It seems there are an elite few who are able to reach their goals and attain their dreams in life. For them, it’s almost as if the anxiety-inducing prospect of “succeed or fail” was never even in the picture. This marginal percentage of the world’s population leaves the less prosperous majority choking on their magical dust—and, more seriously, wondering…why? And how??

Did the gods make this so? Are they smiting me? It was just that person’s destiny to be successful, right? And I can’t change my destiny…

Wrong.

success or failure

Photo cred: Seeker of Guidance

True, there are multiple factors that distinguish successful people from people who are deemed failures, aside from the obvious end result. But these distinguishing factors have nothing to do with the gods, or with stars aligning, or with magical dust.

Even talent and luck are not primary considerations.

Whether or not you will achieve the success you seek is not some clandestine knowledge hidden behind a bolt-locked door. It’s not inside your fortune cookie, either. In fact, it’s far more fundamental than most people realize.

Like I said above, it only seems there are an elite few who are able to attain their goals. We are all able. We all have the power. Conquering any degree of success is within your daily control.

So what is it that inhibits so many? How do you know if you’re headed for success or failure?

7 Ways to Determine if You’ll Succeed or Fail

I’ve done some digging here. I’ve looked at some of the most successful artists, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, business owners, inventors, athletes, spiritual gurus, and so forth. They tend to repeat the same advice over and over again—the pattern that worked for them, the pattern they’ve seen work for other successful people.

So here are seven shockingly simple things separating the majority from the elite minority. The way to know which path you’re on is to determine if you’re doing or not doing them. They should be easy to remember; as an acronym, they spell out ALMOST U

ALMOST U

  1. Asking

Do you ask? Most people have trouble asking for things. I’m one of them. For some people it’s fear that keeps them from asking, for others it’s pride. But being too fearful or prideful to ask for things constructs a passive approach to life, rather than an active one.

People want to create without asking for help, without asking for funding. They want their mission to catch on, without asking people to spread the word. They want their work recognized organically, without asking people to watch, without asking people to care.

Perhaps we perceive asking as a symptom of weakness. But the contrary is true.

According to the book Action! Nothing Happens Until Something Moves, asking for what you want is a critical part of getting it. Most people you ask will respond with no, or even silence, which can feel worse. But eventually someone will say yes.

Like the saying goes, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” So squeak away.

  1. Loser disposition

Do you make sure NOT to have a loser disposition? The disposition of a loser consists of a passive/negative temperament. The disposition of a winner consists of an active/positive temperament. An article from Elite Daily breaks it down really well into several winner-loser comparisons. Here are a few:

succeed or fail

  1. Mindset

Do you have a growth mindset? Mindset is incredibly powerful. Far more so than people realize. So much so, in fact, that a Stanford University study (discussed in this Forbes article) debunks talent, IQ, and luck as the chief factors that determine success…in favor of mindset.

Professor Carol Dweck says it’s a growth mindset that cultivates success, and with it, “your chances of achieving uncommon success are high, regardless of your field of endeavor.”

Growth mindsetters 1) persistently labor to improve their craft or skill and 2) work hard at what it is they do. With that combination of systems, they truly believe they have limitless potential. And they’re right.

  1. Optimism

Are you an optimist? Over a ten-year research project, psychologist Richard Wiseman studied what makes people lucky, versus unlucky. What he found was pretty surprising. Luck functions similarly to the self-fulfilling prophecy, and the key to being lucky is optimism.

He discovered that optimistic people create their own luck through their thoughts and behavior. By jumping at opportunities, heeding intuition, having positive expectations, and espousing a resilient attitude, the same subjects of his study were consistently “lucky” across multiple and varying types of experiments.

When he subsequently enrolled the subjects in “Luck School” and taught them to adopt the principles he’d found, the results were dramatic. The unlucky became lucky. People prone to accidents, unemployment, and bad relationships—things that seem out of our control—had turned their lives around.

  1. Small goals

Do you set small goals? Big goals are scary, intimidating, and overwhelming. This awesome article from Forbes explains the vicious cycle that occurs when we set a big goal (especially when we have small belief). It goes something like this:

set small goals

This type of futile goal setting can continue year after year, and yield nothing but disappointment; until the goal setter starts to think smaller. Much smaller.

The author says, “If your goal is to ‘lose 50 lbs’ – turn it into ‘eat one healthy breakfast this week’. If your goal is to ‘start a business’ – change it to ‘interview one business owner’.”

These small, simple goals turn into quick wins, which create momentum, which boost confidence, which help foster belief.

  1. Taking without Giving

Do you try NOT to take without giving? I love the adage from Albert Einstein, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Au contraire to number one, Asking, there are many people on the opposite end of the spectrum, who take, take, take. This is common in the entertainment industry, where exists a stereotype of people being disingenuous, disconnected, and self-involved.

Relationships of all kinds demand a give and take in order to flourish. Over time, the relationships in takers’ lives disintegrate, because they’re not investing anything in the other person.

The best way to make friends is to be of value. The best way to network successfully is to be of value. The best way to make yourself an asset to someone else is to be of value.

Of course value is variable and should be tailored to each person or situation. A friend might value a shoulder to cry on or a ride to the airport, a fellow filmmaker might value feedback on a script, and someone else might simply find dependability to be an asset they can’t refuse.

In almost every capacity, success involves getting people to keep coming back. So give them something to come back for.

  1. Unwillingness to give up after failure. And another failure. And another…

Are you unwilling to give up, even in the face of failure? A lot of people take failure as a sign that this isn’t “the thing” for them. Especially if they fail multiple times. They think, Welp, it’s just not meant to be, instead of thinking, It’s just not meant to be RIGHT NOW. This must mean I should work harder, improve my craft, and try again.

There’s this famous failure story about Thomas Edison. It apparently took him an astronomical number of attempts to find the right substance that would create a viable filament for the incandescent light bulb. And pre-light bulb, when an interviewer asked him if he felt like a failure and should give up, Edison replied, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.”

Sometimes, it requires going to unimaginable lengths and failing an absurd number of times to find success. Failure is imminent, but whether you give up or move past it, even learn from it, is your choice.

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