Four strategies for success

By tutor and life coach Muriel McClymont

I remember watching the former co-founder of Apple Inc Steve Jobs addressing students at Stanford University a few years ago. I found it spellbinding and motivating and recommend you watch it.

Jobs is a great subject to study for success factors because he wasn’t born with social or financial advantages and no one opened any doors for him. I believe the key factors for his success were:

  • he was always very focused
  • he never considered giving up
  • an inbuilt optimism meant he always believed it would work out somehow
  • he didn’t recognise failure but analysed hurdles as feedback
  • he was innovative and sponsored creativity in those around him.

These are the main traits that made the difference between Steve Jobs and many, many other talented and clever people who didn’t make it. If you speak to any successful person or see them interviewed on television, I’m sure you will identify all of these elements in some shape or form.

However, we don’t all have to be CEO of Apple Inc - success is a very personal thing that everyone defines differently. So, the first step we need to take is work out what success means to us if we're going to achieve it.

We have to own our ambition. There’s no point in spending all that time and energy being successful in order to fulfill someone else’s dream, or as author Dr Stephen Covey said: “…climbing the ladder of success, to discover it’s leaning against the wrong wall”.

To me, success is spending the majority of my time doing activities I enjoy and getting paid for them! So Steve Jobs’ successor can relax, there will be no competition from me!

Once you’ve worked out what being successful means to you, and what you want to be successful in, you are well on the way to working on the first strategy:


This isn’t necessarily a focus on success but a focus in a specific direction. Successful people usually care a lot about what they do. If they don’t, it’s hard to take it past keeping a roof over your head. So focus is often accompanied by a passion for the job although sometimes it’s not a passion for the job but a passion for the outcome that matters most.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta I’m sure didn’t have a passion for working in slums and dealing with so many tragic events. However, she cared deeply about improving the lives of the people she did her work for.

Likewise, I don’t think adventurer Bear Grylls has a passion for eating enormous insects or drinking his own urine but he does have a passion for personal challenge and getting a regular adrenalin fix!


“Never give up – never surrender!” was the slogan in the star trek spoof Galaxy Quest. Great catch phrase, and in the clip, although it’s a spoof, it demonstrates the point that if you have no intention of giving up, you have to find something else to try.

Inventor Thomas Edison took 3,000 attempts to create a working light bulb - what if he’d given up at 2,999? As he said: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”.

So, perseverance, persistence and stamina have to be the successful persons armoury. According to film producer Samuel Goldwyn: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”


One of the key components of confidence is optimism. It’s about the recognition that you are on a journey, and are learning at every stage. Every new attempt has the benefit of all the experience gained from previous attempts.

I’m not talking about a blinkered and inappropriate optimism. I’m talking about a conviction that if things are not going well, that it is temporary, and somehow, if you stick with it, keep trying and keep adjusting your methods, things will come right. It’s not about waiting for someone to wave a magic wand, the key words here are, ‘keep trying’.

An optimistic person does not see a set back as failure but as feedback or a step a long the way to success. And, this sort of attitude means that you are less likely to feel personally wounded so you don’t need to waste vast amounts of time feeling bad. You can just get straight onto working out what you can learn from that event, and what you can do differently next time.


Success depends on elements of creativity, innovation and flexibility. It’s about putting your stamp on whatever you’re doing and, if it’s not working, coming up with new ideas to try.

Remember we are all unique. No one has an identical set of genes, experiences, skills and talents. We all have something different to offer and we all have the capacity to be creative in our own field.

Improve your success rates

When you put this all together, it’s a pretty potent cocktail for success. So, as a starter to improve your success rates, ask yourself the following:

  • Are you clear about where you want to take your career?
  • How resilient are you? Do you have a record for persevering or giving up?
  • Where are you on the optimism scale?
  • Do you think in terms of feedback or failure?
  • How innovative are you when things don’t work out as planned?

If you mark each of these questions out of 10, and gauge by your answers that there are some areas that need work, you can start improving your scores immediately, and take that information as feedback, and not feel bad about it!

You can sit down and brainstorm how you can do something about the areas that need work, in a creative and innovative way.

You can feel good that you are moving in the right direction, and things will work out for you in the future.

Helping you succeed

For free classroom-based and online learning opportunities that could help you be more successful, we’ve a wide range of opportunities at FEU Training specifically designed for creative freelances.

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