Last Updated on April 6, 2024 by Lorna Barrow


cover image for how to be successful

How to be successful at anything?


You could ask my Grandmother but she’s no longer with us. But you’re still in luck.


When I turned 16 years and decided it was time to take on the world, I went about asking everybody, “How does one become successful at being___ ? The blank represented a long list of jobs I had in mind.


Unlike everybody else who just laughed at my questions, my grandmother pulled me aside and very sternly, said to me:

Listen to me girl…no shortcuts about this. Before you can be successful at any of them “big fashioned” jobs you want, you have to be successful at being a smart person! You hear me?


I heard her. 


But it was not only me. She wanted all her grandchildren to focus on being “smart” as our path to success. She was also at pains to point out she did not think that all that grandiose education we were pursuing was the same as “being smart!” 


I never forgot my grandmother’s words of wisdom.


And as I moved along my chosen path of life, I actually developed 12 principles to help me become that “smart person” my grandmother wanted me to be.


The good thing is, these principles work for anyone, regardless of what you do and how you define success. I guarantee that if you adopt them, they will work for you too.  


So here they are, in no particular order…


1.  Determine your values set

I can’t say this enough…determine your values set. For yourself and for your business.


I know you get that values represent standards of behavior which define how you live and work. You also get that they are what you stand for and they inform what you will and will not do.


But what you do not get, is that if you don’t select them, they select you.  In other words, values exist in your life and business whether you are conscious of them or not.


The problem is, that when your values choose you instead of the other way around, they usually are not right for you. When this is the case, your chances of being a successful person are vastly reduced.


So come on, get clear on what you stand for. Having a code of honor will help with this. Here’s some help with coming up with your own code of honor.


Remember, having a set of values which inform and guide your behaviour is a big step towards your happiness and success.


Below you can access a sample list of nearly 100 values to help you:

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2.  Know The Difference Between Your Destination And Its Path 

Know your destination and know how you will get there. I know you’ve heard this before (I hope!)


But successful people not only know the their destination and how they will get there, they also know the difference between the two.


Are you clear why knowing the difference between the two is important?


Let’s look at an example together.


Let’s say you know your destination and I ask you to walk towards it in a straight line and you confidently begin this journey.


Then an obstacle appears in your way, say a large box. It stops you for a moment, but because you know where you’re going, you use your creativity to create a new path around this obstacle and continue on to your destination.


Compare this to a situation when you have a vague destination, somewhere in the distance. You start off walking and you meet an obstacle, a big box. You are confused and you stop. And the doubts set in.

Is this the destination?

Or is it just an obstacle?

If it’s an obstacle, do I go around this obstacle or stop and explore it?

Or do I just go to hell back where I came from?


Notice the obstacle is the same. But your understanding of it and your response are very different when you know where you’re going.


To unlock your success, You need to know the difference between your destination and its path. Then you can fix your destination in stone but trace your paths in sand.


3.  Know the rules…that’s how to be successful!

I never cease to be annoyed, amazed and amused by the fact that people will choose to engage in something, and try to make it work without so much as thinking about the rules.


Look! There are rules for living, for parenting for using the bathroom, for relationships, for doing business. There are rule for nearly everything.


When you know the rules, your path to success is smoother and you can rise to leadership faster. You can explode your confidence and begin being assertive in every situation. 


And believe me, you will find that applying the rules you know is more likely to get you what you want, rather than breaking the ones you don’t know.


4.  Look for solutions instead of dwelling on your problems  

This is one of my favorite ways to make sure that I never knowingly stand in the way of my own success. It’s really one of the smartest things you can do.


Unsuccessful people have this destructive habit of thinking of everything in terms of problems.


So your client cancels a contract, the government announces a new tax on small business owners, your best employee just resigned with immediate effect.


Are these problems? You bet. Are you gonna focus on them? No!


What you want to do every time is to find the good or the lessons in each problem and then find the solutions which moves you forward.


When you do this, you will find you have no problems, only solutions and opportunities for growth…


5.  To be successful, mind your business

Let me be clear. I don’t mean “mind your business!” in response to a nosy person.


What I mean is, whatever the circumstances, focus on your own (personal) business.


As a matter of fact, my grandmother and all the other wise women in the village always urged us: “drunk or sober, mind yuh business!” 


At first, I didn’t understand what these “old women” were always going on about. I just knew it had nothing to do with the drinking habits of their partners.


But sadly, as I grow older, I became painfully aware of what they meant and all the forms “not minding your business” could take.


Let me show you an example.


Even among my colleagues and friends, I watch seemingly sensible women become fully consumed with what a particular “friend” is doing and how wrong they are doing it.


They collect the “evidence”, they internalize it and then they go the extra mile and present it to their friend!  Even as I’m gasping is disbelief, they are very offended and hurt when the friend shows no interest in their advice.


Listen to me! If you are guilty of behavior like this, stop right now! You cannot be successful when you are all up in your friends’ business like pork in souse.


 Instead, concentrate on your own self-development. Have your own goals, focus on them and do what you have to do to bring them to reality. Mind your own business. That’s how to be successful!


6.  Know the best time to take action to be successful

Are you plagued by the question:

When is the best time to do something about something?


You know what I mean…when you have an idea you want to try, or something you want to change but you’re not sure about the outcome. So you hesitate.


Well, if you’re going to be successful, you had better learn to look uncertainty full in the eye and take action on your idea or goal!


To me the fastest way to acquire a large piece of real estate on Failure Street is to be paralysed by fear or doubt into inaction.


I know your perfectionist attitude and your need for control warns you that taking action in the face of uncertainty is madness. Trust me…I’ve been there!


But in the words of  Michael Port,  Author of Book Yourself Solid:

Often the very people who are perfectionists, control freaks we might also call them, and who therefore think that the projects they complete will be perfect, can’t actually complete projects, much less get started, in many cases.


 So learn to take action. Even a small, baby step. Even as you’re shaking and scared of the challenge. When you do, you will go forward faster and you will go further. I promise.


This is a great way to build your personal and professional success brand. This is how you move from good to outstanding.


7.  Build and leverage a network

Too many small business owners are fiercely independent, unknowingly insecure and acutely resistant to teamwork and partnerships.


Look, you can only go so far alone and your business can and will only grow as fast as you yourself grow. Yet many of you are negligent in consciously building out your networks.


Building and leveraging your own network will certainly help you increase your personal success. In addition, you will find that most of your business will come from within your network and it’s also a source of mentors.


You can also deliberately partner with someone to pool investments to start another business or some similar venture. If you do, you will find one + one does = three.


Another smart way to expand your network is by joining at least one organization and volunteering your time and other resources.


Remember, the biggest value in building and leveraging your network is learning to trust yourself so that you can build trust with others. That’s when you will really be successful. 


8.  Treat saving like a recurring expense

Saving is not about having money to save… it’s more about having the HABIT of saving.


I know what you’re thinking: even with the habit you have to have money to save, Lorna!


But stick with me and you’ll see what I mean.


As a little girl, from the time I could understand life, I watched my paternal grandmother consistently save what she called “something out of nothing!”


I also watched my mother, all her life, save nothing out of every something. She even consistently resist every one of my attempts to get her to save.


So which example would you follow?


I have chosen to follow my grandmother’s example in my personal and business life. As a matter of fact, I treat savings as a fixed expenditure.


When you develop the habit of saving at least 10% of your earnings consistently, you unlock your personal and business success in many ways.


You truly have money for rainy days. And you find money to fund the dreams you placed in your budget. 


Then there’s the thing about habits. Like all habits, pretty soon, saving controls you and you have to, you just have to save, otherwise you start to experience withdrawal symptoms.


And here’s the really interesting part. When the saving habit takes hold of you, and you’re treating it like a fixed expense,  in that moment, the universe takes over. You will notice that when you save at least 10% of your income first, whatever is left meets all your other commitments as if by magic.


9.  Investing is a must if you want to be successful

I know what you’re thinking:

I’m barely keeping my business alive and it’s not enough for you to ask you to save, now you’re asking me to invest!  Chewpse!


But please hear me out. When you invest, you give yourself another chance to really unlock your success. First you set yourself up to realise your long term financial goals – business and personal.


You can get a higher return on your investment than you do on your savings and can also earn a return that is higher than the rate of inflation.


A good place to find some money to invest is to reduce your capacity to buy on future income. Yeah…you know it as a credit card…and the interest rate is a killer. Yet, some of you have many cards and use cash from one to pay off the next. A most un-smart move!


Your savings also gives you a lump sum to start investing, especially in products like real estate.


Savings and investments working together…an unbeatable key to your success.


10.  Accept responsibility for yourself

Do you believe that the government, the church, the society or the school you went to or some other external factor can determine how or if you are ever successful?


If you do, your success is in trouble.


Do you know what happens when you give up your capacity to choose?  Or if you don’t accept responsibility for yourself and your decisions? In reality, you are delegating the course of your life to a force outside of yourself.


Accepting responsibility for yourself is another form of self-leadership. Take control of your decisions and experience the pure freedom of living from your own internal perspective. 


Begin by  removing any barriers to your self-development…learn to question yourself and when you don’t have the answers, accept responsibility for yourself and go in search of them!


11.  To unlock your success, read more!

image of man reading a book demonstrating how to be successful

Recently, I was conducting job interviews for a client and I asked each candidate my favourite interview question: “Can you give me the name of one good book you’ve read in the last month?” 


I find it hard to believe, but among the 20 or so candidates, only 9 behaved as though they had ever heard of books and only 3 actually read them!


But they are not some dark minority. Many of you do not read unless you absolutely cannot avoid it. Shame on you!


I can’t imagine a life without reading. Apart from professional reading, I read for the sheer pleasure and joy of reading and I read everyday. You don’t have to read just books. How about a good article in a magazine? And no…facebook updates and numerous tweets do NOT count. And you can do all this online.


There are many benefits to reading including access to knowledge, mental stimulation, improved communication and stronger analytical and thinking skills. Wow! Who wants to miss out on these? 


Don’t take my word for it, check the super successful people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Richard Branson, you will realise how they devour books. You can too.


So get reading, starting now…Be sure to read good books and articles on business, autobiographies, self-help and even great novels.


12.  Watch less television if you want to be more successful

Watching too much television can really screw up your chances for any form of success.


Come close and let me tell you how I know this first hand…


It seems like ages ago when I started my first formal business with my best friend at the time. At the time, both she and I had full time jobs that we were not ready to leave. This meant we had to check on our little store at night.


One night I said to her “can we go by the store now?” “Ahmm…yes…but I have to get back home in time to watch ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air!”


Whaaaat! In that moment my heart dropped. If you are going to choose watching Will Smith make money, over doing what it takes to help your business make money, then you and your business are doomed.


Needless to say, that was the beginning of the end for the business.


The problem to me is that, people who watch too much television, are also inclined to watch poor quality television as well.


They serve themselves a sorry diet of reality shows, soap operas and movies with more cursing than fishermen after a poor catch and living their lives vicariously through these “stars”.


Don’t do this if you want to be successful at life and at business!


Be smart! Instead, use your valuable time to define how you want to live and run your business. When you are living a meaningful life, you don’t (or can’t) have time for so much television, especially poor quality television.

Your next “successful” steps?

So… I’ve shared  with you my top 12 success principles which will help you master the #1 success factor – be a smart person. 


Of course my success isn’t complete. I’m still growing and learning and unavoidably, I keep moving my own goal posts and constantly redefining my success.


But even as I change and grow, it’s on the firm foundation of my #1 success factor with its 12 principles.


And now it’s your turn to get moving on your success. You want to be successful?


Well, take any one of the principles I shared with you and start working on them. Apply them to yourself and or your business and then add any of these other solutions.


If you have your own principles, great. Compare them with mine and take the best of the two and come up with an even  stronger set.


And as you do, just remember that the measurement of success is individual to the individual. But the world seems to agree that it happens when you take steps to make it happen.


Take your first step now…master the skill of being smart.


How to be Successful? 12 Ways to Master The #1 Success Factor

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Lorna Barrow

Lorna Barrow is a Business Breakthrough Specialist, an unfiltered Transformational Speaker, a Writer, a Coach and a self-confessed Small Business Junkie. She recognises that small businesses are unique and when it comes to helping you and your business make that BIG breakthrough, she's all in for you!