We all seem to define it slightly differently - yet many of us can identify it in others quite easily. A winning sports team is having success. A flourishing startup has found success. A rising investment portfolio? Success as well. Lucky for us, there is a lot of content in the world about how to find success. No matter how you define it, there's probably a few dozen books out there on how to achieve it. But here's a question for you:
What's the most important thing after success?
What do you do the day after you win? The week after things take off? The month after you land the giant client? These are the most important questions you can possibly ask. This is what separates one time wins from lasting greatness.
In a recent research paper put together by a few smart folks over at Harvard, it was found that entrepreneurs who are consistently successful have in common a trait of persistence. They write, "success breeds success and strengthens performance persistence." Persistence, a noun meaning firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. The origin of the word is French, and originally was used in the form 'persister', meaning in french, "one who is steadfast". Continue further and you'll find the word not only means to continue in spite of challenge, but also to continue to exist past a usual or expected amount of time.
Greatness comes to those who persist in spite of difficulty and exist beyond what's expected.
So, how to do that? Practically, after success, how do we persist? What does that look like?
1. Use Your Momentum
The great thing about momentum is that, thanks to physics, it has the advantage. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. When things are rolling, you've got to keep it that way. Get out in front and remove obstacles. The real hard work comes the day after success, when you have to hit the office and keep the momentum going instead of relaxing to enjoy your victory. Leverage momentum by continuing to push and drive. Jim Collins uses the imagery of a flywheel, turning and turning again and again. It might be hard to get going at first, but once it's moving you just need to keep turning.
2. Leverage Perception
Gary Vaynerchuck once said at a Big Omaha conference, "find whatever is going up and to the right and pound it on the table." What he meant was, leverage what's working. People want to be a part of success. The same Harvard research paper I referenced earlier found that everyone from suppliers to lawyers where influenced by the perception of success. When an entrepreneur had the traction and momentum, everyone was more willing to help and participate. They write, "Under the perception-based explanation, successful entrepreneurs will have an easier time attracting critical resources". Find your traction, whatever is going well, and leverage it. Talk about. Show it. Use it to your advantage. Look like you're going places, and people will want to get on board.
3. Be Disciplined
In my recent book, "Rhythm: How To Make Great Things Happen", I talk a lot about discipline. It's not a popular topic to discuss. It's not very sexy. People hate it when you list "hard work" as one of the "tips to success". I would be lying if I didn't make this a critical piece. Have you ever listened to a great NFL or college coach talk after a win? You typically will hear them say, "I'm looking forward to getting back to work", or, "it was a good win but I see a lot of things we can still improve". It's boring and hard and not fun. But disciplined, focused, action, is what helps us create sustained success. When you win big, take five seconds to enjoy it, and then get back to work.
Good companies, teams, and organizations, win every once and a while. Great ones win consistently, over and over.
To be great, be persistent.