The Architecture of Success Stories

Success stories illustration

Most professionals aspire to achieve success in their careers; success, after all, sounds as it should be the natural outcome of years of labour at university and in the workplace. Yet, few actually manage to succeed professionally. Often, the problem for this so-called failure lies within our individual workplaces as not all support the advancement of each and every employee; the problem lies also often within ourselves. Not everyone believes that they can be the next Zuckerberg, and although you probably can’t, there’s no one to say that you can’t carve your own path and be successful at work.

Being successful at work has to do with achieving your goals, so depending on your aspirations and capabilities, you really can achieve everything and anything you set your mind to. But to do that you need to be persistent and determined. One could easily say that determination is the secret ingredient to success, and the reality is that it’s the driving force behind every major success story. Had it not been for determination, for example, JK Rowling would not be a millionaire today. Rowling had a hard time finding someone to publish the first Harry Potter novel in the series and if she had not been so persistent, the world would have probably not known about the wizarding world of Harry Potter.

Of course, not everyone can be so driven to succeed, especially if they are not passionate about their chosen subject. Being passionate is a vital component of succeeding, while it’s also important to be confident that you can get the job done. To do that, you also need to ensure that you’ve chosen your career path wisely because if there’s one thing that can guarantee success, it’s being genuinely interested in your subject matter. To ensure that you’ve made the right choice, go ahead and take our free career interests test before you read on to find out what characteristics all major success stories share.


Learning from the Best

The truth is that there isn’t a single recipe to turn you into a success story. You’ll need to discover the path to success on your own but that does not mean that you can’t learn from the mistakes and successes of others. In fact, learning from famous entrepreneurs and successful business people can actually help you adopt personality traits that will allow you to be successful at work.

1. Pursue Your True Passion

It’s not always easy to identify what you should do in life. Although many people are born certain of what it is they need to pursue in life, others drift between career choices for the better part of their lives because they are unable to understand that in order to succeed, one needs to pursue their passion. Of course, it’s not always possible for people to turn their passions into careers, as not all professions are easy to get in or profitable, but by ensuring that you are pursuing what you are really interested in, you’re increasing your chances of succeeding tenfold.

Chris Zane is one of those people that always knew what they wanted to do with their lives. Today, he owns one of the most successful bicycle stores in the United States, while he also works with organisations that purchase bikes as an employee incentive in an effort to boost company culture.

As a young boy, Zane was passionate about riding his bike but his love for riding soon developed into a passion for fixing bikes. At the age of 12, he started fixing bikes in his parents’ garage and by 16 had convinced his parents to let him take up the lease of a bike shop that was going out of business. His mum would keep the shop in the mornings when he was at school and Zane would take over in the afternoon.  By the end of his first year as a business owner, Zane had made $56,000 in sales.

Today, Zane believes that customer satisfaction should come first and he is just as eager and passionate to work with bikes.

What You Can Learn From It

Essentially, what Zane’s example proves is that being passionate about your subject is crucial to your success. You need to not only understand it deeply but also love it so that you can anticipate the trends that will inevitably come up. Zane, for example, was quick to jump at the chance to offer better deals to organisations who wanted to use bicycles as incentives as he anticipated that bikes would eventually become trendy.

Pursuing your passions, however, means that you’ll also remain interested throughout your career and this is why career experts always urge people to pursue their passions. Of course, your passions may well change over time, and you may find yourself interested in something else 10 years into your career. Should this happen to you, you shouldn’t feel lost; instead, you should take the necessary steps for an effective career change and pursue your new passions with the same conviction.

If, on the other hand, you are worried because you are not quite certain what you’d like to do with your career, don’t worry as there are tests that you can take to match you to your true career path. Choosing a career can be made easy, so long as you decide on what really interests you. You can take our free career interests test to find more about your true potential.

2. Be Resourceful

It’s important to understand that, just because you’ve decided that you want to succeed, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to do it on the first go. In fact, many of the great entrepreneurial spirits of our century have often discussed how failure was part of their road to success. Things won’t always go your way but that doesn’t mean that you have to give up; you should always strive to come up with resourceful solutions to your problems as they can really put you ahead of competition.

Kenny Lao and David Weber now run one of the most profitable restaurants in New York. Their partnership begun when they entered into a business plan competition that they never won – however, the two figured that they should go ahead and materialise that plan, anyway. They opened Rickshaw Dumplings at a location that quickly became popular, and driven by their success, they decided to open a second location soon after. However, it was obvious from the start that expanding so fast was not a good plan. The restaurant wasn’t attracting a crowd and, although they tried to attract a different audience, it was obvious that they were soon going to be bankrupt. That’s when they came up with the idea to open a food truck.

They decided to only offer one item from their menu, the steamed dumplings, as these didn’t require excessive expenses. It quickly became clear that their idea was being embraced by the city. In fact, the food truck became so popular that they soon had to open a second truck.

What You Can Learn From It

What the success of these two businessmen goes to show is that it’s important not to become too fixated on your initial plan. Not everything will work out as you planned it, so it’s important to not be rigid about the way you want things done. You need to be flexible as this will allow you to be more inventive and creative.

When you see that things are going awry, you need to be able to recognise that and come up with a solution to that problem. Of course, recognising that you are sinking can often be impossible and this is why it’s important to surround yourself with people who will be able to point out any problems to you. But no matter how well pointed out an issue is, it’s also important to be resourceful in order to save your career.

3. Stay True to Your Values

People who aspire to be successful at work will realise sooner or later than it’s not as easy as it seems. In fact, in order to achieve your ambitions in the workplace, you’ll often need to work extremely hard, and not everyone is willing to undergo that effort. Most people wouldn’t even think before taking the easy path to success, even if that means deviating from their path but, in order to become successful, you need to remain true to your values at all times.

Of course, you should be aware that you’ll be tempted to go for what seems easier and more profitable many times during your career, but you should always try to stick close to your principles as these endeavours can quickly lead to disaster. Richard Branson, for example, tried to take over the soda world with Virgin Cola a few decades ago. His endeavour quickly failed, mainly because the attack of Virgin Cola on the Coca Cola brand was so fierce that the brand had to respond on a similarly strong note. In retrospect, Richard Branson has said that launching this product was probably a mistake.

‘The other, more important, reason was the fact that we didn’t follow our own rules, which is a cardinal sin. Virgin only enters an industry when we think we can offer consumers something strikingly different that will disrupt the market, but there wasn’t really an opportunity to do that in the soft drinks sector’.

What You Can Learn From It

What Richard Branson’s experiment with Virgin Cola demonstrates is that letting go of your values for quick profit, or for whatever reason, is never recommended as there’s a big chance this endeavour will fail. Even if does not fail, however, it will not be aligned with your vision and values, which could also affect you negatively in the long run.

Remaining true to your values can actually help push you towards the direction that you want your career to go. It will also ensure that you don’t deviate from your initial plan too much, which can be quite beneficial to realising your dreams.

4. Look for Something More Meaningful Than Money

A huge part of success is money. Whether you have entrepreneurial dreams or you dream of climbing the corporate ladder to a managerial level, you surely think of making more money as a huge part of your success, as well. And you are not wrong to do so as good work should be rewarded, but it’s also important to remind yourself that other things can matter more than money. Sticking to your dream and your principles can also be quite rewarding, and it’s important to look to what you can achieve past monetary rewards.

Keep in mind that this is precisely what Mark Zuckerberg did and it worked out for him, so there’s no reason it won’t work for you. Back in 2006, when Facebook was but two years old, the then CEO of Yahoo! made an extremely tempting offer to Zuckerberg. He offered to buy Facebook for $1 billion; however, Zuckerberg decided that if he had $1 billion, he’d probably just want to start a new social media platform and he wanted to explore the limits of the one he’d already built, so he decided to reject the offer. This was probably the best decision he’s ever made, considering that Facebook is today worth close to $50 billion.

What You Can Learn From It

While this is a great story, it’s probably hard to picture yourself walking away from a billion dollars. In fact, it can probably be hard to imagine yourself walking away from a smaller sum, yet it’s important to understand that in order to be a success story at work, you need to look past the monetary rewards and pursue your passions for the sake of realising your full potential.

Of course, it’s important to be realistic about what you can achieve. If you are an entrepreneur, for example, you can’t keep pushing for your business to grow into a billion dollar-worth enterprise if it does not really offer anything revolutionary to consumers. The same goes if you are an employee; don’t expect that you’ll be able to rise up to run the business if you have zero leadership or managerial skills. They key is to understand your potential and find a way to unlock it, not to push beyond your capabilities as this can quickly lead to self-destructive behaviour.

#5 Accept Failure as Part of the Equation

It would be great if everyone could succeed at their first go, but the reality is that becoming a success story at work is a lot like riding a bike. You need to fall a few times before you manage to master riding. As such, you need to learn that failure is part of any success and that should you fail, you should not let it stop you. Rather, you should figure out ways to move past your failure.

Failing is just part of success. In fact, it’s such a big part of success that it often seems that every successful entrepreneur out there has failed miserably before they managed to succeed. This long list of entrepreneurs who experienced failure includes prominent figures like Bill Gates and Walt Disney.

Akio Morita, for example, the founder of Sony, was born into a family that brewed sake and soy sauce for generations. However, rather than continuing family traditions, he decided to pursue his passion for electronics and got a degree in physics. He started his career by building a rice cooker that burnt rice almost immediately, no matter how much water was added to it. Had it been someone else, he would have probably decided to give up on his electronics dream and go back to brewing sake and soy sauce. But Akio did not let this failure dampen his spirit; rather, he grew more persistent to invent something really successful, and the rest is history.

What You Can Learn From It

What Akio’s story teaches us is that failure is part of becoming successful and, as such, you should not allow it to stop you from pursuing your aspirations. Accept that failure could come at any given moment and that no matter how much you calculate risks, there’s a good chance that one of your ideas is not going to pan out at some point or another. There isn’t a lot you can do to avoid it other than ensure that you make informed decisions.

However, should you experience failure, remember that what matters is that you don’t give up. Missteps happen to everyone and you should now allow them to define the course of your career. Rather, you should learn from them and then find ways to push past them.


Setting Your Own Goals

What is perhaps the most crucial step to becoming a success story at work is setting your own goals. In order to do that, you need to understand your own capabilities and strengths. Remember that the idea is not to convince yourself that you can shoot for the stars, but to understand your true potential and set your goals according to what you can achieve.

If, for example, you are hoping to start your own business, you need to be realistic about what you can do. Finding investors and launching a business successfully are things that are not as straightforward as one might think, so you need to understand that you are realistic about what you can do.

Below, you’ll find a mapped out strategy that will allow you to identify your own goals and set them on a schedule in order to bring them closer to your grasp.

Step 1: Set Your Lifetime Goals

The first step you need to take is to identify your lifelong goals. Most people drift in life without a real sense of direction or purpose, but if you want to be a success story at work, you need to have a solid understanding of what success means to you. To do that, you need to think of what you want to achieve in life.

Of course, this task may at first seem overwhelming which is why you are advised to break this task into more manageable components. Focus on different aspects of life and think of what you want to achieve in those categories – for example, what you want to achieve career-wise, financially as well as in terms of education and family. It goes without saying that many people might not want to set targets for all of these categories but it’s important to consider these categories collectively. Don’t isolate any as they are all dependent on each other. For example, your financial goals will depend heavily on whether you want to pursue further education or whether you have a family of your own.

Step 2: Set Smaller Targets

Of course, your lifetime goals would be nothing without figuring out what you need to do in order to achieve them. As such, it’s important to figure out what you can do to achieve those goals. This means that you’ll need to break down your goals into a five-year plan, then a three-year plan and then a one-year plan. Doing so will allow you to be more focused on what you want to achieve, while it will also keep you more motivated and more willing to go the extra mile in order to achieve those goals.

Of course, it’s important that you don’t just stick to a year plan but that you break it into more manageable little tasks, which could include talking to your boss about taking on more duties, or signing up for a class that will allow you to achieve your career goals.

Step 3: Remain Focused

Perhaps the most difficult part of achieving your goals is to remain focused on them. It requires a great deal of willpower to not lose focus and this is why you need to come up with strategies that will remind you what you are fighting for.

A lot of people find that having a vision board, for example, helps. A vision board is, essentially, a visual depiction of your career aspirations, and keeping such a board close to you, whether at home or at work, will help push you towards those goals.

Of course, you need to also set aside some time to review your progress every so often. You should also consider setting milestones as this will allow you to not only work actively towards something but also push you to reward yourself every time you achieve a milestone.


The reality is that no matter how determined you are to achieve your goals, there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to stick to your predetermined schedule. There’s something that always comes up, whether that’s office drama or problems at home, that will push you off your path to success. And this is precisely why it’s essential for you to adopt a system that will allow you to set specific goals and maintain your willpower to pursue those goals.

Introducing the idea of SMART goals to your ambitions might actually help you do the trick. SMART is the acronym for Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Timely goals. This basically means that you’ll be able to set specific goals – so, rather than saying that you’d like to be promoted, implementing SMART goals to your goal-setting, you’ll be able to decide exactly what position it is that you’re after. Also, you’ll be able to add time constraints to your goal-setting which could help you work more actively towards your targets. You’d also be encouraged to keep an eye on your progress.


In order to set specific goals, you need to ask yourself what you want to accomplish. Of course, it shouldn’t be as vague as that; rather, you should determine the location you want your goal to be achieved in as well as the timeframes and any necessary requirements.

So if, for example, you are hoping to become the manager of a marketing team, you need to decide which company you’d like to work for. If you need any academic requirements that you don’t already possess, you should figure out how much time you’ll need while you should also give yourself a realistic timeframe to achieve this goal.


Of course, in order to achieve a goal, you also need to establish criteria that will allow you to measure your progress towards it. To do that, you’ll need to set milestones to measure your own successes.


One of the main problems many people face is that they are unable to figure out how to achieve their targets since there’s more to becoming a success story at work than just deciding that you want to be one. Figuring out whether your goals are attainable and what you can do to reach them is also crucial, and this is why this is a component of your goal-setting that should not be ignored.


Of course, while some goals are indeed attainable, some are not. If, for example, you’ve studied creative arts and are hoping to manage the corporate division of the company you work for at some point, there’s a good chance that you’ll never realise that dream since experience and academic qualifications are required.


Another important aspect of setting goals is making sure that you’ll be able to realise them, and in order for that to happen, you need to set specific timeframes for your achievements. Don’t just say that you are hoping to start your own business someday; rather, be specific about when that is realistic to happen. If you wish to gain experience and some capital before you strike out on your own, then give yourself specific time constraints as this will push you to actively engage with your pursuit.


Being a success story at work is not impossible, no matter what goals you want to achieve. The key is to remain focused and determined on your aspirations and to pursue them with conviction. You should also always look at what other successful people have done and learn from both their successes as well as their failures.

Whose success story is more inspiring to you? Let us know in the comments section below.