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The Secrets to Success, Revealed – and validated statistically!

So, guess what?

All that stuff that you’re told to do that will increase your chances of being successful? All those “secrets to success”?

Do them.

Well, most of them. We’ve got the statistics to prove it.

In March 2012 we surveyed 149 people about their “success habits” in an attempt to identify whether any of these commonly accepted “secrets of success” actually do correlate to success. Expressed differently, are these habits linked in any way to actual success?

From these results, we looked at people who self-declared themselves satisfied with their level of success and those who weren’t. Each group was then tested against the factors of success. The results were quite clear.

Here are some of the major findings (you can download the entire report at the bottom of the page):

Key Finding #1: Most of the behaviours and habits that are commonly accepted as having a positive impact on one’s success are very likely to be used by people who consider themselves successful.

This is significant in that it demonstrates very clearly that people who are very satisfied with their level of success are also very likely to employ many of the commonly accepted “habits” of success. A full list of the factors of success we looked at can be found in the PDF document of the survey, but they include things like:

  • I block off time in my schedule to do work.
  • When I start my day, I get the most important ONE (or two, or three) things done first before I do anything else.
  • I get my work done first thing in the morning.
  • I do what I am best at and delegate or outsource the rest.
  • I plan my entire workday in advance.
  • I have written goals that I consult on a regular basis (weekly, monthly) in order to plan my daily or weekly tasks.

Particularly interesting is the dichotomy between the two groups. People who consider themselves “Satisfied” with their success are significantly more likely to employ these factors than their counterparts in the “Unsatisfied” group. Have a look at these examples.

What’s particularly telling about these graphs is the dichotomy between the habits of those who are “Satisfied” with their success and those who aren’t. If you are someone who reported yourself as being “Satisfied” there is a high likelihood that you employed many of these factors of success.

Key Finding #2: There was no correlation found between self-declared levels of success and the factors related to Business/Marketing activities, which include items such as taking the time for networking, social media and attending webinars.

No correlation was found between the level of involvement in business activities that are commonly accepted to contribute to success – such as allocating time for networking, using social media, participating in webinars, reading and participating in relevant forums, and using technology to automate as well as a measure to track marketing efforts – and the self-declared levels of success.

Now before someone runs off with a headline like “Social Media proven to not contribute to success”, let’s clarify what this finding is *actually* saying.

Unlike the factors in the categories other than this one – where if you reported yourself as “Satisfied” with your level of success you likely employed those factors – for the factors in the category “Business and Marketing Activities” we simply cannot say the same about these activities. Meaning, there is no way to prove that if you consider yourself successful, you likely do these things. You might. You might not. But the link isn’t proven.

Key Finding #3: The level of satisfaction with one’s success in the area of “Wealth” is primarily correlated with execution and with no other category of success factors.

Essentially what this finding is saying is that if you reported yourself as being “satisfied” with your level of success , then it is also very likely that you employed the factors of success that are grouped in the “execution” category and with greater frequency than those who are “unsatisfied”. In other words, respondents who scored high their level of satisfaction with their “Wealth” also scored high on their ability to “get the work done”.

Key Finding #4: The level of satisfaction with one’s success in the area of “Relationships” is not proven to correlate with any of the factors.

This suggests that whether or not you employ any of these factors of success, it has no connection to your level of satisfaction with your relationships.

Key Finding #5: Gender, age, marital status, and whether or not you have children under 18, have no correlation with the overall satisfaction with one’s level of success.

Essentially, success doesn’t seem to favour the young, single and childless and more than the old, married and multiplying. There is hope for working parents, after all!

Whether you are male or female, married or not, or have children or not – does not make you more or less likely to be satisfied with your overall satisfaction with your success. Success doesn’t seem to discriminate, and being younger, single and unmarried does not make you more likely to be satisfied with your success than does being older, married with children.

This is quite intuitive if you consider success to be more than just “Wealth”. In our study, we considered that it embodied many dimensions including health, relationships, passions, engaging work, growth, contribution, and meaning & purpose in life. Each phase of life comes with its own contribution to our feeling of success.

If you were wondering, as I just did, whether any of these demographic dimensions correlate specifically with satisfaction in the area of “Wealth”, I just ran over to check: nope. The only statistically-valid possibility is a very weak correlation with age, and that’s inconclusive.

There are other findings that are noteworthy, too…

The complete explanation of all the findings of our survey is in our nifty report “Survey on Success Factors and Productive Marketing” which you can download by clicking on the link below.

(you might want to right-click and choose “save as”)

Survey post-mortem

Personally, we are pretty thrilled with the results of the data. We started this project with the intention of statistically proving whether there is a link between all the conventional wisdom about success and actual success. While measuring such things is always tricky, we reached a conclusion that suggests that it’s not just all tripe. The behaviors of success seem to leave clues and we just have to follow them.

Your thoughts?

We would love to hear what you have to say about our survey. We’re the results interesting? Expected? Thought-provoking? Were you aware of any of these secrets to success? Do you have an interesting correlation you want us to look at (hey, my statistician put out more spreadsheets full of ginormous table than I know what to do with). Hit us up in the comments for discussion.

Oh yeah, and please share these results! πŸ˜€

About Peter Vogopoulos

Peter Vogopoulos is a marketing and business coach, university lecturer and co-founder of Firepole Marketing.

33 thoughts on “The Secrets to Success, Revealed – and validated statistically!

  1. Wow, that is some eye opening results! Thank you for gathering and sharing these. I am going to have to change how I schedule and approach everything now. I have always kept larger goals, but haven’t yet broken them down to planned daily tasks, which is impacting my success.

  2. As Kraig said, great information. It has certainly made me think of the way I do things and how I possibly need to change some of those things. Thanks very much for the insight. I have just started following you guys this week following the webinar with KKSmart and I like what seems to be an honest attitude. It’s very refreshing.

  3. This is great. It is always good to see what actual results are instead of just what we think and observe. Great Job. I am looking for a new task tracking system and I was wondering what the most popular was on the survey. I didn’t see that in the results. Thanks.

    • HI Will,

      Actually, I didn’t get that stuff into the report in time, but there are only a few (interesting tidbits) that I’ll get into a follow-up post:
      — The systems and tools were all over the map. This makes sense. One person’s amazing system is another person’s pain in the neck.

      — The ones who labelled themselves “Satisifed” are more likely to not use a pre-made system: They either use their own or paper and pen.

      More to come!

      Peter

  4. It’s nice to see the results considering I had taken the survey. I am one of those people who feels happy and successful. But I admit I fudged some of my answers a bit. Just a bit, I promise. I got this feeling that I should be more organized and do more planning to be successful. I suppose it’s true, but I like shooting from the hip sometimes.

    I’m glad social media wasn’t significant. I used to be addicted to social media, but once I launched my business, I hardly have time. Too busy doing actual work and talking on phone/email to prospects. I do use Twitter as a sort of networking address book, though.

    • Such a cool admission — and I’d add that (although they didn’t test for this) in my experience (I’ve studied a ridiculous amount of the world’s achievers) ‘fudging answers’ is actually a hyper-common trait among the successful as well πŸ˜‰ You’re on the right track in my book πŸ˜€

      • Yes, I did worry about the fudging of answers just a tad. That people would fill out the survey with the way thing ought to be and not how they are. Question selection, sample size, and a good p-value would hopefully dispel this concern (I think).

        Peter

  5. Phew! I am also glad social media aren’t top of the priority list – definitely avoidance behaviour on my part.

    What I particularly like about this post is the adherence to the good old scientist-practitioner model from my youthful days as as Psychology trainee – glad it hasn’t gone out of style and most happy that it has found a new field to play in! So much better than the clap trap validation that so often gets wheeled out to support a point of view.

    OMG – I’m beginning to sound such a grumpy old woman…

    • Linda, I totally hear you. The beauty of this is definitely their ‘hard data’ experimentation perspective.

      At the same time, I generally find it funny that people take “recently done studies (with sample sizes of … say… 149 :P)” over centuries of timeless, undeniable wisdom, consistently repeated by 1000s of high-achieving success-masters in every culture, during every time period/

      Maybe it’s a right-brain left-brain thing, eh? πŸ˜‰

    • Not at all! – I am so glad you appreciated this dimension of it, since it was very important to me to have some attempt at rigor. I mean, it’s not “American Journal of Psychology” rigor, but as you so eloquently put it, a little step up from what I usually see (at least I hope it was).

      Or maybe I”m a just gumpy old man, too. πŸ™‚

      Peter

    • Hi Jason,

      Thanks, buddy. It was an incredible amount of work, but much worth it.
      Couldn’t have done it without our awesome readers, though.

      On which level was it hilarious, just to share the chuckle?

      Peter

      • I hear ya man, and I think you were perfectly suited to do it. It really shines and this is some of the most tangible and relevant stats of seen in these areas. The world is ready for ’em πŸ™‚

        As for the chuckle, it might only be funny to me, but…

        There’s 7 billion people on Earth, currently (and tons more have come before).

        Some are generally fumbling through life, and others are masterfully creating and contributing and impacting on scales that are borderline scary (Kardashian’s twitter followers, Buffet’s fortune, Zuckerberg’s connectivity).

        Personally, I find it hilarious that studies “open eyes” for people on something that has been beyond obvious in every era.

        I find it funny studies “open eyes” for people who were all children, and all had the fast-learning, hyper-successful attitudes of children… and somehow forgot them.

        I find it funny that studies “open eyes” for people on universal laws like “like attracts like” or “attitude matters”.

        But that just makes me value the studies even more. Thank you so much again for this. I know I’ll be referencing people to this post, Peter.

        • Such a serious comment warrants a much more serious response than I will provide, so I apologize in advance.

          A little known thing about me is that despte my obvious current physical malformity known as a big belly — which is quite evident if you are a student of Firepole Marketing and you have the pleasure of seeing me and my girth in the intro videos — I used to be a water polo athlete.

          This was waaaay back when I used to live in Greece. Our coach, a crazy Bulgarian man of few words who looked like a mafia hitman and took no crap, used to make us do drills *every* *fricking* *practice*. It didn’t matter if you started yesterday or if you were a five-year vet. You lined up and did dribbles, passes, pop & push shots, push passes, stop & go, drive/pullup/lob, and all matter of other tedious drills.

          Finally, one day a newer teammate with obvious suicidal tendencies decided to challenge this practice with a question:

          “Mister (we all called him, “Mister”), why are we doing drills when we already know this stuff”?

          He looked over at his direction, raised his sunglasses (horrors!) and threw his a piercing gaze, matched only by his icy response: “The day you stop doing this stuff, is the day you start forgetting it”.

          And then a ray of death exited his eyeballs and my teammate was instantly vaporized. Well, that part’s not true, but the rest is.

          I guess.. we forgot how, Jason.
          But thanks for making us remember πŸ™‚

          • Hahaha… I was explaining why I found it all funny, and I came off as ‘serious’? lol — that’s even funnier!

            And then you respond with a funny story?

            *awesome*. Best stats-survey thread ever πŸ˜€

            “Mister” sounds like quite the taskmaster.

            And I think that’s the key here, life is NOT a taskmaster, drilling you to *make sure you remember* – and so, people get lazy and forget.

            The one’s who shine are the one’s who master themselves, be their own coach and do their own drills — just for them.

            They’re the one’s who *remember*, and I don’t imagine we’d need these stats to tell Jay-Z that focus is important or tell Bruce Lee that aiming for more and pushing past plateaus is key.

            Either way, fantastic survey, results, info-graphics, ideas, comments, stories, and in general… everything.

            πŸ™‚

  6. I didn’t mention this is my original comment, but I geek out on survey research. I have a master’s degree and specialized in statistics, research methods, and measurement. I spent countless hours crunching metrics such as Cronbach’s alpha and debating the gazillion types of validity. A sample size of 149 using a self-selected, non-randomized sample will not get you published in a journal, but it makes a great launch pad for discussion. One day I’d like to design and analyze a survey like you have. It is a great way to engage a community of spirited people,

    • And I didn’t mention this in mine:

      I *love* how you ‘geek out’ on surveys and even more, how you see them as a way to engage a community of spirited people.

      Fantastic.

      As someone who discusses success with people… like… non-stop, I deeply appreciate these powerful graphs, data, and conclusions.

      I can see myself linking others to this post down the road.

    • Caroline,

      Master’s degree and specialized in statistics and research methods???
      Where were you last month??? πŸ˜€

      Thanks for liking our humble attempt at a survey. I’m nowhere near a stats expert and yup, this won’t get us publushed, but it was a ton of fun and generating some interesting suggestions. Thanks so much for being a survey geek!

      Peter

      • Peter, if you ever want some coaching and inspiration, look me up when you feel like talking stats. I’ve taught and tutored in stats and I feel that people don’t know their potential to grasp math and science. Especially girls. I almost failed my first stats class and all I needed was some caring teaching. Luckily I got that.

        • Hi Caroline,

          I’ll certainly think of you when I garner up the courage to do another one of these!!

          I did enjoy it, however — plus, I’n not a statistics newbie — my background is telecommunications engineering, which is all about statistics. So I did understand a *few* things when I was getting counsel from my statistician. πŸ™‚ But like I said, I’m no expert.

  7. Productivity at its best!

    I’ll start blocking off other activities (time) when actually doing my work and get the most important thing done, first thing in the morning.

    That definitely helped me in the past but for some reason I stopped doing it. I guess it is time to retake that and see what happens, thanks Peter & Danny!

    Sergio

  8. Interesting stuff. For some survey items in Key Finding #1, though, I wonder which direction the causal arrow is going. For instance …

    When I start my day, I get the most important ONE (or two, or three) things done first before I do anything else.

    That assumes you have autonomy in your scheduling, and you won’t be interrupted by somebody who needs a new task done right now.

    I do what I am best at and delegate or outsource the rest.

    If you’re just starting out in your career, you may be the person delegated to. If you’re just beginning an entrepreneurial endeavor, you may not yet have the funds to delegate tasks to people who can do them better than you.

    In other words, you may have the ability to do these important things that breed success because you are already successful!

  9. Peter, my fourth comment for today! Whao, I so much love all the articles i’m reading today on your blog, thanks to Danny Inn who brought me in here today.

    One other thing i will like to add for success is habit of hiring experts to get some things done.

    Sheyi

  10. Hey Danny and Peter,

    Amazing insights! Thanks for sharing this survey with us πŸ™‚

    The study seems to suggest to get your goals straight, write it down, plan your day ahead and get things done… early!

    Because nothing, not gender, age, marital status and even children matter when it comes to your ability to be productive.

    Keep it up guys! I know you guys are walking the talk πŸ™‚

    Cheers!

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