February 11, 2013

Success Through the Ages

If I had to make a list detailing the ingredients that make a successful career, it might look something like this:
- Feeling I've made difference at the end of the day;
- Gaining respect from my peers;
- Receiving recognition from my boss;
- Controlling my to-do lists and e-mail inbox;
- Living a life outside of work with time for family, friends and fun.

Recently, I read another such list written by Amelia Barr, a British-cum-American novelist who lived at the turn of the last century. It's interesting to compare/contrast our lists, written over 100 years apart. Amelia's list is grandiose and inspirational, while mine is practical and focused on the here and now.

Here is an abbreviated version of her Rules for Success, taken from a great book entitled "How They Succeeded":
  1. Men and women succeed because they take pains to succeed. Industry and patience are almost genius; and successful people are more distinguished for resolution and perseverance than for unusual gifts.  
  2. Success is the reward of those who "spurn delights and live laborious days." We learn to do things by doing them.
  3. No opposition must be taken to heart. Our enemies often help us more than our friends.
  4. A fatal mistake is to imagine that success is some stroke of luck. This world is run with far too tight a rein for luck to interfere.
  5. We have been told, for centuries, to watch for opportunities, and to strike while the iron is hot. Very good; but I think better of Oliver Cromwell's amendment - "make the iron hot by striking it."
  6. Everything good needs time. Don't do work in a hurry. Go into details; it pays in every way. Time means power for your work. Mediocrity is always in a rush; but whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing with consideration.
  7. Be orderly. Slatternly work is never good work.
  8. Never be above your profession.
  9. Don't fail through defects of temper and over-sensitiveness at moments of trial. One of the great helps to success is to be cheerful; to go to work with a full sense of life; to be determined to put hindrances out of the way; to prevail over them and to get the mastery.
The last one really speaks to me, as someone with an "oversensitive" temper. A smile really does go a long way... then or now.

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