Can We Map Success?
Yet, if success is a continuum, it is also ‘fractal’. Fractal means that the pattern is endlessly varied but endlessly similar; the small scale is a miniature version of the big scale. Coastlines are fractal – every coastline in the world has similarities, with bays, inlets, and twists and turns which are unpredictable unless you know the terrain or have a map. But so are careers – they all have squiggly lines up and down, periods of success and failure, of wrong turns and unexpected paths to glory, of alternating euphoria and exhaustion. Every girl or boy in the playground or the classroom experiences the same kind of snakes and ladders as the greatest musicians, artists, scientists or world leaders; but while the scale of the map is different, the landmarks and the process of putting one foot in front of the other are the same.
Human nature, too, is the same. The way the universe treats you can be terrific or terrible but is always subject to reversals of fortune. This book exists to reveal the few universal landmarks we can look out for to help us on the way.
Landmark 1: Self-belief
Self-doubt and self-belief comprise a rhythm of yin and yang, a dialectic where self-doubt crystallises, reinforces, refines or completely changes the doubter’s mission, and paradoxically leads to high confidence that it can be achieved. Self-doubt is only damaging if it is repressed or permanently swamps the mind.
Consciously and unconsciously, with our reason and our emotions, strong and specific self-belief – the utter conviction that we can achieve something unique, which fuses our talents and our personality with good or bad openings provided by the universe – is the first and greatest of the landmarks. It is also the rarest. The reason most people do not achieve extraordinary results is that they do not believe that they can, or do not want to enough – which comes down to the same thing.
Landmark 2: Olympian Expectations
Expectations – of others for us, of ourselves, and of our associates and followers – become self-fulfilling. This is one of the few magic tricks left in the world, perhaps the most important.
Therefore, set your expectations as high as you possibly can, consistent with believing they can be realised. If you want unreasonable success, you must have completely unreasonable expectations. The ceiling on your future is the most you can imagine and expect.
Although Olympian expectations are the property of a tiny minority, the funny thing is that the people holding these beliefs are often obscure and unnoticed until their presumptions come to fruition. This suggests that many more people – perhaps, dear reader, you included – could reach unsuspected heights.
Landmark 3: Transforming Experiences
All successful people had a personal transformation – an event which changed them profoundly, connecting them with their destiny. They acquired rare new knowledge, rare determination, rare self-confidence and certain other indefinable but omnipotent psychic gifts which made them George Bernard Shaw’s ‘unreasonable man’ or woman, in contention for unreasonable success
In business, personal transformation is more typically associated with working for or creating a most unusual company.
With very few exceptions, successful people did not know they were heading for transformation, nor consciously choose their transforming experiences. But you can, and if you aspire to unreasonable success, you should.
Landmark 4: One Breakthrough Achievement
By far the most common type of breakthrough achievement is invention. For most of the successful people, all their other achievements and efforts pale into insignificance when set alongside their single decisive invention. What might you invent?
Besides invention, strategic achievements seem most likely to arise from an overwhelming sense of destiny, mission, or desire to bridge seemingly irreconcilable gulfs of ideology, attitude or vested interests. Do you have any of these strong feelings? If so, nurture them. Singular achievement comes from singular convictions.
The killer combination is extreme determination coupled with extreme flexibility regarding means and timing. If you are single-minded, yet patient, you will know the perfect time to act. Until then, keep your powder dry.
Landmark 5: Make Your Own Trail
Mandela and the other successful people testify to our themes so far – self-belief, incredibly high expectations, transforming experiences, a single transforming achievement, and a solitary, imaginative and uncompromising trail. Success, when it comes, appears completely unreasonable – or at least surprising.
Yet there may, after all, be some hidden subterranean rhyme or reason in the universe. Depth of willpower, depth of belief, depth of reach, depth of experience, depth of transforming skill and depth of character – good or bad – are needed to create change. Unreasonable success requires a singular path, and a singular personality.
To be unreasonably successful you need your own philosophy and deeply grounded beliefs. You need unique and authentic convictions before the world will take serious notice of you.
Landmark 6: Find and Drive Your Personal Vehicle
Albert Einstein’s vehicle, above all, was his early breakthrough on relativity, which transformed the picture of the universe bequeathed more than two centuries earlier by Isaac Newton. Like Newton, Einstein was a loner, a solitary genius. Neither of them required any collaboration to make their breakthroughs. The truth of Einstein’s theories, later validated by astronomical calculations, was its own source of credibility. Thereafter, slowly at first, and with increasing momentum, universities in Europe and America vied to attract Einstein. But it was he who gave them credibility, not the other way around.
A ‘pool vehicle’ which already exists is a useful start – something we can leap upon and use for our own purposes. If there is nothing in the environment which we want to use as a vehicle or anti-vehicle, we should change our environment to a more fertile one.
For unreasonable success, you must have your own personal vehicle. You cannot walk to unreasonable success. None of the successful people did so.
What is to be your vehicle?
Landmark 7: Thrive on Setbacks
Setbacks give feedback. You need reverses, and are going to get them anyway. Use them to make you stronger, more robust to future failure, and to gain new experiences. The disasters also make the eventual triumph sweeter.
Never give up hope. You can’t know the future, but you must trust it. Remain fulfilled and coolly confident; jump when the big break beckons.
Feed an intense sense of personal drama. What you will achieve matters, not just personally, but to the world.
Expect catastrophes to be followed by great rejoicing, all the greater for what went before. A novel or movie that ends in failure, failure, failure, failure, failure … ultimate failure – is not a very good story. Reject the script – improve it, transcend it. It can be done. It must be done. The audience expects it.
Landmark 8: Acquire Unique Intuition
You need intuition with these qualities:
- It must be important. Could it make a dent in the universe?
- It must be unproven and original. Otherwise it is a fact, not an intuition.
- It must be imaginative.
- It must be simple.
- It must contradict the experts.
- Yet it must be based on deep knowledge.
You must star in the intuition. Your ambition and emotion are part of the package, part of the appeal, and an integral part of the driving force.
Your singular intuition will eventually arrive unexpectedly and suddenly. Will it to come, and it will come. Do not rush it. It is the intuition of a lifetime, which will transform and immeasurably enrich your life, your world, and the whole world beyond you.
Landmark 9: Distort Reality
Successful people all exhibited extreme optimism and willpower to re-channel reality to match their philosophy and aspirations.
Many of the successful people– probably the ones who had the most unreasonable success – also brainwashed their followers and collaborators into believing that they too could distort reality. It may be that businesspeople, preachers and politicians are particularly prone to mobilise reality-defying belief in their followers, whereas scientists and artists need only defy reality in their own person.
What is clear is that if you are to change the world, you need to master the technology of reality distortion. Faith can overpower facts. It is not the meek or the powerful who shall inherit the Earth, but the unreasonable believers.