It is undeniable, in life and work, we crave to find the formula that guarantees our success. And if we are looking for examples, there are hundreds of recipes we can find through books, workshops, and examples of those who appear to demonstrate what it takes to reach that mountain top. Consistent ingredients to achieving success as a leader are:
For as clear as these elements are and due to the plethora of conceptual articulations of formulas, the questions become
The answer is simple. No formula will work for someone following one and no truly successful leader has ever followed a recipe. Every leader or successful entrepreneur for that matter, where their ‘own person.’ Whether you consider the likes of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Howard Schultz, Oprah Winfrey, Martin Luther King, or any other leader – they did not have a formula. And while the stories of such leaders can be inspiring, we can never follow someone else’s path; we must follow our own.
If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know
it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.
The truth is, everyone has a unique journey, and it seems one’s life trajectory is already built in when we come into this world. Everyone is brought up under certain conditions that set up a kind of ‘Heros Journey’ that must be trusted. And while many of the leaders mentioned above even wrote books sharing interpretations of what it takes to succeed, it was written in hindsight. And when I speak to the leaders I work with and ask them – ‘Did you plan most of what has unfolded for you?’ Every time, the answer is no.
But can we find anything to point to that helps us? Yes. But the things we can point to do not satisfy one’s mind, who is always looking for a sense of surety. The mind wants a guarantee if I follow my heart, will it turn out. But as I pointed out in a recent blog entry, we have become addicted to trying to figure out life. But if you follow the idea you can figure life out, as much as you do not want to hear this, it will fail you EVERY TIME. When it comes to maturing into leadership, the intellect has little to do with this evolution. So what to do?
On another level, we can look back to anyone who succeeded or to those that overcame hardships, such as massive failure, life-threatening illness, or the loss of a serious relationship. What is consistent is each felt a call from within themselves and life compelled them into action. They did not start their journey considering their purpose, setting goals, or following some regimented daily schedule or doing affirmations in the mirror. Maybe some of those things followed the awakening of an inner prompting, but those things were not the reason they succeeded. They felt passion emerge from within and in most cases had many failures along the way and many dark moments of wondering if it would ever turn out. They had no plan, no formula. And many times, a feeling emerged that had no clear direction. Very similar to an artist looking at a blank canvas, not quite knowing what to paint but feeling the urge to create.
For most seeking formulas, this is the find themselves in. There is this sense ‘I want to ‘do’ something, but it is not clear what that something is. To succeed on your unique path, you must trust this place and learn to let it incubate. This place of not knowing is a very challenging situation to be in for one who has a keen intellect. We want to run around looking on the outside for answers. Again, this is understandable, but the truth is, if you look for such a formula, find one and follow it with all your might – you will be sadly disappointed. Eventually, you will find yourself back looking at YOUR empty pallet.
It can be helpful to have guidance during this phase, to support you in making the necessary internal inquiry, helping you to determine when and how to step forward. It is also not necessary because at some point, with faith, the door will open, and you will find yourself taking steps forward in a direction that no one else will ever follow but for you will lead you to fulfill your heart’s desires.
So there is no quintessential formula, but there are general ‘pointings’ to keep in mind:
Certainly, none of these things will satisfy your mind’s belief there must be a proven way. But if you have read this far, something in you knows you have your unique journey, and it is guaranteed to unfold as it is meant to if you allow it.