toward your vision.
  1. Alignment – A vision without progress is merely dreaming, and progress without direction is aimless. An essential element to success is the act of aligning your progress–making sure the actions you take are the most direct ways to achieve your goal–to efficiently stay on course
  1. Resilience – Success requires strength of purpose. To weather the storms of adversity, we need a reason strong enough to provide an anchor. The obstacles that battle the mind are inevitable and stifle progress towards success if we are not firmly grounded.


PART 2: 5 Killers of Success

Sometimes it’s easier to understand these concepts by looking at some examples of what NOT to do. Here are 5 most common types of people who struggle to find success:

Type #1 – The Ignorant


It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many people are ignorant of their own character and personality. Very little of the education we receive prior to our careers is directed towards an exploration of ourselves. How many classes did you take where you learned of your personality, your passions, strengths and weaknesses, disposition to stress, and motivations? It is painful to consider the number of people who enter professions without really understanding if they are suited for that career.

In the words of Wallace Wattles, “Every man comes into the world with a predisposition to grow along certain lines, and growth is easier for him along those lines than in any other way.” Without self-awareness, we can’t correctly process defeat and failure, nor can we map our objective around our highest level of potential.

We may all be a bit ignorant of ourselves in the beginning, but we know enough to get started. Keep on learning and discovering, and don’t be afraid to fail. The closer you get to your purpose, the more intense your success will become.


Type #2 –The Wanderer


Have you ever known someone who bounced from job to job but never really knew what they wanted to do? That person was a wanderer. He may have had any number of incredible skills, but they were wasted by a lack of clear objective and vision. This is similar to a perfectly sound cargo ship full of precious goods roaming aimlessly at sea. If it has no destination, it will never get anywhere. Objectives can be both short-term and long-term, but the key is to always have an objective in view. Aimlessly wandering will rarely lead to progress.

Type #3 –The Dreamer


Even if we go ahead and identify a specific vision, we may become mere dreamers if we fail to take sufficient action toward that objective. A lack of work ethic, temporary discouragement, inability, and distraction are just a few of the many ways we can find ourselves failing to make progress towards the objectives we desire. Dreaming is wonderful, but only if it is accompanied by action.


Type #4 –The Misaligned


A person who is working hard, has an objective, but realizes that they are taking the long way to reach their goals has become misaligned. Sometimes alignment is not possible with the skills and resources currently available to us, and we might be required to take a detour (personal development, education, saving, etc.) before getting back on track. This may be frustrating in the short-term, but a long-term perspective helps us see that progress is actually occurring in the grander scheme.


Type #5 – The Discouraged Who is Overcome by Adversity


At some point or another, defeat reaches us all. We are our own worst critics, and a lifetime of negative conditioning and adversity tells us that “we can’t.” This fear often stifles our progress before we even get started.

Adversity is not evidence of a lack of ability or talent; rather, failure is inevitable and can be beneficial if approached with the proper perspective. You may have heard the famous phrase, “There is no failure–only feedback.” This demonstrates that, like success, failure is a state of mind that can be chosen. The person who becomes discouraged has neglected to see that his adversity may be refining and grooming him for future experiences.



PART 3: Realizing Long-Term Success

After exploring a broader perspective of success and looking at the actions of 5 types of people who aren’t quite hitting the mark, you probably have a pretty good idea of what success means to you. But what about maintenance? Is it really possible to have success long-term—especially with roadblocks like misalignment and discouragement?


First of all, keep in mind that misalignment is not always bad. It simply means that our progress has not been made efficiently toward the correct or most important objective. Let me explain how this can be interpreted as a positive circumstance.

The recent observance of the Olympics provides great insight into a common, and positive form of misalignment. With new records being set on a regular basis, athletes frequently discover that what was good yesterday may not be enough today. Consider how many athletes entered the Olympics as champions of their respective countries only to be annihilated on the world stage. This defeat, although painful, is an integral part of success when viewed as feedback rather than failure. The athlete who begins training even harder to beat the new record has become realigned as a result of his defeat.

The same experience also occurs for those of us who do not aspire to Olympic greatness. We live in a society where the bar is constantly being raised in every profession, industry, and sport. When we fail to measure up right away (as we all do at times), we experience pain caused by the awareness of being misaligned with a new standard. This state of discord will continue until we have sufficiently realigned with the new objective, and have seen evidence that we are making progress towards it. Successful people are those who have developed the ability to face defeat and harness it into the pursuit of a new objective.


It is important to remember that your primary objective will change throughout your life. Your interests may evolve, the standard might change, or perhaps you’ll discover new skills and abilities. Regardless, it is unlikely that your objective will remain static. Progression on a long-term level is built upon constant progression and adjustment of objectives on a short-term level.

Think of any area in your life where you are unhappy and I can guarantee that you are either misaligned, lacking direction, or lacking progression towards the objective you desire. Conversely, the areas where you are feeling content and successful suggest that you are aligned and realizing progress. Happiness is simply a byproduct of progressing towards the things that matter most to us on the path to success.

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