I Passed the Audit

I’d like to thank the Institute of Internal Auditors for their warm reception last week when I gave the opening keynote speech at their All-Star Conference “The Best of the Best,” at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

Last year, I spoke at one of their IIA regional conferences in Atlanta, and even though the audience was terrific, I was very nervous. I mean, an auditor’s job is to analyze and evaluate, so I felt like everything I said was being scrutinized and judged by a room full of experts.

When the evaluations came back, I was relieved to see that I not only passed the audit, they rated my presentation 3.93 out of 4 – one of the highest rankings of all the talks at their conferences. And they invited me back to give an encore presentation at last week’s “Best of the Best” event. Thank you again IIA, for the opportunity, the high marks, and the nice comments afterwards.

I usually do a crossword puzzle during the opening speeches, but not this time. Richard St. John’s talk was the best I’ve ever heard.
Robert M. Abisla, VP, Director of Internal Audit, Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston

The debate in the book signing line was whether Richard’s talk should be first or last. I said first, because he woke me up. It was really great. I wouldn’t want to be the speaker following him.
Joseph P. Lynch, Director of Internal Audit, Tetra Technologies

What's the Difference between the Unsuccessful and the Super Successful? (besides better clothes)

Matt Moore in Australia writes, “You’ve spent a lot of time hanging out with successful people. Did you ever look for unsuccessful people who followed your 8 traits and did not become Bill Gates, etc.?”

Good question, Matt. In addition to spending a lot of time hanging out with successful people, I also interviewed some unsuccessful people, in order to get a point of comparison. Some were homeless men and women and others were people I met who had not achieved success, no matter how you measure it. Their responses indicated they didn’t follow any of the 8 success principles. They were doing jobs they didn’t like; they didn’t work hard, had no focus, sat back in their comfort zones instead of pushing themselves, and didn’t try to improve. They were only out to help themselves rather than serve others, and they tended to give up rather than persist. So, there was a high correlation between not doing the 8 Traits and not achieving success.

On the other hand, with the successful people I interviewed there was a high correlation between following the 8 principles and achieving success. Did all the people who followed those principles reach Bill Gates kind of success? No, everything is a matter of degrees, including success. In any endeavor, we can achieve: 1. Small success. 2. Moderate success. 3. Big success. 4. Super success. And be careful not to look down on those who achieve small or moderate success. Big success is built on a foundation of small successes and we need to pass through 1 and 2 before we reach 3 or 4. As Bill Gates says, “We took one step at a time and made the software better and better.”

So, if successful people follow the 8 Traits, what differentiates the ones who achieve super success from those who achieve moderate success? Again, it’s a question of degree. The Gates and Oprahs of the world not only do the 8 Traits, they do them to a greater degree than other people. They love what they do more than most people. They work more hours (even after he was a multimillionaire, Bill Gates worked most nights until 10pm and only took 2 weeks off in 7 years). The super successful focus more, push themselves more, come up with more ideas, improve more, serve others more, and persist more. They do the 8 to a greater degree, and that correlates to a greater degree of success. By the way, this applies to success in any endeavor, from the mother who succeeds big time at creating a family, to the CEO who succeeds big time at creating a company.

You may think, “I’m doing all those 8 things, so how come I’m not super successful?” Well, how long have you been at it? Remember, there’s no overnight success. We need to apply the 8 principles and PERSIST for a long time before achieving any success, let alone BIG success. As EDS founder H. Ross Perot once said, “Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one-yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.” So, if you’re doing everything right, but haven’t succeeded yet, hang in there and persist.

One last point: Forget about achieving “BIG” success, or comparing yourself to the Gates and Oprahs of the world. It just drains energy away from doing the 8 things that really will get you there. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “Don’t compare yourself to somebody else, especially materially. If I’m worrying about the other guy and what he’s doing, and what he’s making, about all the attention he’s getting, I’m not going to be able to do what I’m capable of doing.” So keep your head down, focus on doing the 8 Traits, and build a trail of small achievements. That’s the path to big success. 

Susan Boyle, Average-Looking Angel

When Susan Boyle walked onto the stage of Britain’s Got Talent, the audience saw a dowdy, middle-aged woman who announced she was unemployed, had never been married, and “never been kissed.” They instantly wrote her off as having no chance of success as a singer. But when I saw Susan I suspected she’d be great. Why? Because she’s not great-looking. She’s an ALP, an Average-Looking Person, and my research shows that the top people in any field are usually ALPs, not BLPs or Beautiful-Looking People.

Yes, contrary to popular belief, being good-looking doesn’t lead to success and may even hinder it. My book Stupid, Ugly, Unlucky, and RICH has many examples. But you don’t have to believe me. Just go on the web and look at photos of the world’s richest people (of course, money isn’t the only indicator of success, but it’s one of them). It’s hard to find a good-looking billionaire. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Rupert Murdoch are not head turners, just average people you wouldn’t look at twice. And even though they’re among the world’s top CEOs, they would never be chosen by a Hollywood casting agent to play the part of a CEO in a movie or TV show. They’re simply not good-looking enough. Of course, Hollywood has it all wrong. In the real world, it’s the average-looking people who make it to the top.

Why do average-looking people finish ahead of the beautiful ones? Because many beautiful people sit back in their comfort zones, rest on their looks, and float through life. Doors are opened for them. They get the best seats at restaurants. They automatically get noticed, so they never learn to do the 8 things that really will help them succeed, like WORK hard and PUSH themselves. Meanwhile, the average-looking people, like Susan Boyle, have to work their butts off and keep pushing themselves in order to get noticed – and in the end that takes them further than looks ever would. I’m not saying good looks won’t help you get a date. I’m just saying, if you want to succeed, the top 8 Success Factors are much more important than looks. PERSIST is one of those factors and it took Susan Boyle, this average-looking woman, 47 years of persistence to be able to sing like an angel, blow an audience away, and prove herself. Hats off to Susan!

PASSION was number one for Bill


passion1When I was talking with Bill Gates we were discussing the “Eight Success Principles” on the back of my business card. Pointing to WORK, I said, “One thing I like about Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers is the research that shows it takes 10,000 hours of practice to get good at something.” Then pointing to the top of the chart, I said, “But didn’t Malcolm miss the most important thing, the number one factor for success – PASSION – finding something you love to do?” Bill said, “Yes, I agree. If you don’t love it, you won’t spend the 10,000 hours.”

I said, “You found something you loved. There’s a quote of yours in my book 8 To Be Great where you say, ‘Paul and I never thought we would make much money. We just loved writing software.'” Bill said, “It’s true.” So take it from a man whose passion took him to the top, the number one thing is to find something you love to do. It may not be easy to find. It wasn’t for Bill. But that’s another story.


I'm a Mac

Greetings from the famous TED conference in California. http://www.ted.com/
Here I am with John Hodgman, star of the Apple Ads. I thought this photo was appropriate since I use a Mac, but in our office, other people use PCs, and they co-exist quite nicely. Whatever works for you! Must run and talk to some of the great people here…


Timeless Success Principles

8tobegreatOne more point about Barack Obama’s inauguration address, in relation to success. He talked about the “values upon which our success depends,” and HARD WORK was the first value he mentioned. Yes, whether we want to succeed as a country, a company, or an individual, it takes hard work. In my interviews with more than 500 successful people, WORK and passion were at the top of the list. Martha Stewart said to me, “I’m a real hard worker. I work, and work, and work, all the time.” And this is nothing new. About 500 years before Martha, the great artist Michelangelo said, “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.”

Throughout history, all Eight Success Principles: Passion, Work, Focus, Push, Ideas, Improve, Serve, and Persist have been the most important factors for success, from Michelangelo in the 16th century, to Martha in the 21st century. Sure, people will keep looking for the latest trendy “secret” to success, but in the end it all boils down to these timeless principles. As Obama said when he talked about values like hard work, “…these things are old. These things are true.” And America’s success depends on “a return to these truths.”