Making Sense of Success
Success is always achievable if you follow the right formula for it. Why should you ever settle for anything less?
Some people seem successful in nearly everything they do. Others constantly struggle, almost regardless of the situation. What makes the difference? What do the most successful people have in common that helps lead to their accomplishments?

And here’s another important question. In every period of human history, however challenging, there have been people who not only survived, but experienced great success. How then can we be among such people in our own time?

I’ve come to believe that there is something like a personal and organizational toolkit for success. From Plato and Aristotle to the present day, the wisest people who have ever thought about life achievement have left us bits and pieces of powerful advice for attaining true success in nearly anything we do. I’ve put these great ideas together into a simple framework of seven universal conditions for success. Let me lay them out in the simplest possible way, and then we’ll briefly look at what they mean.

The 7 Cs of Success

For the most deeply satisfying and sustainable forms of success, we need to bring into any challenge, opportunity, or relationship these inner traits, or conditions:
(1) A clear CONCEPTION of what we want, a vivid vision, a goal clearly imagined.
(2) A strong CONFIDENCE that we can attain that goal.
(3) A focused CONCENTRATION on what it takes to reach the goal.
(4) A stubborn CONSISTENCY in pursuing our vision.
(5) An emotional COMMITMENT to the importance of what we’re doing.
(6) A good CHARACTER to guide us and keep us on a proper course.
(7) A CAPACITY TO ENJOY the process along the way.

There are certainly many other concepts often associated with success, but I’m convinced that every other one of them either falls short of the universal applicability test or else is just a version or application of one of these seven in specific situations.

The 7 Cs give us the most universal, logical, integrated, and comprehensive framework for success in whatever we do. I’d like to share a quick word about each. We need:

(1) A clear CONCEPTION of what we want, a vivid vision, a goal clearly imagined.

In any facet of our lives, we need to think through as clearly as possible what we want to accomplish, and what we’d like to see happen. True success starts with an inner vision, however incomplete it might be. The world as we find it is just the raw material for what we can make it. We are meant to be artists with our energies and our lives. And the only way to do that well is to structure our actions around clear goals. Vague thoughts cannot motivate specific behavior. We need clear goals, as precise and specific as we can make them. In times of change, this is more important than ever, however difficult it might seem. The fight for clarity in our vision for what we want to make happen is well worth the ongoing effort it takes.

Two great pieces of advice on goal setting come down to us from the ancient world. First, every exercise in goal setting should be an exercise in self-knowledge. “Who am I as a person? What’s right for me? Who are we as a business? What’s right for us?” Second, we need inner boldness in setting new goals, bigger goals, and realizing that our goal setting should never stop. Life is supposed to be a series of adventures. Great goals make for great adventures.

(2) A strong CONFIDENCE that we can attain the goal.

Inner attitude is a key to outer results. Over a century ago, Harvard philosopher and psychologist William James learned from championship athletes that a proper confidence should be operative in all our lives. In any new enterprise or challenge, we need upfront initial faith in what we’re doing. And we need resilient confidence, confidence that can take its lumps and keep on going. James called it precursive faith – faith that “runs ahead of” the evidence. Sometimes we may have to work hard to generate this attitude. But it’s also well worth the work it takes, because it raises our objective prospects for success.

The best confidence naturally arises out of competence and then augments it. Of course, it’s no guarantee of success. But it is among the chief contributors to it. In times of great change and economic uncertainty, confidence is one of the first things to disappear. We should follow the champions and guard it in our hearts. If you find that you need help with confidence, try to help someone else with it, and you may be surprised how it quickly rises in your own spirit.

(3) A focused CONCENTRATION on what it takes to reach the goal.

Big dreams just lead to big disappointments when people don’t learn how to chart their way forward, step-by-step. And one of the greatest pieces of advice ever given about achieving any big dream is to “Divide then Conquer.” Divide it up, break it down, and then take it on, step by step. If I want to be at a certain point a year from now, where do I have to be six months from now? How about three months from now? What can I be doing today and tomorrow? Daunting goals become manageable objectives as we divide and conquer. Focus on what’s first, then on what’s next. Success at anything challenging comes from planning your path and then putting that plan into action.

Gestalt psychologists even teach us that a new mental focus generates new perceptual abilities. Concentrating your thought and energy in a new direction, toward a clear goal, you begin to see things around you that you might have missed before – things that relate to the goal you’ve set and can help you attain it. This focus can allow you to set intermediate goals and then more immediate ones to get your plan going, and then act, and adjust as you go. Even a flawed plan can start you off and help lead you to where you can discover a better one. A continually focused concentration of thought and action is key.

(4) A stubborn CONSISTENCY in pursuing our vision.

The word ‘consistency’ comes from two Greek roots, a verb meaning “to stand” and a particle meaning “together.” Consistency is all about standing together. Do my actions stand together with my words? Do my reactions and emotions stand together with my deepest beliefs and values? Do the people I work with stand together? This is what consistency is all about. It’s a matter of unifying your energy and efforts in a single direction.

Chinese philosophers call it harmony and use the image of moving water, which can flow around any obstacle or push it out of the way. They say, “Be like water.” Flow forward to your goals, adapting to your circumstances and, at the same time, staying true to the essence of who you are, and making sure that your actions are harmonious with what you most deeply want. Inconsistency defuses power. Consistency moves us toward our goals.

(5) An emotional COMMITMENT to the importance of what we're doing.

Passion is the core of extraordinary success. It’s a key to overcoming difficulties, seizing opportunities, and getting other people excited about your projects. Too much goal setting in the modern world has been all about thoughts, and has ignored the feelings and passions.

Philosophers appreciate the role of rationality in human life. But we know that it’s not just the head, but also the heart, that can guide us on to the tasks right for us, and keep us functioning at the peak of our abilities.

Find a way to be passionate in what you do, then communicate that enthusiasm and commitment to the people you work with, showing that you are also committed to them as your partners for the goals you have together. People are attracted to people who care. You’ll all go far as a result.

(6) A good CHARACTER to guide us and keep us on a proper course.

Character inspires trust. And trust is necessary for people to work together well. Good character is required for great collaboration. In a world in which innovative partnerships and collaborative strategies are increasingly important, the moral foundation for working well together matters more than ever before. And good character does a lot more than just provide for trust. It has an effect on each individual’s own freedom and insight. Bad character not only corrupts, it blinds. A person whose perspective has been deeply twisted by selfishness or dishonesty or cowardice cannot understand the world in as perceptive a way as someone whose sensibilities are ethically well formed. Good character makes sustainable success more likely.

And good character makes you a persuasive person when working with others. Aristotle said that to be a great salesperson, to be convincing with others, you need to be a master of three things: Logos, Pathos, and Ethos – Logic and information; Passion and emotion; Character and integrity. This is the foundation for long lasting success.

(7) A CAPACITY TO ENJOY the process along the way.

The more you can enjoy the process of what you’re doing, the better the results tend to be. It’s easier to set creative goals. Confidence will come more naturally. Your concentration can seem effortless. Consistency will not be a battle. The emotional commitment will flow. And issues of character will not be as difficult to manage. A capacity to enjoy the process is entwined with every other facilitator of success. When you relish the journey, you’ll be surprised by the results.

Bringing it Together

These conditions of success are all deeply connected. They constitute a unified framework of tools with which we can work our way toward the most fulfilling forms of achievement in our world. When you’re considering a new goal, use all seven conditions as a test. Can I form a clear conception of this as a goal? Can I pursue this with confidence? Ask yourself questions like this for each condition. If the potential new goal passes the test, then full speed ahead! If it doesn’t, find a new goal!

The 7 Cs aren’t magic, but they’re magnificent inner resources for outer success in the world. They will help us to make our proper mark in everything we do. They will move us in the direction of true success, deeply satisfying and sustainable achievement.

And as a philosopher, I have just one question: Why should we ever settle for anything less?

Tom Morris is the author of such books as True Success, The Art of Achievement, If Aristotle Ran General Motors, and If Harry Potter Ran General Electric. He writes for The Huffington Post and, and his most compact wisdom can be on Twitter by searching @TomVMorris. Tom Morris has become one of the most active public philosophers in the world due to his unusual ability to bring the greatest wisdom of the past into the challenges we face now. His message is helping to change lives and revolutionize business practices everywhere.

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