Most successful people have no idea what made them successful

We all want to do work that makes an impact. We want the teacher to give us an A. We want our book to be a #1 New York Times bestseller. We want our company to IPO. We want our nonprofit to save lives. We want our efforts to matter. So, naturally, we look for shortcuts. We seek out role models. We ask successful people what made them successful and try to apply their lessons to our lives.

But most successful people have no idea what made them successful. They weren’t executing a clever plan, they were riding a rocket they don’t understand. When we ask them how they did it, the post facto narrative is rationalization, not explanation. Even if they are the insightful exception that proves the rule, their path is unlikely to be replicable.

On the quest to make a difference, we are alone, just like everyone else.

The only way to guarantee your thing won’t be a hit is to try to imitate hits. The best shortcut is no shortcut. Instead, do the work. Pay attention. Make each thing better than the last. Be kind and generous and patient. Enjoy the journey. And when people start asking you what made you successful, don’t take yourself too seriously.

Complement with how to make a sense of purpose for yourself instead of waiting to find ithow to cultivate an organic fanbase, do what matters, and three tips for building a writing career.

Get new posts delivered straight to your inbox:

This blog exists thanks to the generous support of loyal readers. Become a patron.