Having the Will to Succeed

She was born to an unwed mother.  She spent the first six years of her life living in rural poverty.  Her clothes were made of potato sacks.  Her grandmother was abusive but taught her to read when she was only three.  Growing up, she was molested by family members and their friends.  When she was 14, she gave birth to a son who died shortly after birth.  She was an honor student in high school and finished second in the nation in dramatic interpretation.  When she won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant, she was hired by a local radio station.  That was the start of her career in media.

Today, Oprah Winfrey is often thought of as the most influential woman in the world.  Her work in television, her books, and her movies have made her a multi-billionaire.  She is also known for her philanthropy and her Angel Network supports numerous charitable projects.  She has been recognized for her work with a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Oprah Winfrey is an exemplar of the will to succeed.  One of our greatest human mysteries is why some people rise above desperate situations to succeed in life, while others cannot.  The will to succeed is a trait that all of us need, even when our personal situations are much better than those confronting Oprah Winfrey.

What do we know about the will to succeed?  Most of our insights are anecdotal, but insightful.

  • As far as we know, there is no DNA that leads to a will to succeed.
  • The will to succeed involves making the most out of every moment of opportunity.
  • The will to succeed involves taking prudent risks that takes us out of our comfort zone.
  • The will to succeed comes from a realization of our strengths and an unwillingness to give in to our fears.
  • The will to succeed depends on having deeply held personal values which drive our success journey.
  • The will to succeed depends on learning what doesn’t work for us and having an obsession with continuous improvement.
  • The will to succeed requires a focus on what matters rather than on what counts.
  • The will to succeed is also about sharing success with others. Without sharing success, the outcome of the will to succeed is hollow.

Can we develop the will to succeed in others?  There are strong indications that we can.  But this development must start with a person’s willingness to accept guidance followed by mentoring that is relentless, empathetic, and forceful.  Just imagine what our nation would be like if we had a commitment to help develop the will to succeed.

* * *

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”

– Vince Lombardi (Hall of Fame football coach)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.