Find Your Path To Success (written January, 2005)

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

People arrive at success by vastly different routes. If you’re not sure whether you’re on the right road, stop and look at the various ways people become successful. Maybe you just haven’t recognized the signs telling you that you’re on the right route after all. And maybe you also need to look at the pitfalls, which go with certain success routes.

The Fast Take-Off. A very few people have beginners’ luck. Their business takes off right away or they sell thousands of dollars worth of their product the first week. We’d all like to get off to a fast start when we try something new, and some people actually manage to do it.

However counting on instant success can be a big mistake. So can counting on staying on top after you’ve had a great beginning. Even when you’re off to great start, it pays to keep your eye on other, slower and steadier ways to succeed. Don’t be too quick to quit your regular job.

The Route Of The Plodder. Far more people reach success a little at a time. Their second day is a little better than their first. Their second week they see things pick up a little more. After a month they feel encouraged. Maybe it takes a year or two or five before they reach any of the goals they’ve set for themselves. It may be this long before they can quit their day jobs or take a vacation.

If this seems to be the road you’re on start keeping track of your success bit by bit. Add up your sales figures at the end of every day and keep them in a notebook. Draw a chart or a graph. See if it doesn’t show upward progress. Congratulate yourself on being headed in the right direction. After all that’s the most important thing!

The Bumpy Road. Many people get started in business, have a little success, and then experience some failures. It’s either a feast or a famine. Chances are they go through a similar cycle time and time again. Some of them were “over-night wonders,” who thought they had the world on a string. Then wham! Something happened.

Probably nothing is more frustrating than thinking you’ve reached the success you’ve been hoping for only to be let down. Unfortunately many endeavors in life are like this. Their road looks smooth until you’re actually traveling it, then it turns out to be bumpy and full of potholes.

Mature people learn to accept these ups and downs and smart business people learn to use “down” times productively. This is when they do the things they don’t otherwise have time for. They investigate new business ventures and new products. They check up on what their competition is offering. They get caught up on their paperwork and correspondence. They get their office or their shop organized. They write articles like this one. They get ready for the next “up” phase and take steps to make it bigger and better.

The Path Of Persistence. Certain people have to put up with a lot of discouragement before they see the light at the end of the tunnel. Their worst fears may all come true. They may have to cope with no sales or no orders at all for a time. Doors may slam in their faces. Friends and family may lose faith.

Their secret weapon however is being able to close their eyes to negative events and negative comments. They have faith in themselves and what they’re doing, so they keep trying. Sometimes they alter their plans and strategies – not because they’re defeated but because they’ve learned something new. They keep looking for what works best. Their ultimate goal however remains fixed in their minds and they keep working toward it.

People on the path of persistence simply do not give up. Quitting never enters their minds. Not only that, they keep a positive frame of mind no matter how bad things get. Ask them how they are, and they’ll smile and say “great!” They’re not lying either. They’re just reflecting the way they feel about themselves.

Don’t waste time envying the people who’ve had a fast take-off or the ones who’ve already reached their goal. Concentrate on where you are now and what works best for you, today and tomorrow. You have to travel your own path and it won’t be exactly like anyone else’s. Just leave a trail for others to follow.

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.