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10 Simple Laws of Business Success

The advice I'd give to my son or daughter if they asked what really works in the business world.

If my son or daughter were to ask me, "Dad, what do I really need to know in order to be really successful in business?", here's exactly what I'd tell them:

1. Success is always a group effort. There is no such thing as a self-made man or woman. Even if you overcome hundreds of obstacles, you are still beholden to the team you're working with.  In addition, we are all standing on the shoulders of giants--the people who created the infrastructure that makes business possible.

2. Work is to be savored. The ability to make a difference in other people's lives is a gift precious beyond price. The only way to make that difference is through expending personal effort, which is the textbook definition of "work." Remember: the ultimate failure in work and in life is to be idle and useless.

3. Anger is an expression of helplessness. People become angry not as the result of outside events or the actions of other people, but because they're frustrated at their own inability to change themselves and their emotional state. Put another way, a screaming boss is just a screaming baby writ large.

4. Every action creates an opposite and equal reaction. This law of physics also applies to people. The more you try to control, the more resistance you create; aggressive managers create passive-aggressive employees. True leaders redirect and guide rather than push or pull.

5. Information is the enemy of insight. The essence of a problem, solution or opportunity is usually hidden in plain sight surrounded by wads of undigested and unnecessary data.  Half the battle is eliminating the noise. Rule of thumb: simplify, simplify, simplify.

6. Other people usually mean well. People do the best they can with the resources they've got. Those who possess minimal emotional and mental resources can do very silly things, but their intentions are almost always good. Harnessing those good intentions is always more effective than telling people that they're wrong.

7. Best-case and worst-case scenarios never happen. Everything is a continuum between what you'd like to have happen and what you dread might happen. Understanding this saves you from disappointment if things go sour and frees you to be delighted when things go well.

8. Sharing something creates more of it.  Sharing happiness and positivity creates more happiness and more positivity.  Similarly, sharing misery and negativity also creates more of both. So take heed when you speak because you're creating whatever comes out of your mouth.

9. Nobody's perfect and neither is any organization.  Just as you must forgive, understand, and work with the limitations of the people you meet, you must forgive, understand, and work with the limitations of your corporation, division, or team.  Expecting perfection is a certain recipe for disappointment.

10. What goes around, comes around.  'Nuff said.

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Last updated: Dec 11, 2013


Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

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