“Keys to success” can be defined as “lifehacks” (edit: fuck this term), heuristic techniques, rules of thumb, problem solving approaches, troubleshooting methods, testing paradigms, etc., and are almost always unbeknownst to a significant majority of the human species. It’s why generations of speakers, consultants, and writers have commerced in the personal development and self-improvement genre, way before DJ Khaled, comic value aside, raked in major keys (keys = kilos [kilograms] or K’s, dollar amounts in multiples of $1K $1000) last year peddling his “major keys”. #BlessUp
- Focus is (a) key to success. Our psychological, genetic, and physiological predisposition is to be engaged in a state of distraction, heedlessness, and over-stimulation. This is why we parse the signal from the noise. This is why millennia of philosophers, prophets, and plebs pondered how to focus. It’s perhaps the top KEY to any kind of meaningful success. Stanford GSB professor Jeffrey Pfeffer quite literally named focus as one of his six top keys to success, based on John Kotter’s industrial research.
- “Getting mean” (however you define this phrase… I’ll nominate your own definition: “Getting mean just means being strict and firm about it”) is (a) key to success. Acculturation (“the social contract”) through the mainstream conditioning we’re force-fed since birth teach us otherwise. “Be nice”, “be considerate”, “be gentle”. Hell, the Golden Rule itself says this much: “treat people the way you want to be treated”. I doubt any reasonable person (disqualifying masochists as reasonable persons) wants to get “mean” treatment. This is why the counterintuitive genius behind “getting mean” (see Tim Grover’s “Relentless”) worked for the author’s client, Michael Jordan, an infamous asshole, on and especially off the court. Ask Steve Kerr. It’s another major key to many (not all*) business operators and chief executives’ competitive success. We need look no further than the near-consensus crediting US President-Elect Donald Trump’s much-maligned bullying, incitement, and trolling of his political rivals with his victory of the presidential election. (*Contrast: Zenefits CEO David Sacks’ tweet below offers an alternative philosophy, which I co-sign. “Be ruthless with time and gracious with people”.)
- “Get(ting) it done” is (a) key to success. There’s an entire subgenre of self-help, motivational psychology, sales and marketing devoted to this: David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. GTD is the difference between cheap talk and actual results, between procrastinators and producers, between amateurs and professionals, and arguably between successes and failures. Everyone talks the talk, exceedingly few walk the walk. This is why Lee Hower, Alex Turnbull, et al, in and outside Silicon Valley rightfully criticize the vast majority of “founders” — a term so vague, so carelessly appropriated and misused so as to not mean anything and also mean everything — who are more properly termed “wantrepreneurs”, and their unfortunate addiction to the trend, culture and lifestyle of “playing startup”. It’s why Derek Sivers told Tim Ferriss, “if all we needed was more information, then everyone would be a billionaire with perfect abs”. This is because most people — including every one of the aforementioned, uninitiated poseurs — don’t realize this, and instead make feeble, flailing attempts to enroll in every Lynda course/MOOC and coding bootcamp, attend every conference, network at every mixer, follow everyone on every social channel, and spend the majority of their waking hours — ergo their work day/month/year ergo their early career — in consumption mode, not creation mode. I would put GTD (DOING what matters) first as top major key, but it’s worthless and fatal to productivity and success without focus (knowing WHAT matters).
None of these keys are mutually exclusive, either. Their codependence is both necessary and sufficient to catalyze the “success” chemical reaction.
While I respect your argument concerning the recent excess in labeling any and all beneficial strategies and tactics “keys to success”, I completely disagree with any thesis insisting there are no keys to success.
Your namedropping three of them in passing at the very end of a critique dismissing their existence and value read as intentionally clever, unwittingly hilarious, adeptly meta-ironic, and/or a draft typo. Otherwise, I enjoyed your perspective and I hope this response adequately elaborates upon my reasoning. Thanks for the original story and welcoming discussion. Cheers!
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