Secrets to success?

We don’t usually go for these lists of supposed ‘secrets’ but we quite like this one.


In a 3-minute TED talk, analyst Richard St John distils 500 interviews with successful people into what he calls ‘8 secrets of success’. Click here to listen.

What struck us most about the list was that it didn’t try and define success in terms of money, status or power. It talked about the drivers we need to nurture to enable us to achieve our purpose in life – whatever that might be. In yesterday’s email in this series we talked about being clear about ‘why’ – the reason why your organisation is in business.

We need also to search for our own ‘why’ – how we define success for ourselves; what’s really important to us. There’s no one answer for everyone, but there is an answer for you.

When we work with undergraduates across Oxford helping them think about their transition from study into work they are keen to explore the calling on their lives. We encourage them to search for a ‘sweet spot’ that integrates three things:

  1. The impact they want to have: what Richard St John calls ‘Passion’. These are the things that stir your heart, fire you up, aligns with your values. Areas that you believe you could make a difference in.
  2. What they are good at. Understanding our strengths, our skills and what we need to become good at to have impact.
  3. What we need materially. This may change over time, but our financial and material needs must be factored in.

The sweet spot – success even – is to deliver in all three of these areas.

As you reflect on the podcast and your own ‘why’ consider:

  • How you define your success and whether you notice your success in life.
  • Whether you can relate to the list Richard St John sets out (Passion; Work; Focus; Persistence; Ideas; Good; Push and Serve).
  • Which areas on the list come to you most easily?
  • Which do you need support with… and where will you get that support?
  • Whether contentment is a better frame of reference than success.