The Secret of Success by Spencer Lum

Happy Friday! Things are shaping up with the workshop. I have two final spots remaining. Don’t miss out! The deadline is next Tuesday, and what better way to spend time over the weekend than working on your submission? Awesome stuff! You’ll not only get to hang out with a really cool bunch of people, and you’ll not only get to do some really intense shooting, and you’ll not only get some great feedback from yours truly, but you’ll get to share in all of the amazing insights like what you’re about to read below. How much better could life get?

Read all about the workshop >

And, for today, I will offer my quick and dirty summary of everything you need to know to survive in the modern world.


There are a lot of roads that lead to Rome. Some are littered with roadblocks, others paved and pure. But whatever religion suits you, whether you believe in Referral Engines, Free Prizes, or Starting With Why, you’re still going to have to figure most of it out on your own. It’s not a matter of what works and what doesn’t. It’s that we can’t digest the big picture without putting together the pieces of the puzzle ourselves. That’s just how it is. But whatever you do, whatever you’re after, here are five things worth keeping in mind.

1. Fear sucks. Forget fear.
Almost every business book I read in some way, in some fashion, through some means, deals with this issue. Most people would rather do nothing than succeed, if they have to fail first. To help you, some books identify fear. Others inspire you so much you forget about it. Some tell you all the ways it will ruin in your life. Some tell you all the things you will get after you get past it. But whether you need the shot of courage, or you need the fear of fear itself, it is the ultimate inhibitor. Do not listen to fear. Fear was made for people in caves being chased by tigers. Not for people in sales meetings showing portfolios.

2. Tricks suck. Long live tricks.
They’re gimmicks and short cuts. They’re limited and specific. But they do the trick, so to speak. They also become addictions, turning us into tip-addled junkies waiting for the next fix. Kind of like this list right here. Just keep your eyes on the prize. You’re in it to be better. To find you. To do all that gushy stuff protagonists live for in the dusty, old novels that no one bothers to read any longer. But, hey, it was enough to inspire writers to write those gushy novels, wasn’t it? You’re not in it to win it. Forget means-to-the-ends thinking, which, ironically, always seems to peter out at some point. It’s not all about the bottom line. Use ‘em, abuse ‘em, and give ‘em a try. But keep your eye on the prize. You are the prize. At their best, tricks keep us moving (see point 5). At their worst, they keep us stuck.

3. Be different
You can call it why. You can call it purpose. You can call it a brand or a USP or whatever you want. But you’ve gotta be different. This isn’t because the parts of you that are the same as everyone else don’t matter. They matter very much. In fact, that’s how you keep on track. It’s your compass to let you know how other people live and see things. It’s where connection comes from. But focus on the different.

Focus there for three reasons. First, because there is no way to explain what makes you worthwhile without addressing the differences. Second, it’s too easy to be similar (see point 1), because we know similar is acceptable. It’s a pat on the back. At a boy. Go get ‘em tiger. But you can do better than that. Finally, third, it’s in different that you’ll find purpose. I don’t know why. It’s just how it is. OK, I have a few theories. But not for today. It’s exceptionally hard to know what’s really different about you. You’re playing detective to yourself, and, in the most uncooperative fashion, your body simply won’t give you all the clues at once. To know your purpose is to know the meaning of life. Heady stuff. Most people spend a life trying to figure it out. Don’t assume all you need is an hour in a coffee shop with some pen and paper after reading the right book.

4. Care about others
It’s good for community. It’s good for life. It’s good for you. It’s good for everything. Do it. There is a reason we have empathy. There’s a reason we react to others. And it’s not just to get great business ideas. The business benefit? Well, that’s just a side effect. At least it should be. Don’t wait for someone to prove to you that it works as a way of cashing-in before you do it.

5. Do first. Believe second.
Sometimes, you’ve just gotta go with your gut in life. That’s how it is. Not persuasive enough? How about this. Neuroscience shows that many unconscious decisions actually exceed our ability to intellectually comprehend problems. So stop reading. Start doing. Forget about convincing yourself. If you’re busy doing, you’ll find the answers.

Think about it. Living in caves way back when. No Starbucks. No playlist. No cool notepad with the the cardboard paper and the arty notes to jot to ourselves. Just lions and tigers and bears chomping at the bit to chomp on us. We still had to figure things out. There was no user manual to tell us what to do. And thinking in an age of guttural utterances was surely something very different than what it is now. But we still figured things out.

Perhaps I simplify. But don’t underestimate your instinct. The body feels and observes, even when we don’t know it. Which is all to say that if you wait for things to be proven before you act, you’re toast. You’ll never get ahead that way. Actions create learning and change and thought. They are the things that result in clues about who we really are (see point 3). They let us put together the puzzle and inspire ideas. Forget the stumbling along the way. You’ll get the proverbial bruise here and cut there (see point 1), but do it anyway. Do, and you will believe. Then you’ll find purpose. Which will let you care about others and forget fear. Which is really the trick.