Time-Tested Principles of Success

Success is inherent in all of us, and yet we often find it quite difficult to attain. The Public Speaker has 3 time-tested principles of success from western philosophy and shaped by the American Dream.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #173

Time-Tested Principles of Success

by Lisa. B. Marshall

David Brinkley, an American newscaster said, “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” 

How do you define success?

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I think many of us find success somewhat elusive. If you ever find yourself awake at night thinking about ways to achieve success or ways to reach your goals, you’re not alone.

Today, I thought I’d lend a little assistance and talk about 3 time-tested principles of success.

The Classic Principles of Success

The self-help and motivational industry is filled with books that deal with the mechanics of success and how to achieve it. This is not a recent trend; in fact, a great portion of today's motivational literature on success is based on timeless truths.

Success is inherent in all of us, and yet we often find it quite difficult to attain. And although success is a universal concept, it is viewed differently among different societies. The 3 classic principles I’ll be talking about today come from western philosophy and have been shaped by the American Dream.

Principle #1: Education and Knowledge of Self

Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates believed in self-knowledge as the basis for a virtuous and happy life. This philosophical tenet, however, came with a stern observation. Socrates warned against the use of knowledge and education solely for the purpose of obtaining material success.

Since most of us view education as a springboard to improved employment opportunities and higher wages, how should we handle the warning by Socrates? The key is to remember that we are more likely to achieve success if we learn about ourselves and our world, but not if the only purpose of our knowledge quest is to get rich quick.

Are you happy with how much you know about the world and yourself?

If the answer is yes, then you are on your way to a successful life. Since you are listening to or reading this podcast, it’s likely that you take advantage of educational opportunities that come your way. Always keep in mind the Socratic link between education and knowing of self that is vital to achieving success. You’re already on your way!

Principle #2: Overcoming Failure and Persevering

Are you willing to accept failure and rejection gracefully? Are you willing to learn from your mistakes? Visionaries like J.K. Rowling and the late Steve Jobs achieved incredible success, but their path to greatness was peppered by episodes of trial and error.

In the early 1990s, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling experienced numerous rejections when she shopped her manuscripts to publishers. Speaking on the topic of business tenacity, Steve Jobs once mentioned that perseverance makes up half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from those who don't succeed.

Fear of failure is not conducive to success.

The kind of lifelong learning that comes from trying, failing, and trying again will eventually lead you to succeed—but only if you are willing to learn from your mistakes. Risk management is one thing, but playing it too safe is something different. This is a balance that I am trying to teach my children. 

We’ve all heard the phrase "failure is not an option." But that is an unreasonable personal philosophy. The only downside to failures is failing to learn from them.

Principle #3: Avoid the Cult of Economic Success

Finally, how do you measure success? Anytime you accomplish something that is important to you can be defined as successful moment. Avoid narrowing your definition of success to purely financial outcomes. If you allow yourself to fall prey to the cult of economic success, you will be at risk of losing focus of what success really is.

While there is nothing wrong with the drive to acquire wealth, the problem with the cult of economic success is that it often eschews other important aspects of life, such as the development of character and the application of ethical values. Any approach to success that is solely centered on getting rich overnight is bound to leave out crucial aspects of life.

Achieving success involves self-knowledge, perseverance, setting of realistic goals, and the establishment of priorities. The average person is bound to experience success in life, but if they fail to see life in this fashion, they are often left wanting and disappointed.

So there you have it: the classic principles of success are essentially nugget-sized facts of wisdom. You can spend your life dreaming about success, or you can choose to wake up and apply the time-tested truths listed above.

This podcast was written for listener Martin Stepka in response to our interaction on Facebook. Thanks Martin!

This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker. Passionate about communication; your success is my business.


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About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.