I’m not a big fan of this type of sunshine-and-lollipops prognostication. Nothing comes easy in this life, despite the vague promise of something-for-nothing at the base of our entitlement-driven culture.
Still. . . this fortune is interesting in its phrasing, which leaves it somewhat open to interpretation. Being successful in business is unusual in itself; the U.S. Small Business Administration has estimated that only a quarter of new businesses manage to stay in business for 15 years or more. Unless the use of “unusually” in this fortune is purely gratuitous, perhaps it alludes to an unusual method of achieving business success. Which led me to examine a few well-regarded success factors and philosophies*:
- Socrates: “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.”
- Lao Tzu: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
- Vince Lombardi: “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”
- Jack Welch: “Number one, cash is king… number two, communicate… number three, buy or bury the competition.”
And if all that fails, one can apparently succeed by conceding defeat:
- George Burns: “It is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate.”
- W.C. Fields: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”
Which reminds me of a CEO for whom I used to work, who insisted that to “fail fast” and move on was the key to business success. This resulted in an especially creative and chaotic organization in which good ideas were the currency and competition was king. For those willing to define success by leading a green-lit project team, there was a lot of success to go around. . . but it only lasted until the next idea-du-jour trumped yours and a new project leader was crowned.
In today’s fast-changing business world, this type of fleeting achievement is typical: So much popular music is by flash-in-the-pan bands. So many “revolutionary” technologies are obsolete in months. In the constant noise of the digital realm, just getting others to click the “like” button is a measure of success.
I think achieving unusual business success in the modern world might best be defined as creating a business that is sustained and durable — lasting for many years and able to weather rapid and constant change.
Do you agree? How would you define “unusual” success in business, and what examples of unsusual success have you seen?
*with thanks to BrainyQuote for helping me be unusually successful in research