Secrets of Success

Secrets of Success

Do you want to be more successful?

A lot of us chase success, because we think it will make us happy.

But actually, we’re looking at it the wrong way around:


Why we have it wrong: 

Does this sound like you?

  1. I’ll be happy once I get that job.
  2. I’ll be happy once we get married.
  3. I’ll be happy once I’m on holiday.

Here’s what I learnt about happiness.


When you achieve a goal, you are only briefly happier… but then you’re looking toward the next thing.

I was troubled by this my whole career.

Each time I reached a target I’d set myself, I had a fleeting moment of happiness, before I started looking to achieve more.

I resorted to philosophy to figure out why this was happening and how to resolve it, and in doing so, I discovered a guy called Shawn Achor.

Shawn had written a book called the Happiness Advantage and studied Happiness at Harvard, I figured I’d take a look.


Here’s the amazing thing he discovered:

If we can get somebody to raise their levels of optimism or deepen their social connection or raise happiness, turns out every single business and educational outcome we know how to test for improves dramatically. You can increase your success rates for the rest of your life and your happiness levels will flatline, but if you raise your level of happiness and deepen optimism it turns out every single one of your success rates rises dramatically compared to what it would have been at negative, neutral, or stressed.


Let that sink in.

What’s he’s saying is that, you can be scientifically more successful if you are happier!

Sounds like a great way to be more successful.

Shawn also found that intelligence and technical skills only predict 25% of success, he says:

If we know the intelligence and technical skills of an employee, we can actually only predict about 25% of their job success. 75% of long term job success is predicted not by intelligence and technical skills, which is normally how we hire, educate and train, but it’s predicted by three other umbrella categories.

It’s optimism (which is the belief that your behavior matters in the midst of challenge), your social connection (whether or not you have depth and breadth in your social relationships), and the way that you perceive stress.



How to be more optimistic:

Shawn did a study of people who were stressed after a traumatic event.

Most of them were incredibly stressed.

But a few were happy and resilient.

What did those guys have in common? 

They didn’t see problems as threats; they saw them as challenges to overcome.

Next time you are stressed or worried, view the stress as a challenge, as a game you are a playing.


Prof. Carol Dweck has done decades’ worth of work on this.

This is what Prof. Dweck found about people who deal with challenges and stress, something she calls a growth mindset.

  1. They just want to learn – that is the only goal.
  2. They understand that it’s about hard work and putting in the effort.
  3. They welcome failure and deal with their weaknesses.

Here’s how to get a growth mindset:

  1. Whenever you fail or make a mistake, say to yourself “Wow, this is a chance to grow. What can I learn from this?”
  2. Focus on the experience gained and the process, rather than the outcome
  3. Whenever you say that you didn’t do something, add a “yet” after it. “I’m not a Partner….yet”
  4. Seek criticism and feedback



Too much to do:

But sometimes there is just too much to do right?

How many of you have pulled all-nighters, stayed at work till 11pm to catch up on things, or worked all weekend?

Many people respond to workload by living in the library or office, eating meals at their desk so they can stay on top of things.

These people didn’t perform better over the long run.

Those were the ones who burned out; the ones who left the industry.

Shawn found that:

The people who survive stress the best are the ones who actually increase their social investments in the middle of stress, which is the opposite of what most of us do.


 My advice about increasing your productivity and getting promoted is to help others.

Be social and altruistic.

 Figure out what you can do to help your boss and your colleagues, and do that first.


Confirming my view is research from Wharton professor Adam Grant.

He found that people who provide social support get some of the greatest benefits.

Here are the hard statistics Shawn found:

Work altruists were ten times more likely to be engaged than the bottom quartile of that list and the top quartile was significantly happier and 40% more likely to receive a promotion over the next 2-year period of time.

Ok, so how do we get happy?



Happiness Hacks: 

You might think that happiness comes from big wins or big achievements. 

New job, new title, big bonus.

You are wrong.

Research shows little things are more important.

The trick is to build happiness habits like:

  1. Write down five things you are grateful for every morning (this is something I have mentees do every morning)
  2. Send a quick “thank you” email to 3 people as soon as you get into the office.
  3. Share something with someone during the day, that you believe will help them.
  4. Exercise (preferably outside).

Make sure you do all of these every day.


The secret to getting stuff done:

You now have all of these things to do and people to help.

How are you going to do all of it?

Usually the hardest part of any project, task or goal is getting started. If you reduce the amount of activation energy required, tough things become easy.

What does this mean?

I know I can be lazy and overwhelmed during the work week. So I sit down for an hour on Sunday, make a to do list, and plan out each day in detail (by the way I also make a do not do list, more on that another time).

By planning, I literally mean putting in meetings with myself in my calendar for tasks I need to get done.

I learnt this from a great book called the One Thing.

Its far easier to react to a calendar alert to do something you have pre-planned, then to go find your to do list and deliberate over what to do next.

In fact, in the heat of the moment, we usually reach for the easiest item on our to do list, rather than something meaningful.




  1. Be Happy, because happiness brings success.
  1. Turn problems into challenges and develop a growth mindset.
  1. Help others first and keep helping them.
  1. Be grateful, say thank you, and get moving.
  1. Have a detailed plan you can execute on every day.


Most people accept that they’re just born some way and that’s how they’re going to be the rest of their life, and whatever they were last year is what they’re going to be this year.

Let me promise you that this isn’t true and it doesn’t have to be this way.

Go and be happier. Everything else comes from it.

If you want some help on Thinking Big, read this.


Go ahead, see what you’ve been missing. 

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