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Happiness

The secret to success no one talks about (but everyone needs to hear)

You’re sick of the same self-help literature that promises success in just a few simple steps. So am I. It’s all over the Internet, and if it were as simple as doing one thing everyday, then all of us would be rollin’ like Jay Z and Beyonce on our yachts somewhere in the Mediterranean. Let’s face it — nothing as powerful as a sustained life of happiness and success will ever come easy.

It must be earned. After all, how could something so personal, so unique to each individual be distilled into just a few words? How could anything so grand be so easy to attain? Here’s the reality — it’s not.

The longer you journey through life, you’ll learn that even fantastic early successes are very hard to sustain. People’s opinions change, your loves and interests changes, and your curiosity and talents evolve. Evolution is a fact of life. Physical talents change. Intellectual ability grows or wanes. We must keep improving. We must keep going. It’s either rise or get left behind.

It’s why I believe the further grounded we are in values and principles that provide a bedrock foundation for all of our big life decisions, as well as our relationships, is an essential safeguard for living the life we want. Forming a firm structure for all of your decisions will give you clarity of thought and peace of mind which will provide you with confidence as it empowers you in all that you do.

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” — Muhammad Ali

Where so many people lose not just life’s battles — but most importantly, the “war” — is by thinking that temporary stretches of doing things “right” will enable them to flourish and live the life of their dreams. This couldn’t be further from the truth! You can do something right for three straight years, attain tremendous happiness and acclaim, but if you falter and lose your way and never recover, you’ll end up in perhaps a worse position than where you started.

In other words, repetition is truly the key to success once you’ve figured out what it is that will drive you and sustain you for a lifetime.

As Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” A habit! And it is habits, reinforced by planning and discipline, that will decide your destiny more than anything else. Rich or poor, young or old, you can always retrain your mind to build new habits that will put you in a greater position to reach new heights. You can always try something new if you’re willing to go for it.

Andrea Bocelli was a lawyer in his early-mid 30s, not the renowned singing sensation that we know today. He was doing his “side gig,” surely, but he was still trying to find a pathway to doing it full-time. He continued to perform and perform, growing in confidence and faith with each performance. He never stopped. Because stopping would never get him to where he is today.

One of the world’s greater singers and performers. The moral of the story: Never give up. And always bring your best in repetition and with consistency. No matter what your talent level is.

Practice makes perfect

No one succeeds at a high level without innate talent, I wrote: “achievement is talent plus preparation.” But the ten-thousand-hour research reminds us that “the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.” — Malcolm Gladwell, source: The New Yorker

Preparation. Practice. Work. Effort. “The Journey.” You know what all of this translates out to?

Repetition and Consistency. And furthermore: intelligent, experiential learning that you continue to build upon as you do.

Malcolm Gladwell is a proponent of the “Ten-Thousands Hour” rule. In other words, everyone who has practiced for 10,000 hours will truly become world-class in whatever they do. Now, you and I can debate the psychology or viability of this all that we want. But the man’s point is that no matter how talented we are, we must put in the time. Deeply concentrated, focused effort on something we love to do. That’s ideal.

Your journey requires repetition

Any research into the lives of successful people shows us that success stories are all varied and nuanced. What’s not up for debate is that success and SUSTAINED success is born from preparation, planning and tons of practice. LeBron James is the best basketball player in the world because his otherworldly talent married a championship work ethic that has an insatiable hunger for practice and more practice. And winning.

What I urge you to do is, don’t get caught up worrying over the magic elixir or quick-fix to get you where you want to be. You’ll surely be deluged with marketing and advertising schemes convincing you that you can do it in just a few days. These are snake oil salesman looking for a quick buck. Don’t fall into the trap. The long-game is where you go for the victory.

It’s just not as appealing and sexy. It’s harder to sell. And so not all of us take it. To our own peril.

Those who choose the long-game find that success and happiness isn’t something best packaged in a $39.99 self-help package that opens up a world of positive results in a short amount of time.

The results take longer. But the journey is so much more satisfying. The long-term rewards are bountiful and well worth the toil. Don’t get caught up in instant gratification. Don’t focus only on the prize at the end. Savor the process, savor the practice. The more you love and inspire yourself by the practice, the more you continue to feed yourself the fuel you’ll need for long-term growth and happiness.

“The good news about deliberate practice is that it will push you past (a) plateau and into a realm where you have little competition.” — Cal Newport

Passion and consistency

Where I differ from Newport is in the belief that following a passion can become the most fruitful and healthy decision you ever make. Following your passion is not a foolish decision. It will bring radiant color and light to your life if you use it to your advantage. There’s nothing to say that passion has to become the way you make money and support your family, or the thing that consumes your life.

There’s nothing wrong with your passion becoming a side hobby or that thing you turn to away from your job or family obligations. We all need something in our lives that motivates, inspires and pushes us to new frontiers of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development.

The literature that suggests pursuing passion leads to failure is often an admonition to be careful that you don’t just jump “all in” to something that you may lack the skills or talent for, so that you don’t end up flat in your face in disappointment.

“Cautious optimism” is the term here. This still means that the need to risk to truly imperative to find success and happiness. You absolutely must be willing to take a chance to find anything great. Even if your day job stays static over the next 30 years of your life. Take risks to pursue what you love. But know this — repeating what works and NOT repeating what doesn’t work is truly the secret to sustained success. It’s that simple.

“Practice builds habits. Our habits are our character. When it comes to virtue, practice “makes a very great difference — or rather, all the difference.” — Eric Greitens, Resilience

Absolutely anyone can luck into some successes without a ton of effort. It’s still not probable, yet possible. What is truly impossible is to continuously find success without dedicated, intensive, intelligent hard work. Practice. Consistency. Repetition. Practice. Consistency. Repetition.

Over and over and over again. It’s not just important to have a great idea. It’s equally as important to continue pressing forward with your idea and repeating the process of hard work every day.

As I’ve written about previously, so many people just jump right into something without the proper planning and thought. When you do this, repetition doesn’t matter. You’re just wasting your time and you’ll surely end up in disappointment. You need goals and you need a plan. When you have this, with your passionate and inspirational spark, you’re on to something.

Repetition requires commitment, which is dedication leading you to do something every day, multiple times per day (where possible).

Repetition is the key to success. It’s not for those looking to choose the path of least resistance. Though, as we learn on our journey, it is the only way to unlock our potential, and the doors that will swing open to opportunity.

Keep going

Join my newsletter and check out my book, The Value of You. This will give you inspiration to start planning for success on your journey.

This article first appeared on Medium.

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