While there are many factors that come into play when building a business, I believe that most important ones have nothing to do with innovation, balance sheets, finance or marketing. The most important over arching variable to your success in business is you.

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Success, however you choose to define it, is a continual work in progress. Ask anyone who’s made lots of money if they are “there.” Even though we’ve been sold on the idea of making it big, most often you’ll find there is no there for truly successful people – it’s not when I make my first million, it’s not when I get my fiftieth employee, it’s not when I land on the cover of the industry publication. Success is simply a road to travel in an attempt to create a more compelling and enriching future.

But, as with all roads, there is a direction you must travel to keep moving towards your destination even if, like the far off horizon, that destination keeps moving away no matter how quickly you move towards it.

In my own journey I can tell you there are three factors that have both led me and, at times, held me from advancing towards my picture of success.

Some of the most fruitful work I can do is centered on improving in these three areas.

1) Who I am

This a pretty big one and I won’t propose any prescriptions here, but I have found that when I commit to working on my core beliefs about what’s possible, what I’m driven to give to the world, how I want that world to experience my gifts, I have very little trouble taking action that’s in line with who I am.

The really beautiful thing about working on things like internal passion and purpose is that your progress comes out so authentically in all manner of external interaction. When people can genuinely feel that you care about what you are engaged in you are an incredibly convincing salesperson – without actually trying to sell anything.

This is an area that most everyone must practice. You must develop habits that force you be conscious of who you’re being. For me, writing my thoughts on paper each morning, spending time meditating and revisiting simple passages that serve to remind me of the version of my best self keep me focused on this practice.

I’ve also developed a series of questions that I can roll through before anything I do in an attempt to bring the right intention to every situation. Simply stopping and asking yourself why your are doing something, why it’s important and what a great outcome would look like is a great way to center yourself prior to making a large presentation to a group or meeting to discuss a new project with a staff member.

2) Where I’ve been

This doesn’t have anything to do with travel, although I suppose it could. For me this is all about leveraging what I’ve experienced, what I’ve learned, skills I’ve acquired, and what I intentionally expose myself to in an effort to learn more.

We’ve all been exposed to a life time of lessons, some serve us well and some hold us back, but it’s how you use this mixture and enhance this mixture and overcome elements of this mixture that defines success in many areas of business and life.

I didn’t do particularly well in school, but my brain is kind of wired to learn new things, dig into new subjects and explore topics seemingly unrelated to my field of work. I read some portion of about twenty books a month, subscribe to at least one hundred blogs and still get seven or either magazines delivered in my mail box.

Lifelong learning, exploring and simply tuning your brain to pay attention to everything that’s going on around you is another key factor in moving towards success.

3) Who I hang out with

There are many studies that offer validity to the notion that what you believe, how you act and even how much earning potential you have has a great deal to do with the people you surround yourself with.

Now, this can work for you or against you. Parents, school friends and social setting initially influence most people. As you venture into business you soon realize that customers, vendors, mentors and even competitors can play a big role in the success of your business.

When you’re first getting started you may attract customers that mirror your sense of self worth or doubt, but as you begin to grow you’ll soon learn that you must raise you own expectations to the level where you insist on working only with people you respect and admire.

I belong to two mastermind groups and I get to hang out for full days with people that have already achieved many things in business that I aspire to achieve. In addition to developing a network of people that can help me succeed in tangible ways this experience also opens me up to accepting that I can indeed think much bigger.

In order to move towards this ideal many people have chosen to immerse themselves in the study of people they admire through memoirs or even a mentor relationship. Pick three or four people that you view as successful, dead or alive, and learn everything you can about how they think act and grow.

Study and seek out a team of like minded strategic partners and focus a great deal of time and energy on building deep and meaningful working relationships with this group and you’ll quickly find that your own personal network will begin to fill up with people that can help you grow and thrive.

Find and join a mastermind group that pushes you to stretch and think bigger.

There are so many things we can get caught up in trying to accomplish, but experience tells me that if we go to work everyday on the internal, the external success we so crave will show up as mileposts along the road.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • Here’s a bonus one for you: How Bad I Want It!  I don’t care what the business is, if you are passionate about it and willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES and not allow anything or anybody to get in your way, you will succeed. 

  • Spot on John!

  • Refreshing post, John! I really enjoyed reading this one 🙂

  • Great post! I believe that every famous personality who achieved success in their own fields have something in common. They applied the three most important factors based on this article. Knowing who you are is one of the greatest lessons that we should learn. It’s hard to communicate to people and within yourself if you don’t know who you are and once you let this happen it would always carry a burden on your part and it would be a hindrance towards success.  Every experience that we have happens for a reason. It’s up to us if we would like to learn from it or not. Lastly, the people around us are a crucial factor to test us if we have this will power to be successful because they could serve as a good or a bad influence in our decisions. After I read the article, I just had a light bulb

  • John I believe #3 is particularly crticial and most often overlooked.  We’re social beings and we do change to better fit into our surroundings.  Surround yourself with successful people and I believe there is a much greater chance of doing well.  It’s no different than hanging around with a bunch of bad kids growing up – we are more likely to get into bad things.

  • Great post John!
    Very impressive and loved reading it. Always loved reading your posts..

  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I follow this blog for your practical business and marketing advice, but the biggest reward are these introspective, profound posts every once in a while.A great big deal of what I’m doing now (a major pivot in my business and career) is the result of who I’ve been hanging out with (a master certified business coach and her team), where I’ve been (which gives me clarity about what I do not want to do), and who I am.This last bit, who I am, I had to re-learn. And what I’ve learned, with the help of my coach, is my innate abilities, values and needs. This revelation confirms the gut feelings I’ve had for the longest time. Now, I have the confidence to pursue the business I know I’m good at, with a purpose I lacked before.It’s comforting to read you “didn’t do particularly well in school,” and that you are a perpetual learner. That is exactly my case. I was recently at the RISE Austin kickoff event, where director/producer/artist/innovator Robert Rodríguez was the keynote speaker and, at one point, asked “who here is a student”. I instinctively raised my arm, as did maybe 10% of the audience. Mr. Rodríguez said: “Next time I ask I expect more people raise their arms. Always be learning”

    • I love that = who here is a student. Really inspiring to hear you’re moving in the direction of your unique abilities with confidence.

  • Jonaston

    Terrific post. Care to share that list of questions you roll through in order to bring the best intentions to any situation? Sounds very useful. Please and thanks!

  • There’s lots of wisdom in this post John, thanks for sharing it…

  • Philip Quintas

    Thanks, I needed to read this today.  Success is a journey, not a destination.  I had gotten distracted from the path by concentrating on results that do not line up up with my core beliefs.  This article helped me remember what I here for and what I am working towards:  health and happiness in relationships that matter, that where I find true wealth.

  • Faith

    Reading this post reaffirms my meeting yesterday with my business coach. Such a wonderful reminder that working on who you are as an individual & how you view & navigate the world is not only important it the the very first step in all decisions & business action! Thank you John!

    • You just gotta have Faith – sorry, couldn’t resist and I bet I’m the first one to say that 🙂 What a wonderful name though, anyway glad it helped.

  • Awareness in these 3 areas is so critical to one’s personal and business success. Very nicely articulated in the post.  As a coach, I love to share other’s experiences and perspectives in how to develop awareness and I am certain I will be using this article. 

  • Lynnesmullin

    This is exactly what I needed to hear to get me focused again! Your insight is laser sharp and resonates with my sense of purpose. Thanks!

    • Awesome – so glad it rings true for you

  • Sima Chowdhury

    Thank you so much! 

  • John,

    It has been a couple of months since I have visited your blog. I am so grateful that I stopped by tonight. This post absolutely moved me. Success does begin with the individual. When I started my business in 2006, I did not realize how much of an influence the right mentors would impact my life for the better. You are in the group of people that inspire me to be a better person. Thank you!


    Stacie Walker
    WomanInLeadership.com – Essential Knowledge for Business Success

    • Thanks Stacie – I too have been inspired by many in my 20+ year journey so passing that on feels great!