The Equation for Success

Many people have a different definition for success. Success can vary from person to person and depend on your goals or life situation. For some success is driven by money and power. For others success is having close connections with their family. And for others it may be staying sober and holding a steady job.

If you Google, the definition of success you get the following:

“Success – the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

Success is different for everyone because everyone has different goals and objectives. Although the basic premiss for success can be related back to its definition. If you accomplish your purpose, it can be said that you have been successful. I find the term success to be thrown around pretty loosely in popular culture. We often refer to the rich and famous as successful, which they are. But we never refer to a stay at home mom as successful. Although if her goal in life is to raise healthy and happy kids, she has succeeded. She has accomplished her goal, and this may bring her more satisfaction that having any amount of money and fame.

Success Formula:

I have developed an equation for success that I think is very relevant.

Success = Struggling + Boredom

Lately, I have been thinking a lot out the concept of success and how to achieve my definition of it. If you look at the lives of high achievers, they usually have two things in common they struggled at some point in their life to achieve their goal. They also dealt with the boredom of reptation to master their chosen field.

Struggling vs Suffering

Suffering has become a popular term, and I’ve come across the term in a lot of my readings. From Google suffering is defined as “the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship.” But I think what people are referring to when they talk about suffering is struggling. Google defines struggling as, “striving to achieve or attain something in the face of difficulty or resistance.”

Most of us we will never experience suffering like people in third world countries. We will never have to experience hunger or homelessness. We will never experience living in a war-tourn country. The fact that we don’t have to experience these things makes us lucky in itself. We have come out on the better side of the percentages just by being born in a first world country. This makes me think of a quote by Warren Buffett from the book Snowball.

“I’ve had it so good in this world, you know. The odds were fifty-to-one against me being born in the United States in 1930. I won the lottery the day I emerged from the womb by being in the United States instead of in some other country where my chances would have been way different.

Imagine there are two identical twins in the womb, both equally bright and energetic. And the genie says to them, “One of you is going to be born in the United States, and one of you is going to be born in Bangladesh. And if you wind up in Bangladesh, you will pay no taxes. What percentage of your income would you bid to be the one that is born in the United States?” It says something about the fact that society has something to do with your fate and not just your innate qualities. The people who say, “I did it all myself,” and think of themselves as Horatio Alger – believe me, they’d bid more to be in the United States than in Bangladesh. That’s the Ovarian Lottery.”

According to one of the smartest men I have ever read about, his definition of winning the lottery is being born in the United States. Anyone that has been born in a country with good living conditions and opportunity for everyone is starting life at an advantage. Many us just by luck will never experience the suffering that certain parts of the world experience.

I should note here I am just putting things into perspective. Even if you live in a first world country, there is plenty of suffering. The experience of losing a child or a close love one is suffering. Losing your job or going through a divorce is suffering. Battling disease, metal illness, or addiction is suffering.

The struggle:

To achieve our goals most of us will have to struggle. We will struggle every step of the way until suddenly you break through the threshold. Most of us are unwilling to struggle for anything. We like the simple path in life, the steady paychecks and the comfortable couch. This could refer to comfort in anything. If you want to lose weight, you have to struggle to get off the couch and go to the gym. It’s much easier to sit on the couch eat popcorn and watch TV. This is the easy path in life.

If you have a habit of sitting on the couch when you get home from work rather than heading to the gym, breaking that habit is hard. You need to struggle through those first few months to make going to the gym a habit. Once something becomes a habit, you have broken through the threshold and your will start to see results. Results are never immediate, but you have to take solace in the small victories. You may not reach you desired number on the scale in your first year, but you may see an improvement in your energy levels. Take pride in this, take pride in all small victories.

I use the weight loss example because I feel everyone at some point felt they had to get in better shape. But this can apply to any facet of your life.

I recently read the story of Phil Knight the founder of Nike. Knight’s story is based around struggle and perseverance. Knight started Nike with a $50 loan from his father, securing the shipment of Tiger running shoes from Japan. He sold these shoes in the United States until he was on the verge of losing his distribution deal with Tiger Shoes. Knight had to think fast and develop his own shoes to distribute. He found a manufacturing plant willing to make his product and Nike shoes were developed.

The first athletic shoes Nike made were football cleats which had quality issues and fell apart. The issue here is the cleats were made from a soccer cleat template. The first production of Nikes was not what you would call a success. Nike then went on making running shoes and basketball shoes. Because the market was corned by Converse, Adidas and Puma. Nike struggled to sponsor athletics and get athletics to wear Nike footwear.

Nike also struggled with financing; the bank they were dealing with would no longer loan them money because Nike was basically floating. The bank did not see Nike’s fast growth as a positive thing and Nike had to find another bank. Nike was putting all the money they received from selling shoes back into the company. Nike would get money from selling a shipment, make a loan payment with this money. Then use their line of credit to pay for another shipment of Nikes. This method of running a business was ideal for fast growth, but the bank didn’t see it as a good way to conduct business. Banks prefer to see steady growth and Nike was forced to find another bank.

Nike also faced legal troubles. They had a lawsuit from Tiger Shoes from Japan; the company Nike had their distribution deal with. Even though Tiger had planned on dropping Nike from their contract, when Tiger got wind of Nike selling their own shoes and they sued. Nike counter sued and won this battle.

They also would face a battle with the US government for unpaid taxes which would have destroyed Nike if they had to pay the full amount. In a complaint put forward by Converse shoes, claiming that Nike had to pay a certain tax because their shoe was made outside the United States. Nike got a big tax bill placed on them. Ultimately Nike fought this bill and got the tax bill reduced to a reasonable amount.

Knight also had to put his house up as collateral to certify his loans and work two jobs to start his company. He was paying other employees but didn’t give himself a salary. Eventually all these struggles were worth it and when Nike went public Knight became a very rich man. From a quick Google search Knight is now worth 44 billion. The struggle was worth it.

The Boredom:

At this point to may be thinking I understand how struggling plays into becoming successful. But how does boredom? Knight’s story doesn’t sound too boring it’s filled with much excitement! But the struggle detailed above are the highlights you never hear about the hours spent going over accounting and legal documents. The lonely nights at the office making sales calls, there is a special place in all this for boredom.

Let get away from Phil Knight and talk about Sydney Crosby who spent hours perfecting his craft. For anyone who doesn’t know, Crosby is a famous hockey player with the Pittsburgh Penguins, a three-time Stanley Cup champion, and a two-time Olympic gold mentalist. That’s an impressive resume. But we are not talking about Crosby’s important accomplishments. We are talking about the boredom he endured while developing the skills to become an elite performer. When Crosby was a kid, he developed the habit of shooting pucks every day. The folklore is he shot 500 pucks every day, instilling the habit of practice in his life. You may be thinking I would love to shoot 500 pucks every day, but you need to think about the monotony of this. Shooting at the same net, picking the same corners, after a month I would think most people would be bored. But Crosby wasn’t he continued to shoot pucks, this work ethic and dedication to hockey spilled over into other aspects of his game. Crosby is known as one of the best players and hardest workers in hockey. But to gain those titles he had to push through the boredom of shooting pucks to instill those work habits.

In an article by Matt Given published on Inc.com detailing a quote made by the late Kobe Bryant. Given states the following about Bryant’s work habits.

“Bryant would show up for 7 a.m. practices at 5 a.m. After high school practices, he’d make teammates stay to play games of one-on-one to 100.

Lakers head coach Byron Scott would find a sweaty 18-year-old rookie Bryant in a darkened gym, two hours before practice, doing individual shooting and dribbling drills.”

I’m going to take a guess and say that showing up at 5 a.m. for a 7 a.m. practice wasn’t an exciting process. I’m sure the boredom probably would have set in at some point during Bryant’s life. Practicing alone, doing dribbling and shooting drills would have taken major dedication and perseverance.

In case your curious about Bryant’s quote here it is:

“Those time when you get up early… those times when you stay up late… when you’re too tired… you don’t want to push yourself, but you do it anyway.”

“That is actually the dream.”

Powerful words from the great Kobe Bryant.

Success = Struggling + Boredom

If you’ve noticed a trend, every person mentioned in this post had to push themselves through the boredom of repetition to become a master at their craft. They also had to struggle at some point in their lives. Neither Bryant nor Crosby was immediate successes when they came into their leagues at 18 years old. They were weaker mentally and physically than the older and more developed players. Both Bryant and Crosby would have to put in hours of practice to develop physically and mentally.

To improve Bryant and Crosby had to deal with struggling and fight through boredom. I’m using the examples of top performers just to put things in context. But if your goal is to raise successful and independent kids the same concepts apply. You may need to struggle through forcing your kids to do their homework. You may also have to endure the boredom of sitting with your kids for hours to teach them new concepts. I don’t have kids, so I can’t speak to this entirely but I’m sure at some point the struggle and to a certain extent boredom would get to parents. But to raise kids with a good work ethic you need to instill good habits in their life. To do this, you need to deal with the struggle and boredom.

Hopefully, this post gives you some information on what it takes to become “successful.” Keep in mind that the idea of success if different for every person. You don’t need to have the same goals as your co-workers, family, and friends. But to meet your goals you may need to endure some struggling and boredom. If you are interested in hearing more from me subscribe to my blog or look me up on Instagram @the_52_book_challenge! Check back next week for my next blog post!

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