Is it really possible for anyone to be successful?

by PJ McClure on March 21, 2013

FTS quote 56While I stood at the bottom of the mountain, looking at all the people at the top, I wondered if I had what it took to get there. When I shared my concerns with others, they echoed the same thoughts.

Every time I pushed myself to climb and then slipped or fell, it became that much harder to believe I was capable.

Those at the top, and on their way to the top, have come from numerous backgrounds and pedigrees. They climb with different styles and for different reasons.

What they have in common is a mindset that affords them the power and flexibility to have success on their terms. Now it is time to define your terms and get started toward your mountaintop.

There are dozens of conspiracy theories concerning why success is difficult to attain. The defeatist mantra, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” makes it seem like you can’t have wealth unless you already possess wealth. That notion is complete and total junk.

The idea that people are born for success or have been lucky to get there is a temptation and a trap. If we give in to attributing their success to factors out of our control, we lose. We assume the victim stance and retreat to the safety of mediocrity. The one place success isn’t.

My well-reinforced theory as to why people gravitate to “success being out of their control,” is they believe it relieves them of responsibility. “If I don’t control my own accomplishments, I can’t be held accountable for my lack of effort.”

I’ve heard thousands of excuses and watched people argue passionately in defense of their unwillingness to go for it. “Success is for other people and I could never do what they’ve done because I don’t have their advantages.”  True failures in life default success to what other people have without considering what success really means.

The way people react to my message of hope, opportunity, and systematic success can be comical, bordering on alarming. Here is an example from a recent conversation after a keynote address.

“So you mean to tell me that I can apply what you’re telling me and go have success like Donald Trump?”

“I don’t know. Do you define success the same way Trump does? Do you consider him successful?”

“What do you mean? Of course he’s successful! He makes billions, has his own TV show…”

“Yes, and is that how YOU define success? Do you have to make billions and have your own TV show to be successful?”

You can see where the conversation is headed. This person made many assumptions regarding success. The biggest is that success is a single place that never moves and is the same for everyone. To become successful we must appreciate that success is relative and dynamic.

Everyone has the right and responsibility to define success on his or her terms. What do you want your life to look like? As I quizzed the Trump fan after the speaking engagement, she admitted that while Trump was financially wealthy and famous, she really didn’t know if he was successful in her definition. He seemed lonely and shallow in her estimation.

I reminded her, we don’t really know if he is lonely or shallow without knowing him personally and her job wasn’t to pursue his success anyway. Her job, and ours, is to define success by our standards and go after our own version. Vision, purpose, belief… they are all individual exercises to begin your trek to success. This is your journey.

The next thing I covered with the Trump fan, and the gathering crowd, was the notion of success being somewhere you arrive and stay. Success is not static.

We define success from where we are at this moment. While we work to reach the goals and milestones we have defined, something else happens. Our view of the world changes and our definition of success expands and changes.

Think of it as progressive horizons. When I stand at the foot of a mountain, all I can think of is getting to the peak. From where I stand, that is what success looks like and is all I can see.

With every step toward that goal, I gain perspective. My elevation changes and new things come into view. As I approach the summit, a new world beyond my current mountain opens up in front of me. I see new horizons and places I would like to go.

This new perspective fuels my desire to explore and experience more. That is the essence of life. Continual growth and exploration makes us appreciative of where we are and excited about where we can go.

All of the Elements of Personal Choice are essential climbing companions. We use and reuse each one as we progress through life. As with any other set of tools you use repeatedly, they become easier and more useful the further you go.

Success is absolutely available for everyone. The common trait that you share with all of the truly successful people throughout history is mindset. Using our mindset, we define success, lay the groundwork for achievement, make it happen, and repeat.

Be your best,



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