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Stop Moving the Goalposts: Do You Recognize Your Own Success?

Here's what you can learn from author Og Mandino's self-help books.

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I am a firm believer in personal development. Regardless of the cards that life deals you, it’s really how you play them that determines your level of success. In my journey, I have found many personal development books to be really helpful, but none more so than those written by author and speaker Og Mandino.

As someone who pulled himself back from the brink of suicide and alcoholism, Mandino is not your average self-help guru, and the lessons I have taken from his work are sometimes surprising. 

Learning through stories

One of the things that draws me to Mandino’s work is that he doesn’t write like other self-help authors. For the most part, he writes stories, and within those tales lie the lessons. His work comes from a standpoint of sharing what he has learned and not necessarily teaching theory. 

Stories are powerful, and human beings use not just their own stories to create a narrative around their lives (sometimes to their detriment), but also others' stories to guide them.

Some of Mandino’s books in this storytelling format include The Greatest Salesman in the World and The Greatest Secret in the World. Rather than providing the reader with a checklist to success, these books actually detail Mandino’s own struggles and how he came back from them. When you can really relate to a story, it becomes much more powerful in aiding your own transformation.

Related: I Built a Billion-Dollar Company With the Help of These 19 Business Books

A degree in success

One of the books that really hit home for me was Mandino’s University of Success. The book is set up like a university course, and it really took me back to my college days in all the best possible ways.

When I look back at my journey thus far, I can see how my college qualifications helped set me up for success. But, perhaps even more importantly, reading books like Mandino’s and applying that knowledge to my life has been an equal contributor.

In University of Success, each chapter is set up like a semester and your “course” teaches you about a particular subject. Some of the subjects include:

  • How to conquer the ten most common causes of failure.

  • How to build your financial nest egg.

  • How to make the most of your abilities.

I walked away from this book with a completely new outlook on my life and definition of success. I think it is this personal definition of success that is one of my most powerful takeaways from Mandino’s work. 

My idea of success is not the same as yours, and as soon as you can accept that and figure out your personal definition of success, you may find you’ve already attained it. I realize that’s a bit of an odd concept, but bear with me on this one. 

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Stop moving the goalposts

Something I really had to wrap my head around when I started delving into Mandino’s work was the idea that humans are so deeply goal-orientated that we never take the time to enjoy our success. At times, we don’t even recognize it.

We make a million dollars, and suddenly that’s not enough: Our next goal is immediately set for ten million. So when do you get to enjoy all that you have already achieved? What if your idea of success isn’t based on your bank balance? How will you know when you have a happy family or a joy-filled life? When will you allow yourself to enjoy that?

So, really, the ultimate piece of guidance that I have taken from Mandino’s books is that success is not all about the hustle. It’s not only about aligning your skills with the market and productivity. Sometimes success is about being strong enough to love and be loved and to pass that around in both your personal and business lives.

The two s-words

In applying Mandino’s guidance to my business life, I have come to understand that with success comes another inextricably linked s-word: self-esteem. Successful people generally have high self-esteem and vice versa, but really, self-esteem and confidence have to come first. So why does no one ever tell you that?

We look at successful people and see confidence, but we don’t realize that if they hadn’t been confident in the first place, it’s highly likely the success would never have come. On your path to success, being really comfortable and confident about who you are as a person is crucial.

Growing up, I arrived here from Poland and was badly bullied. I didn’t actually realize how low my self-esteem was as a result until I started to understand the link between confidence and success. That’s when I started to really work on building up my self-esteem, and the success followed.

Mandino is not a hugely well-known author anymore. People seem to think his work is no longer relevant, but I strongly disagree. Much of who I am as a person and as a businessman has come from this author’s work. So, if you haven’t yet experienced the magic of Mandino, I suggest you pick up one of his books next. 

Related: 5 Books to Read Before Starting Your Business

Martin Rowinski

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Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Martin Rowinski is the CEO of Boardsi, a corporate board recruitment company. Rowinski is also an investor and author.