What does it Take to be Successful?

What trait do you think is critical in achieving success? Some would say intelligence; others might say having a good education. What about vision, passion, being a goal-setter? Knowing the right people certainly helps.

Yes, all those things can help lead you toward success, but they are not the key element.

Resiliency is a critical ingredient in success, because no matter how much education you have or how smart you are – you will face obstacles. If you don’t have the ability to bounce back, or the grit to keep going when you’ve just had your legs taken out at the knees, then you will not reach your success potential.

We all know leaders in various fields, who are not the most educated, the most intelligent or the most passionate. But they are mentally tough and have the ability to handle the stress of their position. Many of them have overcome obstacles that would have caused other people to throw in the towel.

Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey are names that we are all familiar with. We would not know any of those names if they were not resilient. What made them great might have been their vision, their determination, their passion, or their creativity, but none of them would have reached their potential without resilience. Whether it was losing several elections, public humiliation, jail, getting fired, coming from a broken home and suffering from abuse, they all faced immense adversity and pushed through.

The same goes for us. Everyone has heard the saying “There is no sure thing except death and taxes”. I would add adversity to that cliché. Everyone faces adversity. Today’s business environment is highly competitive and highly fluid. It is filled with challenges and obstacles. I guarantee that you will have setbacks and adversity. I also believe that setbacks are not fatal; although they may feel like it at the time. You will get knocked down, but when you get back up, that alone will do more for your ultimate success than any other quality you possess.

What made Steve Jobs great?

There is no doubt that Steve Jobs was an outstanding business leader. But what was it about him that made him great? Was it his genius at tech development, his creativity, his vision, his knack for marketing? Sure, it was likely a combination of all those things. What always impressed me with Steve Jobs though, was his resilience, his persistence, his ability to bounce back and his unflagging enthusiasm.

Here’s a man who was fired from the company that he founded. Fired by the CEO that he himself had hired. I’d hate to have to come home and explain that to my wife! He had other failures over the years, the Lisa computer, the Apple 3, the NeXT computer which was a commercial failure, and the Newton platform. Then there were his serious health problems, being diagnosed with cancer in 2004. Clearly his success was no cakewalk.

He fought through all his failures, challenges and obstacles to become the Henry Ford of our day. It’s not just the MacBooks, iPods, iPads and iPhones either. Steve changed the entire music industry with iTunes and the movie industry with Pixar.

If Steve Jobs was not resilient he would have been crushed by his early defeats instead of going on to become the icon that he is. He is an example to everyone that has been fired, that has invested in ideas that tanked, or that suffers with health problems while continuing to work.

I will leave you with an excerpt of his commencement address that he delivered at Stanford University on June 12, 2005. In his own words you will see why he was resilient.

“…We had just released our finest creation – the Macintosh – a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started?

Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me – I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT.

I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love.”

It is a moving story, and the key reason he is great in my eyes. Thank you Steve.

Steve Jobs 1955-2011