THE Secret to Success


Did you open this post hoping to find the one true secret to success? I have a different secret for you…there is no one way, secret or otherwise, to do anything!

In fact, your time would be better spent looking for your best path to success. Instead, many people hope to find the quick-fix, super-secret, just-for-you-today-only,  ultra-exclusive, platinum-card-only magic method to getting everything they want right now. Raise your hand if you know someone like this.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we are all leaders, in one sense or another. At any given moment, and based on any given decision we make, some person is seeing us in action and making a judgement call to emulate us, or to perhaps decide they don’t agree. You might be wondering if I’m suggesting that you need to be all things to all people? No. In fact, successful leaders are rarely winners of popularity contests.

The real question is, when you look at the human in the mirror in the morning, how are you leading her/him today? Are you following a path to success, or are the two of you just going through the motions? I’m not judging. In fact, I think it’s safe to say everyone has been in that rut before. You may have heard that there is a recession that is just about over (!).

The truth is, I have had a number of friends who, like me, found themselves laid off this year. Some of them were able to rebound and find work, even if it was contract work like mine. Some are still looking, and many including those still employed are struggling with what their next step should be. Go back to school? Accept a position in another city? Freeload off of relatives?

One of those friends, Larry Parke, made a comment to me that was worth remembering. When I was in the peak of my hunt for work he said, “You may have to reinvent yourself.” …uh …I’ll get right on that. Seriously, I didn’t even have a clue how to respond to that. What does that even mean? I wondered if McGyver was going to pop through the door with some duct tape, a shoelace, and a paperclip and reinvent me. Actually, the truth was even scarier than Richard Dean Andersen smashing through a plate glass window with his Social Security check still uncashed in his pocket.

Okay, I’m digressing. The question is “how do you find that path to success?” and even more important, “how do I know if I need to reinvent myself, and how do I do it?” See…scary stuff.

Fear be gone! Because, all three questions have one answer: Get help! No, I don’t mean “professional help”. I mean, find people that are successful at what you want to be successful at, and hang out with them. Here are some examples:

When I wanted to be a more competitive bowler, I found that when I competed with (and hung out with) really good bowlers, I learned things and improved my game. Now I maintain a 200 average.

When I was laid off, I kept hanging around with employed people. No, not in the parking lot of my old job. In different organizations. Toastmasters, my local PMI chapter (Project Management Institute), and I attended some monthly luncheons with the Wichita Professional Communicators to name a few groups.

When I decided I wanted to become a professional speaker, I started looking at how others were successful, and taking opportunities to emulate and learn from them. In fact, that’s why I do this blog every night. One thing that makes a successful speaker successful is writing. The jury is still out on where this will take me, but the point is reinventing yourself doesn’t have to mean duct tape or a trip to Nepal. It can mean small, incremental changes to better align yourself with the path you need to be on to be successful.

So it turns out there is one true secret, at least in this post. The secret is “Stop looking for the secret!” If you want to make a change, find the human who best represents that change, and learn what s/he knows. Getting on the right track is only half of the battle, once you’re there, it’s up to you to move forward. You can stay in that rut for a while, if you want to. But why would you? Get out there and get on the path!


  1. About the same time I offered a personal story “Mistaken Identity” in which I showed how the things we have in us can be used in another context. And discover new qualities even.

    But beyond that, at that event (I was 77 years old) the audience laughed and I was told “you are a natural” and given a card to follow a Standup comedy class. From then on, I “reinvented myself” and added to the Storyteller “Standup Comedian” too.

    We can reinvent ourselves, we do not live in a box!

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