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Mar 15th, 2021 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

The Common Denominator of Success

Recently I rediscovered a gem of speech from the 1940s. Albert E. N. Gray delivered a keynote at the annual conference of the National Association of Life Underwriters where he laid out his findings on “what makes you successful”.

I remember reading the transcript of his speech many years ago when I was in college; after watching the iconic movie Glengarry Glen Ross and talking about it with my college friends.

Gray’s speech is easy to summarize: Do the things that others don’t like to do. Or in Gray’s own words:

The common denominator of success – secret of success of every individual who has ever been successful – lies in the fact that he or she formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.

He goes on to point out that the reason successful people form the habit of doing this, whereas “failures” (his words) don’t, is that successful people have purpose and the desire for pleasing results as opposed to the desire for pleasing methods.

While re-reading Gray’s words, delivered some 80 years ago, I couldn’t help but relate this to not only personal but also business success. I strongly believe that successful businesses are built on the habit of solving the hard problems for your customers. The ones most others don’t want to touch as they are too hard, too unpleasant, too frustrating to deal with for most. But of course, once you do, you solve real customer pain points for which your customers gladly will compensate you.

Too many companies are solving the easy problem. The one which is fun, pleasant and simple to solve. To solve the hard ones we need conviction, perseverance, patience. And a belief into something which is bigger than ourselves – our purpose – to pull us forward.

Success comes from doing the things which others don’t like to do.

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