The Secret to Success

“The striking thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals,” musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any “grinds,” people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it.”

Have you ever noticed how in interviews with people successful in their fields, inevitably, the question, “what is the secret to your success?” comes up. It’s like we’re all hoping to find some shortcut or expressway to success. That’s certainly what I was looking for when I cracked open “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. I wanted to know what I had to do to become an outlier. The answer was simple, and I already knew it: hard work. Sure you need to have talent, and you’re going to need some lucky breaks, but what sets apart the best from the rest is a lot of hard work.

Like I said, I already knew this. A few months ago, I created a list of all the successful people I admire and what I admire about them. On there were my mother, the cricketer Dale Steyn and Beyoncé. What’s the one thing they have in common? They work ridiculously hard.

My mother used to go to work on Sundays and I thought she was just a workaholic, but that’s what sets her apart from the rest. Whilst you’re sitting home moaning about how you can’t believe the weekend is already over, she’s in her office getting ahead. Is it any wonder she’s successful?

I don’t know Dale Steyn’s training regime, but I do know that the speed he bowls in his first over of the day is the speed he bowls in his last over of the day. You don’t naturally have that kind of consistency and stamina. It comes from hours and hours of training your body to do what you want it to do, not just what it wants to do.

But you know what else these workaholics have in common? They love what they do. In the past few months, a lot of people have told me do what you love because life’s not worth it if you’re miserable. There’s more to it though. To be the best of the best, you have to love what you do. You’re not going to get up at 5 every morning to train if you don’t love what you do. You’re not going to study that extra hour if you don’t love what you do. You may still do well, but you won’t be the best if you don’t love what you do. As Maxwell says, “Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning.” If what you are doing means something to you, if the end goal is something you want with your whole being, then the toil will seem worth it.

“Hakuna makuva ebasa,” is what my father always says. No one ever died from hard work. The older I get and the more books about success I read, the more I realize that I learnt all I’ll ever need to know about success from those hard-working parents of mine.

Work hard people! There is no shortcut to success.

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