I often look back at things in my life where I’ve had success and where I’ve had failure to try and establish a pattern. Sometimes things work out the way they do because of a confluence of different variables ranging from luck to circumstance. Much of the time though, I think we have a role to play in shaping our own outcomes.
In thinking about this topic, probably the number one most overrated element for me is the value of hard work. Now, if you read these emails every day that may make you want to stop and re-read that last sentence to make sure that you read it correctly. I always place an extraordinarily high value on hard work, so it seems incongruent for me to say that hard work isn’t the most important thing.
I always try to put in the hard work whenever I do something. I take it as a given that if I turn my mind to performing a task or undertaking a project that I’m going to commit to hard work. As a result, hard work isn’t a “variable” element and so it can’t really be a contributing factor to success or failure.
Another thing to think about is the quality of the idea. Like everyone else, I have good ideas and bad ideas. Occasionally a terrible idea, for whatever reason, resonates with me and I pursue it. Likewise, there are absolutely brilliant ideas that I dismiss out of hand.
The truth though is the often times the idea is actually not that influential in the outcome or the result of the effort. We’ve all had great ideas that we’ve pursued, put in the hard work and for whatever reason the idea doesn’t succeed. Or maybe it’s a bad idea and for whatever reason, it works out.
The idea itself is often just the first step in a long process so while it’s enviable to be starting off with a great idea, plenty of businesses with good ideas fail, so that’s not really much of a determining factor.
I’ve thought about every single variable and the only thing that I came up with was “consistency”. The one thing that all of my successes have in common is that I applied myself and my efforts consistently over time and I didn’t quit. When I push through the “trough of disillusionment” and keep doing the work consistently, good results tend to follow.
Without question my failures have all occurred when that consistency is missing. I’ve started dozens of projects in my online business over the years where I took good ideas and butchered them because I simply didn’t consistently do the work.
You’ll notice that I’m differentiating the consistent effort and doing hard work. Hard work is the stuff that you do that requires you to dig deep, go above and beyond the normal level of effort to get something done. Hard work is also sometimes doing things that take you out of your comfort zone.
On the flip side, consistency is about doing things that may be boring or mundane, but doing them on a regular basis. Don’t get me wrong, these things don’t have to be mundane, but I’m talking about putting in the work repeatedly over a long period of time. I use these daily emails as an example – I’ve written these daily emails to this list for over 156 consecutive days, that’s consistency.
Carrying on with that example, there are specific benefits derived just from being consistent. My opt-out rates on these emails are ridiculously low – from a list of about 2000 subscribers, I get less than 10 opt-outs in total per month. In fact, over the two months, my open rates have actually increased.
Why is that? Because people crave consistency. I have people who tell me that they look forward to reading my email before they go to sleep at night or that it’s the first thing they do in the morning. In Cialdini’s book “Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion” one of the key principles is “commitment and consistency”. People buy in when you deliver something to them consistently.
And really, that’s the underlying driver of the success I’m talking about is getting people (ie. customers, clients, staff, spouses, friends, etc.) buying in. If you regularly do something, it becomes a habit and when that involves interaction with other people, they come to psychologically rely on you doing that thing. It’s quite jarring for them when you fail to keep up with that consistency.
Again, looking at the converse side, if you are spasmodic with your efforts and you lack consistency, people don’t commit or buy into what you’re doing because they can’t feel deep down that they can depend on you. Within yourself, when you’re inconsistent you’re not building up muscle memory and creating the good habits.
So if you want to maximise your chances of success in business, one of the secrets I’ve discovered is to be consistent. Pick some things that you can do that will move the needle for you, even a little bit and do them on a regular, predictable and consistent basis.