What’s the secret to being successful ?
I’m a bit of a Tim Minchin fan. I find his brand of comedy a brilliant combination of funny, edgy and also poignant and truthful. He’s a pretty wise and witty observer of human nature in my view.
And so, as per my favourite form of procrastination currently, I found myself watching a YouTube video of Tim Minchin’s speech to his old music college.
At the end of his speech, Minchin dropped three pieces of advice to the wannabe musicians and actors in the room about achieving success in the world of entertainment. They were aimed at a specific audience, but it struck me how fundamental they are to success in any career:
1) Hard work. “You have to be really, really good at what you do… You have to be a bit obsessed and if you’re lucky (the hard work) won’t suck, because you love it.“
There is no short cut or trick to success. There is no business technique or snazzy social media account that is going to make any serious difference to your ultimate success. At the end of the day, it’s down to working working really, really hard so that ideally you are the best at what you do. It probably means making some sacrifices along the way in terms of your social life…but if you love what you do, you won’t mind and it won’t seem like a chore. If it does – stop. You are in the wrong career!
2) Authenticity. “Do not make the mistake of thinking that little old you is not interesting to the world…. You will have something that no one else has and identifying that is your key to a beautiful career.”
How you define what you do, is up to you. It’s no good just trying to emulate another successful person in your industry, climbing the corporate career ladder in a specific industry simply because it pays well or offers security or because people tell you that that’s what you should do. You need to find your own career and do it your way.
You need to figure out who you are, what you’re good at, and what you have to offer. This can take some time and it’s tempting to try to mould yourself into being a certain way, to try to force yourself down a certain route that you are uncomfortable with or change your true self to ‘fit’ with a gap in the market you think you’ve spotted or how you perceive a ‘traditional’ leader to be. But you’ll never be happy or truly successful if you’re not able to be your true self.
Minchin describes how his career began in earnest in his late twenties when he stopped trying to be what other people wanted him to be, and allowed himself to be his whole self on the stage. The moment he allowed himself to be authentic his career took off.
This applies to your workplace too. How will you ever really thrive – deliver successfully and feel fulfilled – if you’re stuck in a culture trying hard not to be a square peg in a round hole? Work out your unique selling points and what you love, embrace them and find an environment where you can live them. This will take you far further than trying to be someone you’re not.
3) Kindness. ‘It seems so obvious, but it’s amazing how many people fail to understand its importance.’
As Minchin acknowledges there are certainly ‘successful’ a*seholes in life. But you are far more likely to succeed if you exhibit kindness to everyone you come across in your world – from the waiter in the cafe getting your order wrong to the colleague who you feel you have nothing in common with. Not only will being kind – even when you feel like being the opposite – make you feel good, but it will be key to your success too. People are drawn to others who are kind – they’ll chose to work with you, whether that is within your own team or you being invited to join someone else’s team.
You will also never know when being unkind will come back to “bite you on the bum” (Minchin speak!). Perhaps you’ll need to ask a favour of the waiter when you’ve forgotten to book a table for a VIP or may be the annoying work colleague will rise to be your boss. What goes around comes around, as they say. It pays to always be kind.