Success And Cookies

When it comes to success, it seems like I am always looking for some secret formula to follow, some prescribed set of steps that will guarantee my outcome. When it comes down to it, I just want someone to tell me what I need to do that will make me successful. If I do XYZ, I will be successful.

This works for cooking. I can follow a recipe. If I want to make dark chocolate pistachio sea salt cookies, I look up the recipe and follow it and—bam!—dark chocolate pistachio sea salt cookies. They will almost always be edible—if I followed the directions. They may or may not be tasty, but at least edible. By following a set of instructions, I will get what I set out to make.

Success, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be so formulaic. Oh, we want to believe it is. It would be so easy if it was. But really, if that was the case then there would be high achieving successful people everywhere. Instead, there are more books and blogs about success—mine included—than there are people on this planet.

Almost everyone will claim to have the recipe, the secret formula, the seven habits needed to make you successful. I am always buying and reading these books. I keep thinking, maybe this time I will find the secret. There is even a movie and the corresponding book out there called The Secret. Funny thing is, everyone seems to have the “secret” and it is different depending on who you are reading.

After thinking about this for some time, I have concluded the following: There are a lot of really good ideas, steps, best practices, habits, and principles, that work for some people, some of the time, under certain conditions that may or may not work for you depending on your own circumstances at that particular time in your life given your previous experiences, current knowledge, preparation or lack thereof, and luck at the time. Sometimes wearing that lucky shirt helps.

What takes place in the world of success peddling is that someone figures it out—for them. So they figure, if it worked for me, it will work for everyone else—or at least sell a bunch of books and seminars. So they look back with 20/20 hindsight and conclude that their path to success was the magic formula—after all, it worked for them. I think the answer is yes, it did. But it may not work for you or me.

You and I on the other hand, have to look into the future and try to figure out what will work. When we are wildly successful (I am counting on it, we are in this together) we too can look back and tell everyone our secret success formula. And it might or might not work for someone else.

It’s good to understand what goes into success but we still have to figure out the right steps, habits, principles, and applications for ourselves. It isn’t bad to read how others did it. It gives us ideas, teaches concepts and truths, but in the end, it is up to us to figure out what works for us. Success isn’t found so much in a formula or recipe as it is in a willingness to see what works, by getting off you duff and trying something. As Steven Pittsfield would say—do the work.

So when I throw out some idea, hopefully, you think about it before blindly accepting it. Maybe you try it, and maybe it works for you. If it doesn’t though, then look for something else. But at least try.

There, that is my secret formula: trial and error, based on some intelligent choices. If you do that for the right amount of time—bam!—out will come success. Like a batch of cookies out of the oven. Just like fortune cookies, but better—success cookies!


Perhaps you know of someone who is looking for a keynote or workshop. If so, contact me and let’s talk! I do more than write, sometimes I actually say something. 

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