Posted by: kevinliebl | November 28, 2010

The Ingredients for Success

Ingredients for Success

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity
– Seneca, Roman dramatist, philosopher, & politician (5 BC – 65 AD)

My 8-year-old daughter taught me an important lesson about success recently.  For weeks, she had been asking my wife to French-Braid her hair.  My wife didn’t know how to French-braid hair and wasn’t finding the time to learn, and so my daughter became more resourceful.  She asked her girlfriend’s mother to teach my wife.  The mothers got together and talked about a lot of topics, but in the end, my wife came home without any new French-Braiding skills.

Again, my daughter wasn’t satisfied, so she found a video on YouTube and shared it with my wife.  After about 15-minutes, my wife gave up and told my daughter to talk to me about it.  One of the reasons I love my wife, is that she knows her limitations.  Being someone who: A) Loves a challenge, B) Enjoys bonding with my daughter; and C) Is comfortable with my masculinity – I decided to try to French-braid her hair.  To be fair, I made the attempt in a 20-minute window between paying bills and needing to leave for my son’s basketball tournament.  I figured I had plenty of time, but completely misjudged the learning curve.  Feeling like a failure, I told her that I couldn’t do it now, but would try to do it later in the weekend.

That evening, while my wife and I were watching television, my daughter sat in front of the computer and taught herself how to French Braid using her All-American Girl doll “Molly” as a model.  She came into our room and with a huge smile and showed us a perfectly braided doll.  I was both embarrassed that I had let her down, but also unbelievably proud that she had taught herself a skill that both my wife and I had been unable to master.

The lesson I learned is that while both my wife and I had the ability, we lacked the opportunity, and honestly, the desire to succeed.  In both cases, we didn’t give ourselves enough focused time to master the technique.  When the task became sufficiently challenging in the short timeframe, we chose to quit because it just wasn’t that important to us.  In my daughter’s case, quitting was not an option.

My daughter reminded me that success requires you to have all three of the following characteristics:

Ability – To be successful at a given task, we need to have the skills necessary to complete the objective.  However, we also need to believe that we have the ability.  This often manifests itself as unrelenting optimism.

Desire – The goal must matter deeply to us.  Passion drives individuals to overcome tremendous obstacles.  Conversely, a lack of passion causes people to quit too early.

Opportunity – Ability and desire cannot succeed without opportunity.  Depending on the task at hand, there are various resources (e.g., time, human, financial) that may be necessary to meet the specific goal.

If you are having trouble completing a specific task, ask yourself which of these characteristics you are missing.  Then put a plan in place to give yourself the opportunity to succeed.

Based on your experience, are there other ingredients to success that don’t fall under these main categories?


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  1. Hi Kevin. Neal Shaffer pointed me in your direction – glad he did! Really like your opening quote <>
    Re-enforces there are now new ideas (or maybe thinking) under the sun.
    Great blog post too – will start to follow your blog. Have you shown your daughter the Khan Academy – She sounds bright enough to have already discovered it! Cheers. P

  2. Thanks for the reminder. I can relate to how without passion and desire it is very diffcult to accomplish a goal.

  3. Kevin,

    As a father of two boys I too have stories of lost opportunities in measuring what is important to them Every so often I have to remind myself as a parent that my kids need to be treated as well as my customers when it comes to my listening skills. I laugh at the management skills they have given me over the years

    To your daughter credit tanasity won out and we all learned a lesson.

    Your analogy is dead on and it hits home in so many directions

    Thanks again
    Chuck Brewer

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