8 Words for Success

What if you asked some of the most successful people in the world one question: “What leads to success?”. Well, guess what? Someone did and here are the fascinating answers.

This speech was first delivered by Richard St John at the TED conference at Monterrey, California in February 2005. I discovered it last year and since then have made a point of watching the video of it at least once a month ever since. Watch the video now or after you’ve read this article, but in either case, please leave your comments below. Every time I watch it, I get a new idea and a new insight so I’d love to read yours too.

Richard St John asked one simple question: “What leads to success?” and found that most of the answers repeated 8 themes. He boiled those themes down to 8 key words or reasons for success. Here they are in a nutshell:

1. Passion

Do it for love, not money. Whatever you do, there is no substitute for a genuine love of what you do. It’s the only way you’ll be able to push yourself through the tough times, and there are always tough times before you reach success. Do you love what you so much that you’d be prepared to pay someone to let you do what you do?

2. Work

St John quotes Rupert Murdoch as saying: “Nothing comes easily, but I have a lot of fun”. Passion on it’s own is not enough; if you don’t have fun as well you’ll never last the course. As St John, says, we must be workafrolics not workaholics.

3. Good

Be really good at what you do. Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in “The Tipping Point” and in “Outsiders”. There is just no way to reach mastery without doing the necessary work. Practice until you become excellent at what you do. Achieve mastery. Seth Godin calls this “art” in his book “Linchpin” (and if you haven’t read it yet, buy a copy of Linchpin now, it’s essential reading). Success does not come to the mediocre.

4. Focus

Decide on one thing you are going to succeed at and focus on that until you have it. This is a deceptively simple point. Being truly focused is not easy. It takes practice, discipline and dedication. Don’t underestimate the size of your task, but make no mistake: it is essential to your success.

5. Push

Successful people push through their shyness & self-doubt. When necessary, they allow others to push them too. After all, that’s what parents, teachers & mentors are for. The tough times are there to be overcome.

6. Serve

Service is the basis of value. Success comes from providing great value. Serve others something of value. It’s a simple equation but a powerful one.

7. Ideas

Success depends on having great ideas. Of course, the trick is in coming up with a great idea. Here’s how to find them:

  • Listen
  • Observe
  • Be Curious
  • Ask Questions
  • Be a Problem Solver
  • Make Connections


8. Persist

“Persistence is the number one reason for our success” according to Joe Krause, and he’s right. It’s not about trying in the easy times. It’s not even about knowing when not to quit. It’s all about persevering through the 24 hour work days, the crushing disappointments and the sleepless nights. To succeed you must persist.

You must persist through the failures.

You must persist through the CRAP, otherwise know as:

  • Criticism
  • Rejection
  • Assholes
  • Pressure


The Next Step

So, success is down to just using 8 simple words. If, like me, you want to succeed I suggest you work on mastering one word at a time. The question is, which one will you begin with?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is there a word missing? Which words would you add to the list?

Author: Ash Mashhadi

Ash Mashhadi is co-Founder of the Inspiration Zone. He is also co-Founder of the successful website InPlymouth.com and Partner in the highly successful web design and social media consultancy Design Inspiration. Ash is a popular and lively speaker and frequently trains and mentors owners of small and medium-sized businesses. He is often called The Inspiration Guy, and if you want to discover why, just talk to him.

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