How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

Ok, alright. The title of the post might be a bit misleading. I am a firm believer that anything you do takes a certain amount of trying. Real work, I call it. But I’ve been thinking about success a lot lately…about what it is that makes people successful and what makes them unsuccessful. What I’m discovering is, it’s not about succeeding without really trying…it’s about figuring out the right stuff to try. So here are a few things that I’ve been learning about how to succeed. It’s stuff I’m trying, and it seems to be working for me.

Never, ever, ever take things personally. I’m lousy at this…truly lousy. I think the reason I’m not great at it is because I find it to be a bit of a contradiction. This is my business. I’ve invested a great deal into it, emotionally, physically, and financially. It is intensely personal.

The ironic thing is, it’s that very emotional attachment that can get you into trouble. If a crisis hits, then it’s far too easy to let emotions take over. Suddenly you are in a reactive state, and all proactive reasoning goes out the door.

My brilliant business partner and I had a discussion about this the other day. She is one of the calmest people I know when it comes to dealing with a crisis. I asked her how she does it. She said “It’s easy. You need to become aware of the fact that your first instinct is to have an emotional reaction. Then you need to let it go.”

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Of course there’s going to be an emotional reaction to the adversity. That’s just human nature. It can’t be avoided. But take a moment to acknowledge that reaction. Then, take a deep breath, and let that emotion go. Push it aside. What lies beneath is sound judgement, reasoning, and, remarkably, the solution.

Being an entrepreneur is just about the most personal thing you can do. But it’s that very thing that can mean the difference between a good decision and a bad one. Cooler heads prevail, always.

Try to stop taking everything so personally. You’ll soon see that success is just one calm reaction away.

Lift people up. Business, to some people, is first and foremost about making gobs of money. I’ve always considered that business is about people first. The most successful businesses are the ones where people are put at the top of the heap. The way I see it, if I have happy staff, they will do good work, and then I will have happy clients. And if I have happy clients, I will have gobs of money. Kinda makes sense, eh?

It’s not hard to have happy people. Of course you have to pay them appropriately and on time, but there’s so much more to it than that. You need to lift them up. Genuinely. Effortlessly.

Lifting someone up is not about putting them on a pedestal, telling them how great they are all the time. For many people, that just makes them uncomfortable. Lifting someone up is about really listening to what people are saying. It’s about helping them find their passion. It’s about understanding what they may need from you in order to help them meet their goals. And then, it’s about genuinely, gently, placing them up so the world can see the amazing things they can do.

Try lifting people up on a daily basis. Listen, help, and give. It will come back to you tenfold.

Allow yourself to be lifted too. Often as entrepreneurs, we spend a lot of time focusing on other people. We’re so busy with our heads down, pushing forward, dealing with everything we need to do in a given day, week, and year, that we forget sometimes that other people are watching us.

This morning I received a couple of really nice messages from a friend. The words he said resonated so much with me, and were so kind and sincere, that it actually made me a bit emotional. I took myself completely by surprise at my reaction, but I was overwhelmed with the sudden realization that someone could see me this way – and that my friend probably wasn’t alone in his observation.

I am terrible at taking compliments (almost as lousy as I am at not taking things personally). But I am learning that as I’m spending all of this time putting it out there; whether it’s in the work I’m doing for my clients, through my blog, or in my online and offline relationships with people, that somehow, even in my own small way, I’m making an impact. I may not be changing the world with everything I do, but I know that all of the work that I’m doing right now, all of the sacrifices that I’m making and that my husband is making and that my family is making are worth it. Because as much as I’m lifting others, I’m being lifted too.

Try allowing yourself to be lifted up. And be grateful for the people in your life that are there to lift you. I know I am.

So what are you going to try next on the road to success?

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  • July 4, 2009 at 3:13 pm
    Penny Anderson

    Great blog, Sue! I thought I was reading about myself. I think most women have problems accepting compliments and taking things personally. And there’s no doubt that taking things personally causes more pain. I guess it’s like a lot of things — you need to work at unlearning bad habits and it doesn’t happen overnight. Your blog came at a excellent time for me when both work and family issues (a 94-year-old Mother that finally must leave her home and go into assisted living) have been overwhelming me. I’m going to try some of your suggestions and see if I can’t improve how I’m handling things and make it easier on me in the process.

    All the Best,

    Penny Anderson

  • July 5, 2009 at 7:11 am

    I, too, thought I was reading about myself. Thanks!

  • July 6, 2009 at 5:54 am


    Putting people at the top of the “business paradigm pyramid” is essentially the opposite of what companies like GM and Enron have done. And it’s a guaranteed way to be successful – even if the business fails!

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  • July 6, 2009 at 6:27 am

    Try not to take things personal — now there’s a challenge! I just try to remember, their reaction is not about me — it’s all about them. If I’m doing my job and giving 110% (which I do), then how can it be about me? It can’t.

    Lifting people up is not so hard. Being lifted up, well that’s another conversation. Every so often I get a great comment from someone on twitter – and I have to remember, the whole world is watching us. It’s nice to be noticed. I’ved learned to say “thank you” – and that’s enough! In other words – I no longer say things like “oh that was my partners idea, or I really didn’t do much”.


  • July 6, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    “It’s easy. You need to become aware of the fact that your first instinct is to have an emotional reaction. Then you need to let it go.”
    I love this line. It’s so Buddhist 🙂

    Isn’t it amazing that we don’t have to walk on people and scratch and claw for every ounce of traction! This is the kind of business person I wanted to be my whole life.

    Scrooge wouldn’t survive in a trust economy!

    Great Post!
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  • July 8, 2009 at 11:54 am

    “Lift people up” section is critical!



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