What does it take to be successful? – 6 key factors for all people in all situations


Dear Sir,

I am 41 years old and have been a serial entrepreneur. Except that when people say that, they usually refer to being successful. I have not been successful in all of my 6 attempts and I have run out of money, and out of ideas. I am now trying to find employment, but no one wants to hire me. I suspect it is because I have not had corporate experience, despite my age and education. I have a Masters in Information Technology and am quite a problem solver. I obviously have a lot of experience in the “real world”. So my question is, what does it take to be successful?

Miserably Unsuccessful

Dear Miserably,

I am actually wondering what you want me to answer: to be a successful entrepreneur, or to be a successful career candidate. From your email, I sense that you have already decided on a path towards employment and if you were seeking employment success, I am not the person to advise that. I am not much of a career counselor. But I can approach your question from a strategic standpoint and answer what it would take to be successful, and hopefully this is something that might help you. Do drop me a line if you need more clarity after this.

I have worked with many business owners and successful CEOs. While I am enjoying my own success, I don’t think I want to use my personal experiences to cloud this discussion. So, the following 6 pointers come from various sources along the way of my consulting and coaching business. I hope you find these helpful.

1. Single-Minded Intent

If there is one attribute that I have seen in successful people is their intensity for making things happen. That comes from having a clear idea of what they are doing, what they can offer and how they can do that. And they bring to bear all the resources they can get their hands on in making it happen. This single-minded intent focus is so critical that it is the stuff of legends. So, if you wanted to be successful in your job-search or in your entrepreneurial pursuits, have a clear and unfettered picture of what you want, and do whatever it takes to get there!

2. Constraints are not hurdles

The next thing that successful people do is not treating constraints as hurdles. Some people see the lack of funds as a hurdle. Others see them as conditions to work within. Obviously those who view it as the latter will be more successful than those who see it as the former. Constraints, therefore, are conditions required for success, and if you could “problem-solve” your way around them, taking on a more creative slant to working with them, accepting that they are a natural part of any system, you may well be on your way to success! Creativity is key in working with constraints, and all successful people have that in mounds!

3. Build sustainable value chains

A value chain is a system of interconnecting activities done by members of a system that add value to your final outcome. Each step of the way needs to be value creating, not value destroying. A successful person is able to plot the activities within the chain and ensure that actions are taken to create value at every step of the way.

4. Collaborate – even with your competitors

The world is becoming more and more complex and each one of us holds just a portion of the solution for our customers (also read as employers). Our ability to bring on board good partners to collaborate with, and to form a more holistic solution towards our intent, will help us become more successful. As they say, no man is an island. Each of us has our strengths and we need to bring different people into the project to create that value chain.

5. Measure your way to success

As they say, what gets measured gets done. Successful people know what to look out for, what key measures to focus on, and how achieving them would allow them to achieve their intents. If you could plot all the important actions to get you from where you are, to where you want to be, you will then be able to identify the indicators telling you if you were on the road to success, or on the path to failure. Early warning is important for success and that is why you need to have indicators to show where you are.

6. Be ready to pivot

The key thing about successful people is their ability to pivot their strategies. The minute their indicators tell them that they are on the wrong track, they take early actions to change. Their intent remains the same, but the way they get there will be different. As such, successful people are not enamored with their plans and their thoughts. Instead, they take on the hypothesis-driven process, understanding that all plans are really hypotheses, and therefore, need to be tested. And if found to be wanting, they are able to pivot and change onto a different track.

So there you are, Miserably, 6 key factors that I have learnt from successful business owners and CEOs. They seem simple enough, but the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. And the minute you take the bite, you will find the devil in the details. But don’t let that derail you from your intent. Success belongs to the bold and the steadfast. Hold true to your intent, but bend in the wind like the bamboo. I wish you all the best.

And do drop me a line at ian.dyason@trainingvision.com.sg if you need any more clarity.

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