Success Equation

The 5 Factors of Success (My Success Equation)

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In this article, I give a brief overview of how I developed my entrepreneur success factors. To help me visualize the 5 factors that I identified, I put them into what I call my Success Equation. I then provide a brief explanation of each of those success factors.

Using these factors, I was able to achieve my first business goal: to get Strength and Reason online. In a follow-up article, I’ll provide a little more detail into how each of my 5 success factors contributed to that goal.

Let’s get started.

I’m Committed to Success

I have a lot on the line with becoming an entrepreneur. If I don’t make it, I’ll likely go back to working for someone else, a thought that fills me with dread.

Like I’ve mentioned before on Strength and Reason, I’m past the point where I want to work hard for someone else’s benefit. I don’t want to merely sell my time for money, but rather to convert the value that I create using my skills into wealth for myself and my family. That’s freedom, and freedom is my definition of success.

Deconstructing My Past Successes

I’m a pretty analytical person. Since I’m committed to making this entrepreneur thing a success, I’m going to try to eliminate chance as a factor as much as possible. To that end, I went over past successes and failures to figure out what critical factors were present in my successes and were missing from my failures.

First, unless you want to waste time fumbling around trying to figure out how to be an entrepreneur, reading is a necessity. Building off of other people’s experience gives you a solid starting point so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel in order to get going.

Since participating in the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic in law school, I’ve been reading about entrepreneurs, business, performance, mindfulness, flow, and other topics related to success.

Second, I looked back at my own career stretching back through my time as a government cubicle zombie, a law school student, an IT engineer, an MBA student, and an undergraduate to identify the commonalities in my successes.

Putting all of that information together, I came up with my five success factors.

The Success Equation

Being a visual person, just coming up with a rank ordered list of success factors didn’t do much for me. So, I got to work coming up with something more visual. What I came up with is my Success Equation:

( ( A ( PT + MA ) ) F ) P = S


               A = accountability

               PT = power thoughts

               MA = meaningful action

               F = flow

               P = persistence

               S = success

Put in English, success is accountability times the sum of power thoughts and meaningful action raised to the power of flow all of which is raised to the power of persistence.1

I chose to represent the factors as a mathematical equation because this is a compact, visual representation of the importance of each factor. For example, since the entire equation from accountability through flow is raised to the power of persistence, persistence is the most important factor. And not just a little more important. Since we’re talking exponents here, it’s a lot more important. I couldn’t get that type of visual representation from just a simple list or an infographic.

Here are links to download either a .pdf or .odt version of the equation. The .odt version should open in most text editors like MS Word or LibreOffice Writer. Feel free to modify the document any way you like. All I ask is that you provide a link back to this post as your source.

Success Equation PDF version

Success Equation ODT Version

I want to take a few minutes to explain each of the five success factors.

S = Success

I’m going to start off with defining success. My favorite definition is “a favorable or desired outcome” because it leaves the specific criteria for success up to the individual.2

For me, success is freedom. In order to have freedom, you need to achieve self-sufficiency. And you achieve self-sufficiency by building wealth. Being a cubicle zombie, no matter how much money you’re paid, is not self-sufficient because you’re still working for someone else’s benefit. You’re also trading your time for money. Since time is limited, when you do that, you are effectively putting a constraint on how much wealth you can build. You don’t build wealth by punching someone else’s time clock.

I suspect you folks reading this post have a similar definition of success. Something along the lines of escaping the 9 to 5 grind and receiving all of the rewards from your hard work.

Of course, the flip side of receiving all of the rewards from your hard work is the burden of taking responsibility for your mistakes. Which brings us to accountability.

A = Accountability

Accountability is the obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions. Like I mention in my post Be Responsible for Your Own Success, if you want to be a success, you can’t sit around waiting for someone else to take care of you. You have to focus on building your own self-sufficiency and to do that, you have to do the work. No one is going to do it for you.

Avoid excuses and blame. Your lack of success is not the fault of your parents, the economy, the government, or the barista who put skim milk in your coffee instead of soy. Victims are losers, so don’t be one.

You can’t control what the world does. You can’t control what your parents, the government, or that barista at the coffee shop do. What you can control is your actions. So, when the world shows utter contempt for you by throwing a roadblock in your path to success, don’t cry. Shrug your shoulders and figure out a way around it. It’s not easy. Get over it.

The welfare state is robbing America of its accountability and replacing it with entitlement. Unfortunately, all entitlement gets you is dependence on someone else. That’s not freedom, it’s something else entirely. So, take advantage of the opportunities technology and the Internet have to offer to start building your freedom.

If you need some inspiration, look into Gary Vaynerchuck. He has a large presence on social media and his podcast, The Garyvee Audio Experience, is a great listen.

PT = Power Thoughts

Anyone can walk around mumbling “positive thinking” platitudes to themselves. The problem is that most of us forget those words as soon as we finish uttering them. We don’t live those words because to us that’s all they are, just words. They’re not our beliefs.

For example, mumbling “I am a success” to yourself over and over does nothing for you because it’s not building the belief that you are a success. It’s just you repeating some phrase.

Think of power thoughts as positive thinking on steroids. If you looked at my entrepreneur success factors and wondered where mindset fits in, this is it.3

I got the concept of “power thinking” from Secrets of the Millionaire Mind[affiliate link], by T. Harv Eker.4 The idea behind power thoughts is that you go beyond those positive thinking platitudes by observing your thoughts. As you do so, you only acknowledge the thoughts that support your goals. When a negative thought comes along, you banish it from your mind. Over time, those supportive thoughts build into a belief. Then, your success is inevitable.

MA = Meaningful Action

Meaningful actions are those actions that contribute to achieving your goal. The idea is to identify and prioritize those actions.

For example, in order to start Strength and Reason, I had to purchase a domain name, sign up with a hosting company, and install WordPress. Those are essential tasks because Strength and Reason would not exist without them. So, the action I take to complete those tasks are meaningful actions. Finding a comfortable desk chair, while desirable, is not a meaningful action because the existence of Strength and Reason or any of its content does not depend on my having a desk chair.

Meaningful action is my take on the idea of essentialism from Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less[affiliate link], by Greg McKeown. Definitely check out this great resource for more information.

Remember, not just any action is a meaningful action. It has to be an action that is necessary for you to achieve your goal. Doing something that doesn’t get you one step closer to your goal is a waste of time.

Sometimes, you won’t know right away if the action is truly meaningful. It may appear to be so at first but later it turns out to have been unnecessary. That’s OK. It’s going to happen. We all get it wrong every now and then, especially when we’re doing something for the first time. You won’t always know what tasks are necessary. Don’t beat myself up over it. Learn and move on so next time you’ll know better.

F = Flow

About a year ago, my doctor turned me on to the books The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance[affiliate link] and Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work[affiliate link], both by Steven Kotler. In those books, Kotler delves into the idea of how flow states drive human performance.

When I read those books, the concept of the flow state wasn’t new to me, but I had never paid much attention to it.

When I started thinking about flow, however, it occurred to me that my most productive times and when I did my best work were those times when the world melted away around me, time slipped out of my consciousness, and I became one with my task. Whether I was trouble shooting a database, writing a school paper, or taking a law school exam, a flow state made the work seem natural, and by extension, easy.

Contrast that to my less productive times when I wasn’t in a flow state. Tasks were harder and taking even the smallest step forward seemed to require extraordinary effort. Instances like writing a school paper when the next idea just wouldn’t come or struggling with a law school exam even when I knew the material cold.

Most telling, I thought about my Government [cubicle zombie] days and realized how rarely I fell into a flow state while I worked there. It’s also no surprise that my Government tenure was the least fulfilling work I’ve had in my career.5, 6

I’m nowhere close to an expert on flow. It’s an area that I want to take a deeper dive on though. For now, I encourage everyone to check out the books I referenced above.

P = Persistence

If life were the Lord of the Rings, persistence would be the one ring to rule them all. This is the granddaddy of my success factors.

Persistence is “the quality to go on resolutely or stubbornly in spite of opposition, importunity, or warning.” Call it grit, tenacity, dogged determination, whatever; persistence is the quality that drives the entrepreneur to keep pushing forward. It’s what makes you get up every morning and get to work achieving your goal. Without persistence, you won’t find success.

In a paper titled “The Making of an Expert,” researchers showed that high level performance is the result of deliberate practice and coaching, not of any innate talent.7 What this research tells us is that investing significant effort to practice your craft, to the tune of years in most cases, is more important to success than intelligence or any skill that you are lucky enough to be born with.

The take away here is that you need to put in the work to succeed. You can’t rely on raw talent. Blog posts don’t write themselves. Products don’t launch themselves.

If you do a little bit every day, you will eventually reach your goal. It may not come as fast as you want, and it may not be as pretty as you imagined, but with persistence, success will come. You only fail if you quit.

I’m going to say it again, persistence the most important factor to success because without it, you won’t get anything done.


Based on my reading and in reviewing my past successes and failures, I have come up with the five key success factors. They are:

  1. Persistence,
  2. Flow,
  3. Accountability,
  4. Power Thoughts, and
  5. Meaningful Action.

In my next blog post, I’ll walk through what these factors looked like in my launching Strength and Reason.

I’m interested to hear you think. What are your biggest factors to success?

See ya soon.

1 I know that the equation is essentially (xa)b which we can simplify to xab since raising a power to power means multiplying the powers together to find the new power. ( For example (x3)6 = x18. Using that logic, I could rewrite the equation to (A(PT+MA))FP = S. I chose, however, to keep F and P separate to show that Persistence is exponentially the most important factor while Flow is the second most important and so on.

2 Notice that I say the individual, not the collective. You define your success, not anyone else. Not your parents, not your boss, and not the government.

3 I decided to call this factor “power thoughts” because that phrase evokes a stronger image in my mind. Feel free to call this factor “mindset” if that works better for you.

4 Eker, T. H. (2005). Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth. 166-178.

5 My theory is that I rarely achieved a flow state because the work with the Government was not challenging enough for me. According to Kotler, a challenging task is a prerequisite for entering a flow state. A task that is too easy or too hard may keep a person from entering a flow state.

6 Of course, my opinion that Government is too large and intrusive probably contributed to my displeasure as well.

7 Ericsson, K., Prietula, M., Cokely, E. (2007). “The Making of Expert.” Harvard Business Review. See also “The Making of an Expert: The 3 Key Factors Underlying Individual Elite Performance in any Domain.”

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