MIND, WORKOUT 8th February 2016

Success: The Defining Principles

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What makes successful people successful? Just like there’s more than one way to skin a cat (and something I have no interest in pursuing), there are many different forces that underline an individuals success.  Through my own health and fitness journey these past four years I realized that the same principles which helped me get to where I am today (and will get me to where I want to go), apply to the entrepreneurs, scientists and leaders of the world. So let me kick things off with the first one:

Be Passionate

Virtually every successful entrepreneur, athlete or show biz star has credited their success to the love of their craft and an incentive greater than themselves. The fact they became rich and famous along the way was a mere by-product, so it’s hard to deny the simple truth that when you correlate passion with hard work, success just happens. Steve Jobs once said ‘If you are working on something really exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you’. A perfect example of this is Nikola Tesla, arguably one of the greatest Scientists of our time who’s inventions include radios, power grids and lesser known products such as letter-shaped neon lights.  Tesla was a visionary, who’s ultimate goal was to create free energy for the world, a vision he believed was possible by utilizing a combination of positive energy omitted from the sun with negative energy produced by the earth, a combination Tesla referred to as Cosmic energy. Free energy for the world, it doesn’t get any more selfless than that.

In the absence of passion, you have no determination, commitment, willpower or ambition. It is the starting point for everything. To be passionate means you live in the lab, Neil Degrasse Tyson hat on, trying to solve the mysteries underlying earth’s existence, or spend your days on the phone cold calling your ass off even though no one is buying home made paleo cookies. In other words you are driven by something far beyond tangible measure, you are driven by your hearts desire. 

Stay Committed

Now that we know passion is the catalyst for results, what’s next? How about we start with a little dose of commitment.  The first day home after my surgery (mid Jan 2012) I woke up with a sore feeling in my abdominals, no surprise considering they had just cut me up down there some forty eight hours earlier. As I hobbled out of bed a feeling overcame me, I knew things would never be the same. My daily donut routine was a thing of the past, so too was my love of Oreos and grilled cheese sandwiches. But at the same time I was up for the challenge to eat better and prove how strong I can be in the face of temptation.  In much the same way, the first morning after quitting his or her job an entrepreneur knows the time is now, they have to commit, they’ve taken a step into the unknown and all they have is themselves to rely upon.  Recently, I bumped into a former co-worker who has started up his own Web Development firm. When I asked him what it felt like the day after quitting his well paid Wall Street job, he remarked: ‘the most overwhelming feeling had to be anxiousness. I planned out everything as best I could but everyone has a plan until they get hit (as Mike Tyson said). So I knew it was going to be a challenge but I was ready. This was really the first time in my life that I felt like a master of my own destiny.’ Commitment is the human ability to control it’s future, and when you realize how powerful this is, you are automatically waking up the next morning, ready to roll.

Challenge yourself

A year a go, I laced up my Brooks running shoes and ran the Central Park loop, covering a distance of 6.2 miles in a respectable one hour and ten minutes.  This is significant when you consider my max effort pre 2012 was five minutes on a treadmill. As I ran, I felt pain, fatigue and a voice telling me to quit. But by now I was a stronger fitter version of myself and my ability to push through had evolved to the point where giving up just wasn’t an option. I even remember thinking I would feel worse about myself if I stopped to take a break and so I battled on. 

One of the key drivers behind successful people is their ability to go beyond their comfort zone. Drawing on the case of my former coworker, Ben was a college athlete who played for UCONN the year they won March Madness in 2012. In the same year he started work at UBS on the graduate program until 2014 when he moved to a private equity firm. In the fall of 2015 Ben decided to leave private equity and start his own firm. In describing his most daunting experience Ben said it was ‘leaving my comfort zone..and give up a very well paying, comfortable job to venture into a completely different industry’.. but Ben decided he wanted more and made the leap into entrepreneurialism. Today, you will find him writing dynamic web applications, producing analytics, or debugging. Oh, and he’s an investor and advisor to companies too, not bad for the class of 2012! 

The first day an entrepreneur wakes up after quitting their nine to five,  is not so different to that of an individual stepping onto the gym floor for the first time, they both require a confidence to push beyond our comfort zone, but when we do, the magic really starts to happen. 

Practice routines

I often hear the word planning when it comes to success, be it business plans, marketing plans or weight loss plans.  Plans have their place but in reality set backs arise and curve balls get thrown our way, none of which our plans accounted for.  A plan can also be quite daunting to anyone trying something new for the first time. The easier way is to develop daily routines, little things that keep you habitually on track so that you can still work towards a goal without the added pressure of a deadline, as this can demotivate an individual. Secondly, routines provide a structure which can be transferred to other aspects of your life.  Working out has become a daily routine which I make time for no matter what. This way of operating has empowered me because I have seen the results of my consistency, and so if I workout regularly, why can I not apply the same concept to my writing. This was a powerful realization for me, and since I begun making it a routine to research and write for my blog every day, it’s become a labor of love. Routines are extremely powerful.

Don’t settle

Last but not least, think big and never settle for less. If you had told me two years a go I would be working my way towards a 225 lb squat, I wouldn’t have believed you. It was only when I achieved my goal of 19% body fat a year a go, that I decided to up the ante and seek out a four plate squat.  What you think about yourself is the single biggest driver in your journey to health, wealth and happiness.

To prove my point, I have a cousin in California, twenty six years old and COO of a tech-start up which has raised hundreds of thousands in seed capital from Venture Capital and Angel funding since its inception in 2014.  Aaron studied Business at college and could have easily taken a desk job in a Silicon Valley tech firm. Instead he bet on himself to launch HIPHOP TV an app and online platform that delivers quality HipHop streaming services to users around the world. Aaron knew from the very start he wanted something different for himself, and when he considered what he was passionate about, HipHop TV was born. Busy forging relationships with key industry players and investors, with little help from anyone, Aaron has redefined the goal posts for college graduates wanting more for themselves. He doesn’t consider himself lucky or special, but his self belief carried him through and with YO MTV Raps veteran Ed Lover on board, HIPHOP TV has a bright future. 

Trust your Struggle

The final word on success is inspired by my friend Zain in her TED talk ‘Trust your Struggle’. As the title suggests, Success is not linear, you will have ups, downs, lefts and rights, but what you must have above all else is a faith and belief that you can achieve your dreams no matter how large or small.

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Follow Ben on Twitter @bigbenstew

Zain Asher TEDx talk London 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BT2XlI8oeh0

HipHopTV the App is available for download on iTunes and Google Play

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