It’s easy to forget that successful people are imperfect. It’s convenient to look at their lives as abundant, creative, exciting, luxurious and comfortable.

But that hasn’t been the case for most successful people.

Actually, most of them would look at their journey as one of many stumbling blocks, setbacks and failures. They know what it’s like to go back to the drawing board again…and again…and again. Take Oprah for example. She was born into a poor family where women for the most part can only choose a couple options for their life’s work. It took a lot for Oprah to get to the top.

All we see when we look at Oprah now is the tip of the iceberg: all the great successes of owning her own magazine, her own TV show and network and so on. As you know, the tip of the iceberg is the smallest part and what lies beneath the water are the obstacles she needed to overcome.

The Prevailing Characteristic that Brings Success

So what’s the key to success?

Quite simple to say, but harder to live out: persistence in action

Studies have found that success is just as dependent on confidence as it is on competence, and low confidence results in inaction. Taking action can support your belief in your ability to succeed. Confidence grows through hard work, through success, and even through failure.

Who has more confidence then? The one who gets back up every time to try again, knowing he or she may not succeed. Those are the people we admire as a society. We often see them as the touching stories that journalists tell about athletes that have overcome great adversity to compete in the Olympics. Or the CEO who came from nothing.

These stories pull on our heartstrings because we can relate to them and we fall in love with these people because we see ourselves in them.

Then why is it so scary for us to persist?

Honestly, we have everyday stories of people doing the same. It often doesn’t look very dignified or special, but then again, Oprah’s journey wasn’t either…until it was. We fear failing in the eyes of others. We fear being judged and not accepted.

Yet, when I look at the touching stories of successful people, I accept them immediately with all my heart. If you can turn such acceptance onto yourself (admittedly not easy!), you find ways to persist, to keep going until your dream is fulfilled.

Reminding Yourself to Dare Greatly

Now when I look back at it and can say that I have transitioned jobs within three months of starting a job search and went from $26,000 a year to over $100,000 in the first 6 years of my career, I realize how much I persisted.

But not every moment of my career journey has been rainbows and unicorns.

I struggled with managers that didn’t appreciate me, boredom from the work, sexual harassment, financial woes.

I also reminded myself often about why I’m doing what I’m doing in my career; I set my intention on my vision for my life.

And I often have gone back to this passage of one of Teddy Roosevelt’s most famous speeches:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Set your intention on your vision and don’t pay attention to the critics. You will empower and accept yourself when you choose to dare greatly.

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