The secret to success isn't the right school or background or connections. People excel at success because of some behaviors that set them apart from other folk. Success is ultimately a product of doing. Here are 9 ways of acting that will help you get to where you want to go.

Define success for yourself

Despite what Madison Avenue, Hollywood, Washington, or other sources of social wisdom might have you believe, there is no single definition of success. Some people want to be rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Others enjoy a simple life. There are people who want to run a massive organization and those who would prefer self-employment. For every person who focuses on career, you can probably find someone whose first priority is raising a family, or devoting time to worthy causes, or to follow a given religion. You can't be successful until you know what it means for you. Otherwise, you're like the road rally driver who doesn't have a map showing where the finish line is. No matter how fast you drive, you're depending on dumb luck to get there.

Know what you're willing to pay

Depending on what you want to accomplish--what your goals are, based on what success means to you--you will find that you must pay a price. Moe time at the job means less time with family. Excelling in an area can require enormous hours of preparation and practice. If you want to build a business, you might find yourself putting every penny you make back into it and living poorly for a long time. There's a cost to everything and you have to pay to get it.

Decide on what you can live with

Part of payment is recognizing that what you choose to do affects who you are and how you think and feel. There may be faster paths to your vision of success, but certain ones could require you to change in ways you won't like. As you progress, look for the trade-offs required. Once you go down some roads, finding your way back may be difficult, if not impossible.

Learn and apply principles

There are principles to how things work, whether in one type of company or another, at school, or in your personal life. The quicker you look for the principles and learn to apply them no matter what you're doing, the less time you'll waste in trial and error. For example, every economic bubble essentially starts with a group of people thinking that they can get something for nothing. Know the principles and you can avoid a lot of mistakes on the way.

Relate to other people

Unless your concept of success involves a hermitage on some desolate island, you'll be dealing with people. Put yourself in their shoes and you'll find things go more smoothly. You'll better understand why they do what they do and you'll find ways to bridge gaps and make progress in what you're looking for.

Tell stories

We are hard-wired to communicate through stories. A classic example was Pampers diapers. The company first tried a rational ad campaign, explaining the benefits to buyers, and got nowhere. But a slice-of-life commercial, with one mom talking to another, sparked success. Movies and television are hits because of the strength of their stories. Learn to put your attempts at reaching your goals into stories. You'll connect better with the people can help and will fire yourself up at the same time.

Enjoy selling

I've met many entrepreneurs who love the nuts and bolts of what they do but don't like to sell. My advice is always to learn to love it, or at least get along for the sake of the kids. Every time you try to bring someone to your point of view, you're selling, and you have to do a whole lot of that to reach your goals.

Embrace people who are better than you

There isn't a single person who didn't need help and didn't need to learn anything. Mozart was tutored in music by his father, a famous performer and composer in his own right, from an early age. Unless you're hermitage-bound, you'll be working with people to get where you want to go. The better they are, they better you'll do. Never be afraid of working with those who know and can do more than you. Otherwise, you could be stuck with only what you're capable of today, and that's not going to be enough.

Never, ever give up

It shouldn't need to be said because many assume that they won't give up. But there's a big difference between acknowledging the words and embodying them. If you get set back, sure, go kick the trash can if you must, but get right back to things. You just keep going. So long as you get up and move one more time than you get knocked down, things will work out. You might even come to enjoy the process of figuring out how to get around the next obstacle.

Published on: Feb 16, 2015