We live in a microwave society where most expect to get what they want—instantly, or at least in less than a minute. We trick ourselves into believing that fame and success can be achieved overnight, if we'll only work harder, longer and faster. We've adopted an all-or-nothing attitude that says we must either succeed or fail, there is no in between.
But there is a period in between success and failure that, for some, lasts for years.
Long ago there was a six-year-old boy who, having lost his father, was left to take on the brunt of the household responsibilities while his mother returned to full-time work. He helped to cook, clean and raise his younger siblings.
This boy held several jobs over the course of his adulthood, from insurance salesman to service station operator. He experienced devastating setbacks, financially and personally, throughout his life. But there was one constant: he loved to cook. Even more, he loved sharing his good cooking with others—and eventually that giving attitude turned into a thriving business.
That boy was Harland Sanders, the man behind a company that today sells over a billion finger-lickin' good chicken dinners around the world each year.
The most striking part of "Colonel" Sanders's story is how long his in between lasted. It wasn't until he was well into his sixties that the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand started becoming recognized as a success. Prior to this, Sanders was an ordinary man trying to make a living.
Sanders's successful business is famously based on his "secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices," but the ingredients to his success are no secret at all.
Success Ingredient #1: Passion
Despite holding down a variety of jobs, Sanders was passionate about one thing: cooking. He spent a lifetime perfecting his fried chicken recipe, and that passion eventually turned into a thriving business.
Do you have a passion? What is it and how can you express it more fully in your life? If you consider yourself to be passionless, spend some time looking back on your life to see what has excited you in the past. Only when you clarify your passion can you begin to produce the behavior that will turn your vision into reality.
Success Ingredient #2: Positive Perspective
At one point in his career, Sanders worked as a service station operator, a profession that couldn't be further from his passion for cooking. But he didn't let that stop him from sharing his passion. He began serving his homemade meals to travelers who stopped for gas, which sparked a business idea that eventually led to Kentucky Fried Chicken.
What is your perspective? If circumstances are not exactly as you had hoped, are you tapping into your passion to turn them around, or are you wallowing in negativity? Although external factors may not be ideal, your internal perspective can be just what you need to make it better. You just have to choose to think differently.
The journey to success is not always easy. There will be roadblocks along the way, yet you can choose to use your mind as a powerful tool that can work for or against you. No one else is responsible for how you choose to react to your circumstances. Regardless of the challenges you face, you can live a happy, fulfilled and successful life if you learn to use wisely the resources within you.
Success Ingredient #3: Perseverance
There are no shortcuts. Sanders's success was years in the making. It didn't happen overnight. He experienced devastating setbacks, including the one that became the catalyst for his ultimate success.
At one point in his career, his first restaurant business was forced to close and Sanders was left nearly broke. That's when he decided to sell packets of his secret chicken recipe to other restaurant owners. Even then, he did not experience immediate success. It took several attempts before he succeeded at this new business venture. But his perseverance won and led to the KFC brand we know today.
Don't give up. Success could be just around the corner. Keep in mind that slow and steady wins the race. If you've ever heard how runners train for a marathon, you know that their preparation does not occur easily. It takes time and baby steps to build the endurance and fitness needed to run those 26.2 miles, but perseverance will make it happen. Crossing the finish line and receiving the medal is the reward for all the hours of hard work and advance preparation.
Success Ingredient #4: Philanthropy
Successful people know that you help yourself when you invest in others. There is nothing more emotionally satisfying than when you give much and expect little in return. Having the willingness to support others and to help them along in their journey is reflected in the attitudes and actions of most successful people. A successful person practices and teaches understanding, tolerance and service to others.
Sanders gave generously of his time and money. He cared deeply about education. Through organizations that he established, he funded scholarships and gave aid to other deserving organizations.
Reach out to others who may be in need. Such acts of human kindness become self-reinforcing, because they answer an innate need we all harbor to connect with others in a meaningful way. Such actions give value to and help clarify your life's purpose.
Success comes from clarity of passion, recognizing that there are no shortcuts, being willing to do the work, and helping others along the way.
These lessons are as much for you as they are for those you coach and mentor. Share these success ingredients with the others in your life. More importantly still, teach others that popping these ingredients into a microwave doesn't mean instant, ready-in-a-minute success. Show them that the in between is just as important as the achievement.
You have the ingredients. Now you need only to follow the recipe to success.
DANITA JOHNSON HUGHES, Ph.D. is a healthcare
industry executive, public speaker and author of
Power from Within: Discovering What You Already Have
to Live Successfully. Through her work she inspires
people to dream big and understand the role of personal
responsibility in personal and professional success.