Work seven days a week, twenty hours a day. Work four hours a week and outsource everything you can't automate. Settle for nothing less than perfection. Embrace mistakes at every turn.

It seems that every business book, blog, and talk has a different recipe for success. More than ever before, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and self-help gurus use every available platform to spread the word about what it takes to make it big. While it can be great to have access to all this guidance, there's a downside as well. With so many successful people confidently presenting their way of doing things as the only way, it can be difficult to figure out what's right.

As it turns out, there is one thing that every successful person does, and it can't be found in any single business book.

Finding Your Way

If you spend any amount of time with wildly successful people, you'll find that their personalities, approaches, work styles, and preferred tactics often have little in common. As such, trying to mirror your favorite billionaire's every move will probably end up as an exercise in disappointment. At the same time, no one has ever achieved success by taking action willy-nilly. Everyone who has ever achieved big goals either started out or ended up with a system.

So what can you do?

As with so much else, your quest for success must start with learning. Read, ask questions, and study a wide variety of sources and examples. Then let the stew of influences settle in. You should certainly let all this wisdom influence you, but beware of taking any one book or guru as the definitive guide.

Next, note those ideas that seem promising and try them. If a tactic doesn't fit who you are, get rid of it. Keep the pieces that fit you best. Most important, actively look for ways to combine and reconfigure parts of what other successful people have already done. It is only by using your influences to generate a new way of doing business that you will gain an edge on your competition.

In short, successful people do follow a recipe for success--but it's a recipe they've custom-tailored for themselves and themselves alone.

Published on: Jul 22, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.