Many Misunderstand Success
The most formidable obstacle in anyone's path when deciding to enter the business world will likely be their own thinking.
This was certainly true of me.
I used to think that all I needed were the specifics of an endeavor and a little time and I could be a success. What I discovered along the way was that the specifics are easy and simple to acquire, and almost (I say almost, meaning comparatively) irrelevant. What I needed the most, and what I see as a similar need in many people with whom I work, is a "business mindset." And actually, beneath that mindset is another important manner of thinking, namely, a "success mindset."
Success is Difficult
Here is what I didn't really understand: In anything worthwhile, success is hard.
Let's consider business in general and the costs to even get started. According to buildyourfirm.com, the average startup cost for an accounting office is $50,000 for a book of $150k of business. According to fastfood.com, to start an Arby's franchise requires a $37,500 initial fee, a liquid capital requirement of $500,000, and a total estimated initial investment of $2.3 million. This is followed by the requirement of paying a 4% royalty. A Cinnabon requires $30,000 up front, $100,000 liquid capital requirement, a minimum net worth of $300,000, and an overall estimated initial investment of $362,000. The royalty payment required is 6%. One more. Subway requires a $15,000 initial fee, $90,000 of initial liquid capital, a minimum net worth of $500,000, and an estimated initial investment of $238,000. The royalty payment owed is an ongoing 8%. So with just this small sample size considered, it is obvious that the cost of starting a business is high. (Keep in mind that the average North American has just $3,800 in regular savings and cash).
So what about the odds of business success? According to a report by creditdonkey.com, 50% of new businesses are out of business by year five, and only 35% are left in year ten, with many never making any money at all.
What about sports?
According to Business Insider, the odds of success in professional sports is even worse than the odds of making it in business. Consider that in baseball, for instance, just 0.6% (that's 6 out of 1,000 boys) of high school players and just 11.6% of college players even make it into the pros, while the average professional baseball career is just 5.6 years long. It's 0.08% (that's 8 out of 10,000 boys!) of high school players, and just 1.7% of college players that make it to the pros, where a professional career lasts an average of 3.5 years. In hockey it's 0.1% of high school players and 1.3% of college players that make it to the pros, where an average career lasts 5.5 years. For basketball it's 0.03% (3 out of 10,000) of high school players and 1.2% of college players that make it to the pros, where a career lasts just an average of 4.8 years.
Ok, so business is expensive and hard, and sports have super long odds, but what about other areas of success?
Let's say, for instance, marriage?
According to marriage and divorce expert Marty Friedman, in 1970, 72% of people were married, whereas only 59% are today. The average divorce occurs at the 7 year mark, and 50% of first marriages, and 60 to 70% of second marriages end in divorce. Fatherless households account for 63% of youth suicides, 90% of homeless/runaways, 85% of behavioral problems, 71% of high school dropouts, 85% of youths in prison, and over 50% of unwanted teen pregnancies.
Okay, so matrimonial relationships are fraught with challenges and horrific ramifications, what about a totally different category, say, acting?
The best sources I could find seem to agree that only about 2% of those consistently active "in the field" make it as a full time occupation.
Well, what about authors? How many become best selling authors?
According to one of my publicists, there are approximately 1,000,000 books published per year. Only about 200 go over 100,000 in sales per year, which is 0,02% (or 2 authors out of every 10,000).
What about goal setting in general? Let's get away from specific industries and endeavors and just talk general success.
According to researcher Douglas Vermeeren, 80% of people never set goals at all! Of the roughly 20% who do, approximately 70% fail to hit those goals!
Have I made my point? Success anywhere is hard! All these statistics certainly bring a little light to Sturgeon's Law, which states that "90% of everything is crap." Or the old Pareto Principle which states that for any given output, "roughtly 80% of the output is due to just 20% of the causes."
It begins to be obvious that in any endeavor only a small percentage of the population actually "make it." Does this mean that business, professional athletics, marriage, acting, writing, and goal setting in general are "scams?" Certainly not, it simply means that excellence and high achievement adhere to the cold, cruel laws of success, even if most people are unfamiliar with them.
Let me reiterate: to reach the level of mastery and high accomplishment in any area will be difficult, fraught with peril, and painful. So much so that it will eliminate most of your competition along the way. The laws of success and competition are brutal, and apparently most people are not familiar with them.
This is what I was missing when I started out in business, when I started writing books, and when I started doing public speaking. The good ones made it look so easy I just assumed that with a little practice I could do what they were doing just as well - and I was in for a rude awakening. This is what I find when working with most people; that they just have no concept of what success really takes, or how slim the odds of high achievement really are.
Because most of us are raised in a soft cocoon of protection, in which we are given trophies for participation, and told we are great even when we are not. Many careers and occupations shelter people from the cold realities of competition, paying them a salary regardless of output and forcing them to confront their performance only in little ways and perhaps as seldom as once per year in a soft-ball performance review.
Let's face it, there are very few places in our adult lives where we are really forced to confront a totally honest scoreboard of our performance. And when we do, many of us shy away from it with cries of "it's not fair" and "you cheated" on our lips to hide the painful reality that we don't really measure up. We are more comfortable in our "illusory superiority" than we are confronting the brutal reality of our lackluster abilities.
This is why I chose to highlight businesses, sports, marriage, acting, and writing in my statistical review: because each of these activities requires participants to truly exceed in order to succeed. There are no shortcuts to success in any of them, and they each expose participants' true abilities.
Success is Worth It
But success is worth it, right?
It depends upon what you define success to be. I would recommend reading the following articles for assistance in determining your own unique definition (Success: An Important Definition, Competing Views of Success, Customized Success - It's Your Life, The Top 10 Realities of Success). But yes, in my opinion, success is worth it, as much for what it makes out of us during the journey towards it as for any amount of reward for achieving it. There is just something exhilarating about opening yourself up to the scoreboard of life and daring to have a look at how you stack up.
What are the odds (in any endeavor) of you becoming one of the top performers? Long indeed.
What are the odds of the pursuit itself making you into a better person in the process? Almost assured.
So dare to pursue something amazing, and worry not about the people around you who seek guarantees and the quiet false comfort of an existence hidden away from the scoreboard.
They just don't "get it," but you just might!
Thanks for reading!