It has been said that toddlers don’t learn to walk by following a set of rules. They learn to walk by the very act of trying – and by falling over and over again. That’s not to say that there are no rules to learn – gravity, for instance. Floors can be hard, for another.
While each of us has to find our own rules through trial and error, I thought I’d share my own “Ten Rules for Success.” None of these are groundbreakingly original. In fact, peers and mentors throughout my life inspired many of them. However, they have been very effective for me in my life and hopefully will be for you, as well.
1: Go Big.
This one is karmic in its simplicity: The bigger the idea, the bigger the risk – but also the bigger the payoff.
Whenever I worry about taking on too much, I draw inspiration from my friend, Jack Dorsey. After co-founding Twitter, he decided to take on the small challenge of disrupting the entire payments industry. His company, Square, continues to evolve from a plug-in device empowering anyone to accept a credit card payment to revolutionizing the entire customer engagement experience from the ground up.
2: Stay Ahead of the Trends.
To be successful, you need to start fads, not follow them. Wayne Gretzky’s father told him to always “skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Following that sage advice made Gretzky the greatest hockey player ever. It’s no different in business or life. Don’t focus on things as they are today, but instead try to anticipate what’s next and head in that direction.
3: Know Your Audience.
Your audience is your greatest asset. Think like they do, and they’ll always come back for more.
In my business, I study human nature all day long. How do people want to live, shop, and spend time with their friends and family? I ignored long-held retail development platitudes, like those that stated, “if it grows or flows (water), it goes.” That cost-conscious approach is fine if you don’t aim to attract living human beings. However, people want beautiful spaces, beds of colorful flowers, flowing fountains, and wide parking spots for moms driving SUVs. It worked. People flock to my properties in the tens of millions every year.
4. Work Like Hell.
There is no getting around it. You can have a great idea, but to make it real takes hard work. There will always be curveballs and setbacks that you didn’t anticipate. For that reason, regardless of how much work you think is ahead, prepare to double it. The good news is that the harder you work, the far more satisfying your rewards.
5. Zig When Others Zag.
Any pioneer instinctively knows that you won’t win if you always play by someone else’s rules. When everyone is telling you to go one way, take that as a sure sign you need to find another. Remember, what has worked for others might limit your success or stymie your originality.
When I quit law to go into real estate, I had the advantage of not knowing all the rules. The “experts” told me I was crazy more than once. That didn’t stop me from building places that I knew my friends and family would enjoy. It’s certainly paid off.
6. Brand, Brand, Brand.
Creating your own brand is essential to your success.
What is a brand? It is often the fusion of a person, a product, and a promise – whether it is a movie starring Meryl Streep or a ride in Elon Musk’s Tesla. You may not be a movie star or own a car company. But you can always stand behind the promise of your service or product.
Nothing will come to you by waiting or wishing. If you don’t pursue your dreams, you’ll never achieve them. Continue to set new goals and prepare to meet new challenges every day.
For example, you may feel stuck in a particular job or personal situation. Some people choose to sit and suffer or wait until they are absolutely forced to make a move. However, when you begin taking careful, affirmative steps towards what you want to do then you will find that the very act of “doing” gives you an unexpected strength to succeed.
8. Never Sit Still.
This rule doesn’t mean you cannot physically sit still. Some of the most active moments of your day might appear to be a waste of time to others – like taking a long walk in the morning or finding a quiet place to meditate. Whatever it is, don’t let your mind or body become idle without purpose.
9. Use the Power of Self-Entitlement.
The most successful people I know aren’t necessarily the smartest or the best, but the ones who can say, with conviction: “I deserve it.” Find your place in the world, and take ownership of it. That confidence may be difficult to muster in the beginning, but keep working at it and you’ll see the results.
10. Be Flexible.
Tastes constantly change – what’s hot and interesting one day is old news the next. To be a leader, you must evolve, too. Be open to change, listening to different perspectives, and challenging your own assumptions. If you are flexible, then you can adapt. And if you adapt, then you will thrive.
What are your rules for success? What is most effective for you? I look forward to reading them in the comments below.