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6. The Secret of Success

If you were to approach an average person on the street and ask them what the secret to success is, they would likely either give you no answer, a non-answer, or at best an offhand quote from someone. It’s a strange irony that we are all competing to be successful, yet figuring out how to become successful doesn’t seem to be something anyone puts their mind to on a regular basis.

My mentor at Bloc, however, suggested that if I was interested in the subject of how one becomes successful (regardless of the endeavor), I should look into the essay "The Strangest Secret" by Earl Nightingale, because he actually found the answer.

The answer is this: we become what we think about. This is an extremely useful bit of information to know, and when you apply it to the idea of someone trying to become a successful software developer, writer, musician, doctor, actor, lawyer, parent, martial artist, public speaker, truck driver, politician, astronaut, teacher, or any other endeavor, really, it makes perfect sense.

Yes, some people are born with a natural talent for certain things. Michael Phelps, for example, probably had a knack for swimming at a young age. But it is not natural talent alone that resulted in Michael Phelps becoming the unfathomably talented swimmer he is today; that knack may have provided an encouraging spark to get him started, but it was the practice that led him to all those gold medals (I have no idea how many he’s won; he probably won another in the time it took me to write this post).

Practice. It is practice, and thinking about practicing, and learning how to do a better job of practicing, and focusing on all that practicing to the exclusion of other, less important things, is what led Michael Phelps to become a world-class athlete. Just as Beethoven was born with neither the ideas for his great symphonies nor the talent to compose them, just as Alan Turing did not come by his incredible insights into computer science by luck, so will none of us accomplish anything of value by sitting idly by and wishing we were more successful. This is true of my goal of becoming a successful software engineer, and it is true of any of your dreams and pursuits, too. It’s why your friend who says “I always wanted to be a poet” but never actually reads poetry, writes poetry, or studies poetry will never be a poet, and it’s why people who jealously watch the Olympics saying “I wish I could do that” will never do it because they’re too busy watching the Olympics instead of practicing the sport they claim to love.

The first bit, the first step in becoming successful in your chosen field, is to determine what that field is. But after that, it is all about practice and embracing whatever pursuit it is that you love.

Find the dream, then chase it. Chase it to the ends of the earth, because it is a disservice to yourself and the rest of the world not to do so.

Dan RiceComment