Posted by: nedpelger | August 6, 2008

The Secret of Success

When I teach Construction Supervisors and wannabe Construction Supervisors, I ask them if they know the secret of success. The most common answer is, “Hard work”. I think you’ll probably agree, though, many people work quite hard and wouldn’t describe their lives as successful. Early in my career, I was taught an answer that is surprisingly simple and yet powerful.

The Secret of Success:

Successful People Do the Things Unsuccessful People Don’t Want to Do and Won’t Do.

Study any successful person and you’ll see this statement proved. You’ve got to do the hard work to be successful. I probably should define what I’m calling success. Successful people achieve their goals and live with joy. So I don’t consider wealth or power a necessary sign of success, though they often are.

The secret of success has helped me tremendously through my life. So many times I look at a task before me and just don’t feel like doing it. It would be easier, more fun, etc to just not do it. Maybe that could be the slogan for couch potatoes, “Just don’t do it!”

But then I (sometimes) think about this principle of success and I do what I don’t feel like doing. In most cases I’m glad, after I get started, that I made that choice. I’m almost always glad after the task is done. So, having this truth clear to me helps me decide how to live, what to actually do, every day.

So how will this secret change your life? Suppose you’re supervising construction on a parking garage and you know your boss has real concerns that the project will come in over budget. Perhaps you love pushing the schedule and getting the construction details right, but really struggle to care about tracking the costs. You know you should work harder on knowing where the costs are and trying to control them better, but it’s not your natural inclination.

In this case, the successful person chooses to put some extra time every day into working on cost issues. Slowly, over time, you get better at managing the costs. Your boss tells you how much he appreciates your improvements and rewards you lavishly. OK, this last part may be fantasy, but the rest seems reasonable.

Consider family relationships as another example. You come home tired from work and just want to rest. Your kids, whether you know it or not, want to spend time with you. They want you to have fun with them and respect them as individuals. I think all kids want these things, no matter what their age.

So do the hard thing. Put forth some effort. Do fun things with your kids (see yesterday’s post). Or plan special time with your spouse or a friend. Remember the secret of success:

Successful People Do the Things Unsuccessful People Don’t Want to Do and Won’t Do.

Be a Successful Person.



  1. I thought the secret of success was to marry well.

  2. Remember, my boy, nobody works as hard for his money as the man who marries it.

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