When it comes to successful people, there is usually a noticeable "it" factor radiating off of them. A swagger, a presence that makes them stand out in a group of people. Something that draws your eye to them.
They're usually the ones out-hustling their competition, making aggressive plays - think business or athletics - encouraging others around them to elevate their game, or relentlessly attacking a problem or task.
There is an intensity behind their eyes that many don't understand. But, what is it about these individuals that makes them great? Can the average individual harness this same fiery spirit to elevate their own life?
My first question: how do you define greatness, or success?
Talk About It Or Be About It
We all want certain things, so the definition of success is more individual than many of us realize. One of the most common, arguably opposite extremes I can think of, is the stay at home mom versus the career-driven woman.
The mom sees her success in raising outstanding kids in a "perfect" home, with no notion of wanting to work in our social system, as it would take away time from nurturing her family.
On the other hand, the career-driven woman sees her success as climbing the corporate ladder, advancing her career, making money, saving for life after retirement, and has relatively little interest in starting a family as it could hinder her climb.
Different definitions of success, but the values needed to cultivate greatness in both situations, and many others, are the same.
So what are these values? How can we obtain them? And who has them?
Surround Yourself with the Right People
Perhaps you have heard of Erik Weihenmayer, perhaps you have not. If you find yourself in the later category, I would like to introduce you to Weihemayer, a man who is one of my personal heroes. He is the first blind man to climb all 7 Summits (the tallest peak on each continent) and is co-author of the book Adversity Advantage.
He embodies Dr. Carol S. Dweck's principle of a growth mindset, which she explains as having a mindset that does not bind us to the traits and qualities we are born with. That in fact, with the right mindset, we can learn, improve, and thrive in whatever capacity we are willing to put our effort into, including difficult circumstances and emotions.
Who better to represent that than a blind man who has summited the 7 tallest peaks in the world!?
His accomplishments alone are enough to inspire, but the way he talks about overcoming things that seem at first impossible, is unparalleled.
One thing Weihenmayer and many other successful people talk about, is surrounding yourself with people who will elevate your growth. You need people who are going to push and challenge you in positive directions. People who won't let you slack off or settle for an average, comfortable life. People who see the greatness inside of you, and will work with you to bring it out.
Weihenmayer could not have done the 7 Summits without a support system. Finding your support system is just one of many ways we can learn to suffer well, because without constant and relentless pursuit of difficult things, we cannot become great.
"Regardless of how many strengths you possess, it's almost impossible to achieve greatness alone. Linking with the right people can elevate the breadth and scope of your impact. Others will have strengths you do not, and skills that compliment yours." - Weihenmayer
Finding circles of people who are driven, intelligent, and welcoming can be challenging, but not impossible. A few good places to start may be:
If you have people in specific circles that you would like to learn from, be courageous and write a cold email asking them questions or if they'd like to meet for a coffee. If you live in an isolated area or are not in the same area as someone you'd like to learn from, set up a phone or Zoom call.
If you are like the vast majority of the population and all of these options are intimidating, find a book, Podcast, or Audiobook on the subject you strive to learn about or a biography on someone you admire. Suggestions below:
Suffer Well, Get Out of Your Own Way
Part of self-actualization is recognizing that even a "good life" is full of trials and tribulations, ups and downs, and obstacles. The secret to living a good life, is knowing how to navigate these adversities without allowing them to get the best of us.
Any and every successful person you know or will read about, has had to fight tooth and nail to get where they are (not including the anomalies of course). They have had to overcome countless moments of doubt, insecurity, heartbreak, pain, and ultimately... growth. You know what made them great?
They found a way.
They found a way through when countless others would have quit.
They got out of their own way, told their ego to hit the road, and humbly found a way to suffer well and embrace the challenges and obstacles in front of them and conquer them, no matter how big and impossible they felt at the time.
Reprogram Your Mindset
Overpowering your excuses is much easier said than done, it goes back to the picture at the top about taking action instead of simply talking about it. What are your excuses? When does the voice that tells you "you can't" pop up? How can you reprogram your mindset to silence that voice and instead take action?
Convey Confidence to Build Confidence
The final piece I will leave you with, is building confidence. The most successful people on this planet have incredible self-confidence, or at least pretend to! In Norman Vincent Peale's classic The Power of Positive Thinking, he says:
"Feelings of confidence depend upon the type of thoughts that habitually occupy your mind. Think defeat and you are bound to feel defeated. But practice thinking confident thoughts, make it a dominating habit, and you will develop such a strong sense of capacity that regardless of what difficulties arise, you will be able to overcome them."
Personally, I have crippled my confidence in the past by comparing myself to others or trying to copy them. That's a horrible way to go about things, as comparison is truly the thief of joy.
In fact, most people, despite their confident appearance and demeanor, are oftentimes insecure. That being said, if you don't feel confident, fake it till you make it!
You become what you repeatedly do, so if you decide to put on your confident pants everyday, despite how you're feeling, it may just change your world!
Make Yourself Great
In summary, in order to make ourselves great, we must actively work on things that cultivate our greatness, rather than just thinking, reading, and learning about them.