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5 Reasons Why Success Has Almost Nothing to Do With Skill

Drive and discipline matter far more than talent when it comes to achievement.
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Being skilled does not guarantee success.

Sure, highly successful people have various skills that some of us don't. But they also possess perseverance and passion. Success is not just about being a visionary or being technically proficient in a certain area. It's about digging deep and having the drive to push forward. It's about having an unwavering attitude that failure is not an option.

As an entrepreneur, I can assure you that whatever "success" I have experienced did not come from the execution of a grand vision or being an expert in some particular area. So far, it's been about learning as much as I possibly can, working hard, managing stress, overcoming obstacles and failures, and hiring people much smarter than me.

In my experience, success has more to do with drive than skill. Here's why.

1. Skill doesn't guarantee outcome.

The world is full of highly skilled individuals who have done very little. I know amazing artists who have never sold a single piece of work. And just because someone is a fantastic chef doesn't mean he or she will have success in the restaurant business. During SEAL training, our class of 250 guys included world-class athletes, Ivy League scholars, and average Joes. It didn't matter. The intensity of training completely levels the playing field. Only 23 of us graduated.

When running a business, building a startup, or leading a team, the skills you need to fulfill your day-to-day responsibilities take you only so far. You need drive and discipline to do the rest.

2. Skill doesn't create opportunities.

Opportunities aren't gifts; they are created. By you. I hear people complain all the time that other people have had better opportunities or that they have just been unlucky. What I hear are excuses.

In business, opportunities and luck are a result of hard work. Plain and simple. When running our first real estate marketing business, my partner and I saw the opportunity to diversify away from such a cyclical industry and take the digital marketing skills we learned to start our agency. And thank goodness we did. That was right before the economy crashed, along with the housing market. By identifying and seizing an opportunity, we were able to become an Inc. 500 company for the past two years in a row and add considerable value for our shareholders. Had we not created new opportunities, we would have been in a world of hurt.

3. Skill doesn't limit failure.

The path to success is paved with failure. You will fail time and again, but if you look at those experiences as learning opportunities, you will start to fail less as you mature.

You could argue that my first business ultimately failed. But that failure is also a direct result of a conscious decision to apply ourselves to a more scalable opportunity. Whenever we have a bad quarter, it drives us only to work harder. Even if you're highly skilled, if you don't take risks outside of your comfort zone, you may never find success.

4. Skill doesn't remove obstacles.

It doesn't matter how proficient you are at your trade. Obstacles are inevitable. New roadblocks will arise daily. It's about how you negotiate these obstructions and proactively adapt your plan. I talk a lot about planning versus preparation. So I will say it again: Preparation is far more important. Planning doesn't ensure that obstacles won't arise. But preparation allows you the ability to be ready when they do.

5. Skill doesn't create intuition.

Some might call it street smarts. Harry S. Truman once said, "The 'C' students run the world." Thank the Lord! There is hope for me still. Book smarts take you to one level and can create certain opportunities, but they don't take you all the way. Sometimes intuition and going with your gut on even critical decisions are what's necessary. Doing so creates forward motion and eliminates analysis paralysis.

Be as skilled as you possibly can be at whatever it is you are passionate about. Never assume you know everything. Always be training. But also understand that hard work, perseverance, creating new opportunities, and being unaccepting of failure is what will lead to success.

Last updated: Jun 11, 2014

BRENT GLEESON

Navy SEAL combat veteran Brent Gleeson is the co-founder and CMO at Internet Marketing Inc., a leading digital marketing agency and an Inc. 500|5000 company for the past three years in a row.




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