The Simple Secret of the Most Successful People

At this year’s Academy Awards, Viola Davis won her first Oscar at the age of 51. While now she is one of the most revered actresses of her time, she wasn’t even a Hollywood “name” until her forties. Davis has often discussed her difficult childhood, growing up in abject poverty, and for many people it’s shocking to realize her long road to success in an age when most “stars” burn out fast and bright in their twenties and thirties. But it’s clear that she has achieved much more than others in her situation might. So what’s her secret?

When you think about how to be more successful in your own life, what are the skills that come to mind to help you achieve that goal? If you said “intelligence,” you’re both right and wrong, according to Brian Tracy, author of GET SMART: How to Think and Act Like the Most Successful and Highest-Paid People in Every Field.

Intelligence, Tracy says, is not a matter of IQ, grades, or years of study. Instead it is a “way of acting.” And when planning for success, your most important step is to learn to act in service of long-term consequences instead of short-term results. The most successful, intelligent people are the ones that have “time perspective.” They are intensely future-oriented—years, decades, or even generations. Their day-to-day decisions are based on this “long-time perspective,” and result in ways of acting in the present that increase the likelihood of success in the future.

So how do you develop long-time perspective? According to Tracy, project forward three-to-five years, and imagine that your life is ideal in every way (career, relationships, health, and finances). What makes that life different from your present? What do you need to change right now to start thinking ahead and create your ideal future? Choose one action that you can take right now to create your ideal future—and do it. Tapping into this way of thinking and acting will lead you, like Viola Davis, to the pinnacle of your ambitions.


~Post by Jeanette Shaw–a former TarcherPerigee editor now living the glamorous freelance life, which means yoga pants every day. She can be found at jseditorial.com.

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