What Does It Take to Be Successful?

I was sitting in the front row. We were an hour into the sales kick-off meeting, and there was plenty of energy in the room to start the day.

The 500 B2B sellers in the room were using a polling app to share their candid, anonymous feedback, so I was dialed in to the pulse of the room. The next question came up:  In one or two words, what does it take to be successful?

As the word cloud started to form in real time, there was a wide range of answers. But two words quickly stood out from the rest of the cloud as the most popular response. This was a world-class sales organization that knows how to win. They know what it takes to be successful. 

The Power of Hard Work

After nine months at my first sales job, I still hadn’t made a sale. That’s when Jim Rohn saved me. In one seminar, he set me on fire by sharing information that no school or company was going to provide.

The formula I needed to thrive?

Committing to continuing my education + investing a lot more time in mastering my craft.

Happy hour and softball leagues could wait. I couldn’t stomach the idea of getting fired and moving back into my parent’s house (that used to be considered failure) to sell baseball cards for beer money. I wanted to succeed. I got to work.

Jim shared timeless wisdom about decisions, discipline and delayed gratification. I was deeply moved. I still have my notes from that night.

“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgement, repeated every day. It is the accumulative weight of our disciplines and our judgements that leads us either to fortune or failure.”  — Jim Rohn

Deep down inside, I wanted to be Jim. I knew then the kind of work I wanted to be doing someday. And who knows, if I’d been in that seminar today, with the Internet in play and Instagram influencers to follow by the thousands, I might have taken a wild shot in the dark and made my move right then. I’m glad I didn’t.

Instead, I put in the 17 years I needed to earn my opportunity. I got really good at something. When you get good at something, nobody can take that from you. The experience matters and it informs my approach to running my own business today.

Welcome to Shortcut Culture


I am the National Training Director for XYZ. Basically, I position ABC to speak in front of audiences all over the world. I am curious about how you do that work?

This is one of the emails I received this week asking for a copy of the playbook. No problem. We teach people “how to do that work” all day long. In fact, we can provide a snapshot of the formula for sales success in 30 steps.
30 steps to success

This rendition of my 30 Steps To Sales Success was taken from the wall inside the Dallas Cowboys sales organization. It informs how they go to market, and it’s no accident that they’ve completely reinvented selling professional football and exist today as the most valuable brand in sports. They understand Step #1: Effort breeds results.

“You may not be the smartest or the most-talented person in the world, but you can certainly work the hardest. That has been my motto. In the classroom or in the workplace or on the football field, you can always outwork the person next to you.” — Charlotte Jones Anderson, executive vice president and chief brand officer, Dallas Cowboys, (Reuters, 2017)

Of course, hard work isn’t the only factor contributing to success. However, it is the variable you can control. My concern is that the agenda behind the “how do you do this work?” question is a quest for the shortcut.

I’ll acknowledge that the world has changed and today we have unprecedented access and very new opportunities to impact the marketplace. The barriers to entry for entrepreneurs have never been lower and I personally benefit tremendously as a result. In the connected economy I can compete with anyone, anywhere on the strength of my reputation and relationships. Increasingly I can impact those relationships online. It’s actually the ultimate leveling of the playing field for the small business owner and my business probably doesn’t even exist two decades ago. However, it also means the world is constantly changing and a whole lot more competitive. The sage advice of Jim Rohn around discipline, commitment and delayed gratification has never been more relevant.

Hard Work Is Worth It

Decide what you want. We each get to define success for our own lives. That freedom of choice is beautiful. Everyone is different.

However, that isn’t the case when specifically referring to sales success. To the contrary, all you get to decide is how much you are willing to put into it. Ultimately the marketplace will determine who succeeds. There isn’t any commission for second place. Selling is a zero sum game and losing sucks.

The most successful people I know work fucking hard because they love it.

“People who think that hard work is about ego, escapism or money, do not understand the value of hard work. I do it because it gives me pleasure. I never want to look back, and regret that I wasted my time doing meaningless shit.”

The second weekend of March is typically when I celebrate my birthday. This year on that Saturday evening, I’ll be having dinner with one of my mentors in Phoenix, Larry Flick. We’ll both be doing what we love to do, working. Personally I cannot wait to break bread with someone who I respect so much that is a little bit further down the road of life and legacy building. When you have a mentor who’s traveled where you want to go, you receive an incredible gift of perspective. I asked him once why he’s still doing it.

“I like connecting the dots, figuring out where the future is and helping us to navigate there sooner than anybody else. And I like coaching, mentoring and watching people grow. And I like creating opportunities where people can achieve their dreams by working here.”

He isn’t waiting to leave a legacy. He is leading a legacy right now. It’s hard work.

But it’s worth it.

And join our email community to receive bi-weekly insights with actionable tips and videos, new research, and inspiration and ideas for cultivating growth in business and life.