Persistence and self-discipline key pillars of success

I am a good student of history and an avid reader of biographies, which are historical accounts of people written by others.

One of the key reasons I like biographies is the inspiration I get from knowing how people navigate the ups and downs of life.

It is so energising, reassuring and humbling to know that whatever situation you find yourself in, others have gone through better or worse. Either way, you are not alone.

In matters of success, it is notable that every great achievement of humankind has been preceded by a long period of hard, concentrated work until the job was done. Exceptions to this mantra are a rarity in any generation.

In nearly every success story, we find that the ability to select one most important task, to begin it, and then to concentrate on it single-mindedly until it is complete is the secret to high levels of entrepreneurial success and personal productivity.

This single-mindedly always follows a path of good learning and preparations and may be disrupted by temporary failures, disappointments and detours.

In my favourite book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success in life.

After analysing several highly successful people he coined what he called a 10,000-hour rule.

The 10,000-hour rule simply states that one needs at least 10,000 hours to gain mastery in any field.

Several other studies point out that it takes more or less the same time to achieve meaningful success in any particular field.

For example, a study conducted by John Hayes, a cognitive psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University investigated the role of effort, practice and knowledge in top performers.

He based his study on thousands of musical pieces produced between 1685 and 1900, with the core objective of establishing how long after one becomes interested in music it takes to become world-class.

He concentrated on 500 popular pieces considered masterpieces, frequently played to the world and studied 76 composers who created them.

Quite remarkably, he established that almost all the masterpieces were written after 10 years of the composer’s career. Out of 500, there were only three exceptions, which were written in years eight and nine.

It is also notable that not a single person produced incredible work without putting in a decade of practice first, not even a genius like Mozart.

Performing a task single-mindedly requires that once you begin something, you keep working at it without diversion or distraction until it is accomplished.

This is a problem with many people. Even if they may be in a particular business for more than 10,000 hours they don’t gain mastery or success because they don’t focus on it 100 percent. They keep hopping from one task or business to another and in the end they can be best described as jacks of all trades and masters of none.

In achieving high level of success, the single greatest ingredient is self-discipline, which Elbert Hubbard defined as “the ability to make yourself do what you should do when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.”

Mr Kiunga is a business trainer and the author of The Art of Entrepreneurship: Strategies to Succeed in a Competitive Market

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.