What Is Success? 2 Steps To Keeping It Simple

what is success

What is success, anyway? And who gets to define it for you?

Do you ever get fed up with all the success talk out there?

You’re supposed to exhibit the 7 habits, use the power of positive thinking, follow the 21 irrefutable laws of leadership, manage in a minute, win friends, influence people, and try to figure out who moved your cheese.

There have been thousands of books, articles, and blogs written about achieving success. And most if it is pretty good stuff. But really, when you look at it all as a whole, doesn’t it seem overly complex?

It becomes this big, huge, daunting laundry list of things you’re supposed to do to be successful. It’s overwhelming. How can you possibly follow all that advice and put all those principles into play in one lifetime?

As much as I love good personal development, I’ve come to believe that it must be taken in moderate doses.

Self-Help Groupies

Personal development books and blogs are uplifting and motivational to read. I’m a sucker for a good Zig Ziglar book. (I have several autographed ones) In fact, I’m a fan of a lot of success and personal development authors.

But if you’re someone like me who enjoys reading that type of thing, let me throw a little caution flag your way: Don’t become a self-help groupie. Being a fan is ok. Being a student is ok. But don’t become a groupie.

What’s the difference? A self-help groupie spends all their time reading, psyching up, getting motivated, and motivating others. That all sounds like positive stuff right? So what’s wrong with that? The main problem is that nowhere in that list is anything about action or implementing the principles you learn about in those books.

My Brother’s Psychic Moment

My father, like his father and grandfather before him, owned a small business. From a young age, my older brother Jerry and I would help out around the office running errands, cleaning up, and helping out with just about anything that Dad wanted us to do.

Yes. You read right. Jerry and Gary are brothers. We rhyme. It’s probably the only thing I’m angry with my parents over – and I flat out refuse to tell you the names of my other three siblings. When you say them all out loud it sounds like that song “The Name Game.”

Jerry is almost 9 years older than me. One summer while we were both working for my dad, Jerry said something to me that has stuck with me to this day. I would estimate that I was probably 11 or 12 at the time which would make Jerry around 19 or 20.

I don’t know what happened that day that prompted him to say it, but out of nowhere he turned to me and said, “You know Gary… guys like you and me will always do well in this world.”

Not knowing what he was talking about, I asked, “What? Why do you say that?” He answered, “Because we always show up and we always do our best.”

At the time, I kind of took it as a pessimistic comment. It seemed like he was saying that the rest of society was so bad that someone who just” showed up looked good by comparison.

But as I got older and started working, the wisdom of what he said started to reveal itself to me. In fact, the more I pay attention even now, the more I understand.

After all the books, all the articles, all the seminars, and all the blogs – the root of success really is simple. And my brother nailed it: Show up and do your best.

Always Show Up

Be present. When you’re doing a job, when you’re at school, when you’re spending time with someone – be there. Physically and mentally.

Be On Time. I have to give credit to my father on this one. It’s a pet peeve that I still carry with me to this day. He always said “When you’re late, you’re basically telling people that their time is worth nothing to you.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be that guy.

Be There For Others When They Need You. When you commit to someone, show up. Brave the headaches and the bad weather to be the kind of person people can depend on.

Don’t Quit. Show up every day – no matter what. Mentally, physically, and emotionally show up over and over again until you get it right. Even when everything is going wrong. It’s all about fortitude. One of the saddest qualities of the human race is that we seem to have a knack for quitting way too early. Breakthroughs usually occur after a period of intense resistance. Be the person who sticks it out.

Do Your Best

Don’t be lazy. Pretty self-explanatory stuff here, right? It’s hard to get a break or gain any traction sitting on your backside. Doing your best means getting up and making things happen.

Do What’s Right. Your best also means being the best you possible. Do what’s right because it’s right – not just because you might get something out of it.

Challenge Yourself. Whatever baseline you’ve established as your best, raise the bar. Stretch your expectations. Push it further today than you did yesterday – and push it further tomorrow than you did today.

Don’t Quit. Here we are again. There must be something to this don’t quit stuff. Your best requires persistence. You can’t be your best if you quit on yourself.

At The Core, Success Is Simple

By all means, consume your self-help and personal development books. I do. But when it all seems a bit much, remember the simple answer to the question, “What is success?” is show up and do your best.

What About You?

Do you sometimes find self-help or personal development overwhelming?

What types of personal development information do you read?

How do you keep it simple? Do you have any tips to share?

Let’s talk about it in the comments!



About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

24 Replies

  1. As a KIStS (Keep It Simple then Simplify) proponent I like your tips. One tip that I would like to share is avoid (k)notty words as my friend Bob Nichol suggests. It has helped me simplify ,many things in my life and definitely helps me with my own personal development especially stopping my success thieves

    1. Thanks for the comment! I’d love to hear more about (k)notty words.

      1. Thanks for this great story of you and your brother.

        I am a big fan of motivational books and movies. Also I keep reading them. And thank to “Rebootauthentic” for motivating me and now I can say that “Success is Simple”
        Akash Yadav recently posted…How my blog traffic increase over 170% in 3 weeks ?My Profile

  2. That’s right: don’t quit. That’s the reason you and I are going to keynote Blogworld Expo someday! Huzzah!

    1. If that day comes, Mike, I’ll buy the drinks! 🙂

  3. disqus_UfqrnISGPA

    Great post. I love personal development books but they all start to say the same thing after a while, as do business books :). The funny thing about The Secret was that it really wasn’t a secret for anyone who has been reading any of these books. The one person in the personal development field that I consistently follow is Tony Robbins. He is a master and the only one that I feel truly delivers lasting results.

    1. Right, Wendy… and at some point we all need to put the books down and go do something. Thanks!

  4. Ceejae Devine

    I’d like to add one thing: recognizing the little successes along
    the way. Those are what keep us coming back. They can be very small, but
    they allow us to feel that what we are doing is worthwhile. I nod from a
    friend is one of those things. Thanks for the post.

    1. Thanks for adding that to the conversation, Ceejae! It is always nice to pause and appreciate your progress.

  5. Gary, I love, love, love this post! Especially you’re little rant at the beginning about all the catchy business phrases we’re supposed to follow. It sounds like a rant I did once on why “Happiness Irritates Me.” And I’m a self-help blogger!

    Anyway, Iove how you’ve boiled it down to two pieces of wisdom: show up and do your best. What more is there, really?

    1. What??? I rant? Me? 😉

      I’m right there with you, Bobbi. I’m a self-help fan myself, but sometimes you need to go with the basics. Plus I think we complicate the basics all too often. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  6. Intrigued by your new term “self-help groupie.” It certainly makes a good definition and brings to mind the lost soul who becomes a perpetual follower. You are certainly right, Gary, there is only so much motivation that will fuel reaching a goal. The rest is simply persistent, heartfelt, daily action. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Patti. I know as well as anyone how easy it is to get mired down by it all. As I mentioned, I personally love those types of books. (Some of them at least) But the time comes when you have to put the book down and go take some action. Otherwise, it’s just reading for entertainment. And if that’s the goal, I think I’d prefer a good novel.

  7. This is one of the three invisible problems I struggle with. The first is marginal value/opportunity cost – am I providing more value than the already ginormous wealth of information shared by others? The second is accuracy – I believe my advice is usually comparatively more accurate than that given by others, but that doesn’t change the fact that the accuracy is still extremely low. The third is action – how many people actually act on what I say & write?

    There are no shortage of self-help authors who try to tackle the last problem. I think you’ll agree that they mostly fail. I have this naive optimism that I can sell success, not advice. Part of me wants to hold on to that innocence, doing whatever I can to push action rates as high as possible. The realistic part of me wants to push sales rates as high as possible.

    Do I find personal development overwhelming? Not from a personal perspective – I know what I have to do; eventually, it gets done. As an author, it’s the unspoken nightmare.

    1. You make some great points, Amit.

      A lot of self-help authors write the same stuff, no doubt. So do a lot of sales/business authors. To me, even though a lot of the material may be the same at the core, the value lies in the *angle*.

      For instance, you might write something that has been written a thousand times before by others, but approach it from an angle unique to who you. If the way you express yourself resonates with me, then I’m able to see it in a new way and I’m more likely to act.

      As bloggers, businessmen, authors, and salespeople have said for years… The real value in a marketing/promotion/sales/influence situation is YOU. Maybe I’m the one being naive, but I believe you’re not selling “just advice” as you are selling “Amit who happens to have some advice for you.” There’s a big difference.

      Thanks for the great insights!

      1. Let me see if I understand what you’re saying – advice is advice, but when communicated from a different angle, it increases the value of the advice for a certain subsection of the market by resonating more with them?

        1. Kind of, yes. Some advice obviously is better than others. Quality counts.

          But quality being equally high… I think there’s something to be said for angle – and who the communicator is.

  8. I loved story of you and your brother.

    I myself is big fan of motivational books and I keep reading them in my free time. I will say, ‘the books are the main reason why I am here.” They always helped me to find hidden person in my and now I am doing the same to find hidden potential in them via my blog.

    For me, seeing all faces happy in the home is success.

    Thanks for putting this awesome stuff together.

    1. Thank you, Kulwant. I’m glad you’re finding the content useful! I hope to see you here again soon.

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