The One Common Denominator Between Successful People
What ingredient is always present in success stories, and how can you start cooking with that ingredient?
What is the greatest predictor of a person’s success? Are successful people smarter than everyone else? More educated? Harder workers? Do they wake up earlier? Do they read more?
You can drive yourself crazy chasing that gopher. Every time you think you've cracked the code, an exception pops up. A billionaire who wakes up at 2 p.m. A CEO who doesn’t read. A seven-figure agency owner who's a high school dropout (oh my God, would you look at the time …?).
Is there any unifying thread to the prosperity potion? Any trait that is present in every success story? And if so, can we bottle it, sell it and make a trillion dollars?
Yes…and no. Yes, there is a common thread, and no you can’t bottle and sell it. That’s bad news for me, but good news for you. Since I can’t sell it to you, you don’t have to buy it from me. You just need to internalize the lesson and act on it.
For love of the game
As the subject of the documentary The Last Dance, Michael Jordan was asked to what he attributed his once-in-a-generation mastery of basketball. His answer was simple — he had fallen in love with the game.
Training wasn’t a chore when he was training in the thing he loved above all else. He was able to become a master of offense and defense, becoming far-and-away the best basketball player of all time. It wasn’t just labor; it was a labor of love.
This is the common thread. Ask one successful person after another, and you will see it: a palpable love for what they do. Even the bad days aren’t so bad, because they spent it doing what they love.
My writer friend told me that even before he became successful, he loved to write. Didn’t matter if he was getting paid or not, it didn’t matter if he was writing for an audience of no one but himself. To him, a writing day was a good day, by definition. Everything could have gone wrong with his day — speeding ticket, ghosted for a date, stained his favorite shirt — but if he wrote something he liked, it was a good day.
My love story
My company does direct-response digital marketing. This is a fancy way of saying Google and Facebook ads. Do I really love what I do? Does anyone really love Google and Facebook ads? That sounds like someone who needs to get out more.
Believe it or not, I have been fascinated with marketing for a long time. I started my first business at 14, so I’ve been immersed in a professional culture from a very young age. Because of this, I happened to be paying attention when digital marketing started to become a "thing."
Lots of people scratched their heads. “Google is a search engine,” people said. “Why would I buy ads from them?” Ditto with Facebook. Eventually it sunk in that Google and Facebook were where the eyeballs are, so that’s where you put the ads. For many business owners, digital marketing was no more or less utilitarian than that. Useful, but not sexy.
I reacted to this innovation in a different way. Here’s how I saw it: If you could figure out how to get it right, direct-response digital marketing allowed companies to buy growth.
Think about that for a second. Want your company to grow? No need for word-of-mouth or publicity stunts; just buy it! How much growth do you want? How much can you afford? How much are you willing to spend? The more you spend, the more you grow.
It seemed like magic to me. I admit I may be a bit of a nerd to think this stuff is so cool. And of course, I didn’t immediately run out and found a DRDM agency. My entrepreneurial journey was far more protracted. I tried a bunch of crap — real estate, a recruitment website, a Kindle publisher....
That last one was probably the most fun. For a hot minute, I was the #1 publisher on Amazon in the “Amish Romance” genre. Yep, a small contingent of ladies got positively churned over our output. But digital marketing was never far from my mind, because it fascinated me. Maybe the reason I didn’t pursue it sooner is that it seemed too easy. I loved the very idea of it, so that couldn’t be a viable business for me, right? Otherwise everyone would do it.
Maybe I should have trusted my heart and done it sooner, or maybe my journey was exactly what it needed to be to get me to my happily-ever-after.
How to turn what you love into a business
So what if you love video games? Does that mean you should become a professional gamer? Maybe, but that’s a hard business to get into. My mentor once told me, “Stop trying to build an airline and start drilling for oil.” Genius entrepreneurs fail to make a successful airline; absolute idiots become millionaires drilling for oil. On the airline-oil spectrum, becoming a professional gamer is an airline. It’s like saying you will become the next Michael Jordan, especially if you’re 5’6”. Yes, it could happen, but is it likely?
But that doesn’t mean a tough niche like games or basketball can’t become a lucrative business. If you love video games, try reaching out to professional gamers, streamer, designers and developers. Ask them what their biggest pain point is. What do they hate the most about what they do?
When you identify a problem that all of these game-affiliated professionals have, that’s your business idea. Learn how to solve it, sell your solution to those video0game professionals, and voila: You have turned a love of video games into a business!
Finding a business idea to fall in love with isn’t rocket science. It’s in your YouTube search history. It’s in the accounts you follow on Instagram. It’s what you default to doing if you have some free time, what you never shut up about when your friends get you going on the subject. I’m not saying it will be easy, but at least now you are armed with the information. The common denominator for success really is loving what you do.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor