In 1940 Albert E. N. Gray gave a speech at the annual NALU (National Association of Life Underwriters) convention taking place in Philadelphia, called “The Common Denominator of Success“. Although it was written for life insurance professionals, its message is equally suited to anyone who wants to understand the keys to success.
When I first heard about it at one of Bob Proctor’s seminars, I became interested to learn more, so I’ve done my own research afterwards. In my opinion, Mr. Gray’s words are as inspiring and truthful today as they were when the speech was first delivered – and so I’d like to take the opportunity to share with you my takeaways in the following lines.
The common denominator of success – the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful – lies in the fact that he has formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do. ~ Albert E.N. Gray
Perhaps you’re wondering why it is that the most successful people seem to like to do the things that the vast majority doesn’t like to do. Well, they don’t! But if they don’t like to do these things, then why do they do them? Because by doing the things they don’t like to do, they can accomplish the things they want to accomplish.
Successful people are influenced by the desire for pleasing results. Unsuccessful ones are influenced by the desire for pleasing methods and are inclined to be satisfied with the results obtained by doing the things they like to do. So why are successful people able to do things they don’t like to do while others are not? Because successful people have a purpose strong enough to make them form the habit of doing things they don’t like to do in order to accomplish the purpose they want to accomplish.
Do what you have to do, until you can do what you really want to do. ~ Oprah Winfrey
Let’s digress for a moment and discuss about purpose. First of all, our purpose must be practical and visionary. But in making our purpose practical, we have to be careful not to make it logical. It has to be a purpose of the sentimental or emotional type. We have to keep in mind that needs are logical, while wants and desires are sentimental and emotional. Our needs will push us just so far, but when our needs are satisfied, they will stop pushing us. If, however, our purpose is in terms of wants and desires, then our wants and desires will keep pushing us long after our needs are satisfied – and until our wants and desires are fulfilled.
Moreover, I could say that our purpose is not actually pushing us, but rather if it’s strong enough it will pull us towards it. How do we know if our purpose is strong enough? By analyzing our current habits and asking the following questions:
- Do I have a strong desire to go out of my comfort zone and do the things I need to do to accomplish what others don’t?
- Am I willing to learn, to try new things, and be open to change?
- Am I determined to push through obstacles and keep going until I reach my goals?
Many would say that goals have to be logical and rational. However, there’s no inspiration in logic. There’s no courage in logic. There’s not even happiness in logic. There’s only satisfaction. And sometimes satisfaction can be our greatest enemy because it not only diminishes creativity, but also keeps us within our comfort zones. On the other hand, dissatisfaction is a creative state. We should be happy with what we have, but not satisfied; all of us should aim to become more and serve more as we go through life. The only place logic has in life is in the realization that the more we are willing to help others, the more we’ll be able to help ourselves.
Every single qualification for success is acquired through habit. We are creatures of habit. People form habits and habits form futures. If we don’t deliberately form good habits, then unconsciously we will form bad ones. You and I are the way we are because we have formed the habit of being that way – and the only way we can change is by forming new habits.
Albert Einstein said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Therefore, in order to change our results, we must change our thinking. Any resolution or decision we make is simply a promise to ourselves, which isn’t worth much unless we have formed the habit of making it and keeping it. And we won’t form the habit of making it and keeping it unless right at the start we link it with a definite purpose that can be accomplished by keeping it. In other words, any resolution or decision we make today has to be made again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and so on.
And it not only has to be made each day, but it has to be kept each day, because if we miss one day in doing so, we’ve got to go back and start all over again. But if we continue the process of making it and keeping it each day, we will finally wake up one morning feeling completely changed. Here’s what has happened: our resolution or decision has become a habit and we don’t have to make it again on that particular morning.
That is why behind every success there must be a purpose and that is what makes purpose so important to our future. Our future is not going to depend on economic conditions or outside influences of circumstances over which we have no control. Our future is going to depend on our purpose in life and our ability to learn and become masters of change.
To sum up, here are the 3 main ideas that I’d like to leave you with:
- The common denominator of success is the willingness to form the habit of doing the things that others don’t like to do
- Successful people are motivated by achieving the results they want, while unsuccessful ones are motivated by the desire for pleasing methods
- If we don’t consciously form good habits, we will unconsciously form poor ones
People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, they make them. ~ George Bernard Shaw