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How to Be Successful in Business and the Myth of Big Breaks
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genieSo you’ve worked your tail off learning how to be successful in business, but it’s still always a struggle – an uphill battle. And you don’t feel like you’re getting the traction or the attention you deserve.

You know that feeling, right? It’s exasperating.

And over there is THAT guy who’s getting all the attention and all the breaks.

If only you had the same breaks, surely you could have had instant success just like THAT guy did.

It’s easy to fall into that kind of thinking – but negative emotions like jealousy and envy only serve one purpose: To keep you from achieving the level of significance you’re capable of.

On top of being negative, that thinking is just plain old wrong – and I’ll tell you why…

What Do The Boogie Man, The Tooth Fairy, and Instant Success Have In Common?

All three are fictitious creatures.

When someone bursts upon the scene in any industry and becomes successful quickly, it’s easy to assume that they got a big break that lead to their “instant” success.

What we often fail to realize is that big breaks come to those who have worked their ass off for years laying the foundation for those opportunities. Let’s face it: the press doesn’t lavish attention upon a “nobody” doing all the right things. The world only notices people when they begin to appear above the horizon.

And so we buy into the illusion of instant success.

Don’t believe it. It’s not a real thing.

The real secret of big breaks is ridiculously simple, and yet largely overlooked by people in business. It’s something I call right work.

Right work is the one thing all the insanely successful super people who I’ve ever known have in common. Let’s talk about what that means.

Busy Work vs. Right Work

Being busy doing something doesn’t necessarily get you anywhere. On the other hand, being busy doing the right kind of things can lead to amazing accomplishments.

I could keep you busy 12 hours a day sorting socks, but that doesn’t mean your day would have been well spent or that any of your activity would get you any closer to achieving your goals.

You need to learn how to do right work. When you build a strong foundation rooted in right work, you attract opportunities and big breaks. In fact, they begin to appear seemingly out of nowhere.

Let me give you a couple examples of people whose ground work paved the way for their apparent sudden success.

A Familiar Success Story

Firepole Marketing readers should recognize this graph…

Firepole Marketing

To the uninitiated, this graph might appear to tell the story of “some guy” named Danny Iny who caught a lucky break in January of 2011 by getting a guest post accepted on Copyblogger, right?

Hardly. If you’ve done any reading about Danny, you know that he has been working like crazy as an entrepreneur since he was 15 years old. All that time – learning, winning some, losing some, and making connections.

So, sure: Danny got a big break online by landing that post on Copyblogger. And it very likely played a part in the eventual success of Firepole Marketing. But I’d wager his success could more accurately be attributed to all the right work he did for years before anyone online noticed him. Danny knew how to be successful in business – because he had his priorities and expectations straight.

Another Insanely Successful Person

If you don’t know the name Mary Jaksch, you should. She’s a talented writer and editor, a hugely successful blogger, and one of the highest quality humans I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Mary is a Master of Mastery. In her life she has mastered music, psychotherapy, Zen, martial arts, and is now a high-level blogger and successful online entrepreneur.

Back in 2008 it appeared to many people online as if super blogger Leo Babuta picked her randomly out of the crowd and brought her into his blog Write To Done as a partner.

What all of us on the outside didn’t know is that Mary had been building the foundation of success her entire life. Right work shone through in every single field she mastered.

And when she decided to start blogging… heck, the blogosphere didn’t stand a chance.

As a fan of Write to Done (and a skilled writer/editor) Mary began corresponding with Leo – volunteering to help with the blog whenever Leo needed it. Her volunteer work was quality work. So when Leo said yes to Mary’s proposal to be partners, he may have provided her with a big break, but she earned it years before by laying a foundation of right work.

So there are two examples: The first – a guy who is an amazing business mind and has spent his entire adult life honing his expertise. The other – a Master of Mastery who has successfully re-invented herself many times over.

Two very different people – but with something very important in common: Right work.

So What Is Right Work?

There is a set of common characteristics among insanely successful people. I call it right work because these are qualities that build coalitions, bring people together, and push processes forward.

It’s amazingly simple to do right work – and it’s totally devoid of all the metrics, conversion ratios, or other analytical details we all normally obsess about.

What I refer to as right work is simply a combination of hard work, integrity, and altruism – which is an unselfish concern for the welfare of others.

While the insanely successful people I keep referring to work extremely hard, they all care about something bigger than themselves, their wealth, or their personal status.

The breaks enjoyed by insanely successful business people are a direct byproduct of the way they live and work.

How To Do Right Work And Create Your Own Big Breaks

Right work is really just a very simple set of principles that successful people intentionally live by. Check yourself – and see if you are following in their footsteps.

1: Have An Intense Love Of What You Do

Do you go to sleep and wake up thinking about your work? Not in the “ache in the pit of your stomach” way. I mean in the enthusiastic, energized, “can’t wait for tomorrow” kind of way. If not, maybe you should think about that. Successful people are so excited by what they do that at times they can’t tell if they’re working or playing.

2: Cultivate A Passion For Learning

The insanely successful don’t stop learning when they graduate from school. In fact, that’s usually when they accelerate their education. They’re in the position to get big breaks because they’re always on the intellectual prowl.

3: Spend Your Time On The Right Things

Successful people aren’t just busy – they’re busy doing the right things. They spend their time on tasks that will get results – and delegate the other stuff.

4: Develop Confidence And Fortitude

Most people fold up the tent and quit too early. When things get tough and you’re experiencing resistance, consider that you’re probably about to push through to something really significant. The insanely successful have confidence in their path and their plan. They push forward no matter what the obstacle is.

5: Live Without Hesitation

To hell with waiting for the perfect tool, the perfect conditions, or the perfect timing. Do you know when the insanely successful execute their plans? Now. Better to execute today and have some contingency plans than to sit and wait for those perfect conditions that will never appear.

6: Practice Sincere Engagement

It’s appropriate that this post is appearing here on the home turf of the King of Engagement. All of the insanely successful people I’ve ever known are experts at engaging others. If you can’t make sincere connections with your customers, your peers, your employees, and your partners – you have an uphill battle in front of you, my friend. No one gets there alone. Sincere engagement is key. But it must be truly sincere. Engagement isn’t a tactic you can fake to get what you want – it’s a way of living.

7: Help Those Who Deserve It: A Love of People

Lastly – every insanely successful person I know is generous with their time and sincerely love helping talented people get ahead. Winners don’t have to push other people down to succeed. When put in a position to help someone who has laid the foundation and done right work, they usually step up and give the deserving a hand.

If you already practice the seven principles of right work, good for you. You’re on the right track. If not, and you really want to be successful in your business, take them to heart. Practice these principles in your life and see if the world doesn’t start to look at you through a different lens.

Presently, I am on the hunt for someone who has done right work and laid the foundation for their business to do something amazing. I have decided to hold a Free Airfare Giveaway and fly one lucky person round trip to anywhere in the Continental United States to do something positive for their business. I am happy to extend an invitation to all Firepole Marketing readers to enter.

So what about you? What is your definition of “true success?” Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Gary Korisko (@RebootAuthentic) writes about business strategy, market creation, and integrity selling on his blog Reboot Authentic. His Free eBook, How To Alienate All The Right People, is a real-world guide to breaking away from the herd and doing something special.

57 Comments

  1. LOVE IT! Except… you mean to tell me folding socks all day is not the “right work?” And I so thought I was finally on track.

    Gary you gave two POWERFUL examples of the Right Work with Danny and Mary! Two very brilliant minds that made people THINK instant success was possible.

    It would appear that they accomplished so much so fast but you neglect to see the years of foundation they laid first!

    My definition of true success?

    Anyone who goes to bed every night satisfied with their accomplishments, a smile on their face knowing they lived every moment of that day as their highest self!

  2. Gary Korisko says:

    Hey James! First one to the comments section is a friendly face! Good to see you here!

    While it may not be super productive, I will concede the fact that socks need to be folded sometime! :)

    The tricky part about super achievers, as you pointed out, is that while on the surface they make it look easy… But if you look deeper, there’s way more going on there than it seems. Good points!

  3. Love the post, Gary! You’re definitely a blogger to watch.

    The ‘true success’ question is interesting. I don’t think there is ‘true success’ as a personal experience. There is always more to do, and more to achieve.
    In terrier terms: there is always another rat to chase.

    (A friend said to me recently, “You’re like a terrier. Show you a rat hole – and you just don’t stop digging for that rat!”)

    • Gary Korisko says:

      Thank you very much Mary! Hearing encouraging things like that from someone I respect so highly means more than I can say. (or type)

      I like the terrier simile. It’s fitting. (Although I’m sure you’re also not opposed to Master of Mastery either, right?)

      Thanks for the compliment – and the contribution to the conversation!

  4. Nancy Terhune says:

    Gary,
    Thanks so much for this post.
    Both coinable and quotable! i.e. original, fresh, and spectacularly written. I’ve seen a couple of your other guest posts lately – and your excellent blog – and am surpassing impressed.

    Success based upon mindful being and doing, attitude and character — instead of jet fuel! What a concept! The foundation of success is so much deeper than what we do. And the forward momentum of success isn’t about checking off tasks on a list; it’s as much a state of mind and an ethos as it is accomplishment.

    Bravo, and keep your great posts coming!
    Nancy T

    • Gary Korisko says:

      Nancy:

      I especially like your comment, “Success based upon mindful being and doing, attitude and character — instead of jet fuel!” Well put. It seems ridiculously simple and obvious, doesn’t it? And yet so many still expect to rub the magic lamp and *poof* – success appears. (Not just in blogging – literally everywhere)

      And also thank you very much for the very nice things you said about this post and my blog. I do work hard at trying to create things others will find value in. I’m glad you feel like I’m succeeding at it!

  5. Kendra says:

    Thank you for this share! Completely agree with your entire piece, Gary. Wish many in my family would recognize these principles are true, and appreciate my mission (instead of looking at me like I have three heads …as well as that leg on my back, but..what are you going to do… ;) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151292421144485&set=pb.36794284484.-2207520000.1360419945&type=3&theater lol! )
    no matter… I will soldier on and continue to do that Right Work and simply walk over those obstacles. Bless you for your encouraging words and refreshing attitude… I SO admire those that “get it”!
    ♥, @PortaPocketGal

  6. Gary Korisko says:

    Hi Kendra! I’m glad the post resonated with you.

    And I love that Facebook photo. There’s a whole long story about me and “the bean” that makes me smile every time I see it.

    Nice to meet you – and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Ananda says:

    I absolutely LOVE this post! Especially the ‘Live Without Hesitation’ part. I’ve had many big ideas and plans for starting a new blog for awhile (after several past trial and error efforts!) but decided I’d wait to get everything perfect before sharing my gifts with the world. This sounds good in theory but I’ve realized that I spend so much time in the ‘planning stages’ that I haven’t gotten anything done and I start to second guess the things that I have mapped out. Thanks so much for this jewel o wisdom. I really appreciate all you do to inspire and teach those who are ready and willing to live out loud doing what they love. :-)

  8. Gary Korisko says:

    Hi Ananda. You’re right… if you wait for the “perfect” anything, you’ll never get off the ground. The good news is now that you understand the problem – you can resolve not to fall int that trap again, right?

    Thanks very much for the comment. Nice to meet you!

  9. GoodTrader says:

    Gary,

    I’m currently finishing a small ebook about the mindset of the successful trader on the stock market and several sections coincide with the points outlined in your post.

    Success has the same route regardless of the chosen field or activity!

    • Gary Korisko says:

      How cool!

      And that’s a great point. I’ve spent decades in sales management in a few different fields, and I’d have to agree with you. Integrity knows no industry.

      Thanks so much for adding that to the conversation!

  10. Jarom Adair says:

    Nice article Gary. One of my hobbies is researching the story behind “overnight successes”. I haven’t found any true overnight successes yet (at least not any that didn’t collapse soon afterwards.

    Thanks for your insights!

  11. Gary Korisko says:

    That sounds really interesting, Jarom. We all know the statistics regarding how many lottery winners wound up broke vs. people who earned millions the “right” way… so I’m not surprised to hear you’re finding the same in your research.

    Thanks for contributing!

  12. Just today, as I am emotionally stunned by a big rift with my area team in the past 2 days, where the rest of them have made a big step up, but suddenly informed me I am not part of it (after 21 years!).
    … I am hooked by “worked your tail off doing all the right things …(but) don’t feel like you’re getting the traction or the attention you deserve.”

    Whew, the timing is right on the dot for me.

    So I scrutinized your checklist… 1-2-3- yes, that makes it more clear, and not waste my time and life on jealousy and rejection, but focus on where the open door is for me…and the values of doing what is good for everyone, being generous with my talents, but in the right direction. Yes, that’s what I’ve been basing my life on.
    “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25)
    And I’m trusting that this will carry over, even from one kind of work to another, instead of despairing that years of good work in one area bear little fruit in another.

    In fact the whole book of Proverbs is about this, basing your life and work on integrity and wisdom. Thanks for affirming that just when I needed it.

    Cheers and thanks for the timely message for me!

  13. Gary Korisko says:

    Thanks so much, Peggy. I’m very happy the post rang true with you. If at the end of the day, something I write helps someone or pushes them in the right direction… well, then – that’s what this is all about for me.

    Thank YOU for helping to make my day, too. :)

  14. Bobbi Emel says:

    Stellar post, Gary, just stellar.

    I love this concept of right work and you have picked two of the best to exemplify it!

  15. Priska says:

    Hi Gary,
    The busy work & right work resonated with me.
    That is why the tagline for my mid-life transition blog is moving from the busyness or life to get on with the business of life.
    I had a huge mid-life awakening when I realized that I was spending my time doing the wrong work for wrong people in the wrong way.
    I was under the illusion of being productive because I was always busy.
    Shifting to being value focused has helped get on with the business of doing right work.
    When work is right it feels good, you lose sense of time and the need to be an overnight success is no longer your goal.

  16. Gary Korisko says:

    Well said, Priska. Thank you for sharing!

  17. This is a great post from you, Gary.

    I’m proud to call you a friend, partly because your advice is always so down-to-earth and utterly useful.

    Part of doing the right work is doing something you love, and doing it well. With Danny’s help, I’m learning how to make the best use of the thousands of hours I’ve put into my passion and turn that into a career. Some things I’ve done right, and some were just detours along the way. I don’t fold my socks anymore, either!

    I’m a country music lover, too, and have heard countless stories of “overnight successes”. Setting aside the teenage phenoms, the rest have worked their skinny asses off in small clubs and county fairs, plugging away, making music and meeting people who might someday help them reach their dreams. Doing the work, honing their craft, and making the right connections on purpose — it all matters. And then, one day — “overnight” — we all know who they are and what they do.

    I know you’re a guy who does the right work day and night, on the ground and in the air. When you love what you’re doing, it’s not really ‘work’ after all, is it? I wish you nothing but success, Gary, and look forward to reading your next 100 posts.

  18. Gary Korisko says:

    Thanks very much for all the compliments, Jim. As you already know (I hope) I’m happy to count you as a friend as well.

    And yes, I do a lot of work in the air. You’re one of the very few who (up until now) knew that. You’re exactly right. It doesn’t feel much like work to me at all anymore. That’s why “Have an intense love of what you do” is in the #1 spot above! It makes all the difference in the world.

    Thank you for stopping by and best of luck with Danny’s course! I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you.

  19. Jane Robinson says:

    I really enjoyed this post. Danny and Mary are great examples of “working smart” and great inspirations. Your points are so true and the one that stands for me is “Develop confidence and fortitude”. When the world seems not to be noticing it can hard to stay confident and perservere but flexing the fortitude muscle is the answer. Working with Danny’s Audience Building Masterclass and Mary through the Alist Blogging Bootcamp is the best investment in my passion. Having passion is what is what makes it all worth it. Again, great post. Thanks.

    • Jane,
      This reminds me that it’s not just about doing the right work. It’s about doing the right work with the right people. And that doesn’t apply just to business like finding your “right people” in Mary and Danny.
      Gary,
      Nailed it! This post is too multidimensional for me to comment on any one piece of it at the risk of doing a disservice to the rest. Now that we know what your version of “right work” is, how about telling us who your “right people” are?

      • Gary Korisko says:

        Thanks Joel – I’m glad you liked it.

        Are you asking who my “right people” are in blogging or in general? Online, I have a hard time coming up with anyone who exemplifies these qualities more than Mary and Danny do. I also have a ton of admiration for Corbett Barr and Pat Flynn – among several others.

  20. Gary Korisko says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Jane. I agree that fortitude is key. Learning to “play with pain” and stay at it is a difficult but valuable skill. Thanks very much!

  21. “the illusion of instant success” so true! it would be soooo much easier, I wish it was true!

    I agree with Mary’s comments as well. Each person has their own level of success depending on their personal views and lifestyle desires.

    Now matter what you goals are the steps are an awesome way to focus on getting those results!

  22. Janet Nuckolls says:

    Interesting article that was also encouraging. I’m all about helping others, and too often I’m told that my attitude isn’t *right work*. Sad, isn’t it? Thanks for your sensible advice. But seriously, err, who folds socks? I mate ‘em; )

    Janet

  23. Lee J Tyler says:

    Gary,
    I am continually impressed by your thoughtfulness and integrity. Two of the “right work” ethics that, after years of hard work, is shining through for me and everyone else. I like when people of integrity succeed.
    One quote struck me as ringing true for all of those I’ve met who have succeeded: “they all care about something bigger than themselves, their wealth, or their personal status.” This is what Mary and Danny have done and what you are doing. Certainly seems to me you are following their trajectory.
    Brilliant writing once again. Thank you for all of your hard work and insightful writing!

    • Gary Korisko says:

      Wow. Thank you, Lee.

      To be compared in any way to those two has me at a loss for words. And that doesn’t happen very often :) Let’s mark the date and celebrate it next year. We’ll buy a cake and exchange cards on “Gary was speechless day.”

      Seriously, though – Thanks very much. I’m really glad you enjoyed the post!

  24. Diane says:

    Gary,
    Thanks for sharing on “right work” appreciate the reminder. True success to me is simple – apply hard work to what I believe in, stay positive, enjoy the journey,stay focus on the end result and NEVER quit.

  25. Gary,
    There was a famous violinist who once received a compliment to the effect that he was a genius. It insulted him. He said that he practiced 9 hours a day for 20-some years and that anyone would think him a genius robbed him of the credit for all that practice.
    I think his wife did the socks.

    • Gary Korisko says:

      You Firepole Marketing readers have a witty streak! (The socks thing)

      And I love the example of the violinist. A great example of exactly the point I was trying to make. Thank you for sharing that, Katherine.

  26. Amit Amin says:

    Great post Gary!

    I’m a 100% believer. I’ve got a tendency to make progress faster than the average person. I don’t think it’s because I work harder – I’m fairly certain it’s because I’m highly skeptical about how I spend my time.

    I’m looking forward to seeing you follow your own advice and becoming successful!

  27. Gary Korisko says:

    Glad you liked it, Amit! And yes, I too am looking forward to continued success online. So far so good. Thanks!

  28. Joann Gardner says:

    I like your article so much.I don’t think there is ‘true success’ as a personal experience. There is always more to do, and more to achieve.

  29. Al says:

    Great post Gary!

    Somethings never change and one is the road to success. It’s always the road with the difficulties that has the prize at the end. In honest, there is also a great feeling of looking back at the struggle and having a story to tell. As it relates to right work vs busy work, I agree with you in that there is some work that does not move us forward at all.

    In my opinion the catalyst for busy work is growing a business without a real plan of what it is your want to accomplish, and a goal of simply “making money” is not a business plan. The plan doesn’t have to have 90 bullet points but it should be detailed enough for you to: 1. be able to be passionate about it. 2. Know how it will serve your particular community and 3. How to engage that community. In short, you need some structure for growth.

    It terms of a particular skill to help you become successful in building and online business I would have to say becoming the best writer you can be that uniquely expresses your style.

    Again really good article and its much appreciated, especially with some folks online promoting high success and very little effort programs…success and hard work are a couple that have been married forever! lol

    Good stuff,
    Al

  30. [...] There is a pretty short list of people who I have witnessed actually walking the walk. Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing is one of those people. I believe all the promises and claims that come out of his mouth (or [...]

  31. Shannon Lagasse says:

    This is awesome for a couple reasons:

    1) Because I totally get that there is no overnight success. That success was in the works. It was that “where preparation meets opportunity” kind of think. It has nothing to do with luck and more to do with putting in the right work.

    2) I like all the “right works” bullet points because I do most of them. I’m VERY passionate about my business (ran it for 2 years putting in thousands of dollars and not making a SINGLE PENNY), have a passion for learning, love people, all that. The main thing was that I was focusing on doing what I thought I needed to do instead of what ACTUALLY needed to be done. Now that I’m focusing on the more productive aspects of my business, I’m getting emails every day from potential clients. There is so much power to doing the right work.

  32. Gary Korisko says:

    That’s , Shannon. It sounds like you’re turning a corner… and a great example of everything I wrote about in this post. Congratulations to you!

  33. Thanu says:

    Thanks Mr.Author for the most amazing and positively inflencive article. I think you showed me the right way to step, when I was hesitating about the future and which step to take next and where to take the next turn. I’m sorry for not being able to follow you often since I have to concentrate on a big exam this year. I get what you say and I think, I’m on the right track because my feelings ensured their rightness by your article.I have a blog too. But’ I’m not able to post very often due to that exam coming up. But I would be really glad if you could comment on my very few articles so far, that I may be able to get something very important like this by your encouraging words.
    In my opinion, “true success” is when you feel that you are giving a task all that is required for it to be the best and finally, gain the attitude to never get fed up with what you do and always trying the best to do it very enthusiastically. Not because you have to. But, because you want to. And the best feeling in the world is when you give something to others, and seeing them getting better with the help of that. You couldn’t be happier and satisfied. May you be blessed with all the thoughts of your readers. This is the URL to my blog. I promise to make a few more posts in April. I may sometimes post articles of my mother language Sinhala. I am currently trying to follow the great advices sent to me by the ‘write to done’, Mary Jaksh.
    http://dreamsofthanu.blogspot.com/
    Cheers, Thanu.

    • Gary Korisko says:

      Thanks for the very nice comment, Thanu. I’m happy you found the post valuable!

      And I’m glad to hear you’r listening to Mary Jaksch. Not only is she one of my very favorite people, but she knows as much as anyone out there about writing and blogging. You’ve chosen a great teacher.

  34. [...] my average bounce rate for all three posts was only 47%. Including an ultra-low 37% from my Firepole Marketing post. What’s a good bounce rate? Most experts say 60%-70%, so I exceeded that by quite a [...]

  35. [...] a little bit about what makes people successful. One thing I can tell you for sure is that there is no such thing as instant success that [...]

  36. How An Unknown Blogger’s First 3 Guest Posts Produced a 57% Conversion Rate – James Timothy White says:

    [...] my normal rebound rate for all 3 posts was usually 47%. Including an ultra-low 37% from my Firepole Marketing post. What’s a good rebound rate? Most experts contend 60%-70%, so we exceeded that by utterly a [...]

  37. […] back over what I’ve discovered about how to be successful in business, I realized these could be categorized into five major […]

  38. […] his life helping others, be more of a success than any of the other men described? Really – how to be successful in business is subjective – and it won’t look the same for any two […]

  39. […] you want to know how to be successful in business you have to reach out and be receptive. For business success, you need to put the time in to create […]

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  41. […] creating, sharing and doing events, your audience will grow. Have you ever noticed an artist that seems to come out of nowhere to become an instant success? You never saw them before, but now they are everywhere. They may be new to you, but they have […]

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