Categorized | Career Development

Jump-Starting Success by Les Brown

Everyone who has ever earned an MBA has at least one thing in common: an expectation that the MBA would help on the road to success.

But something often happens along the way. Some people shoot ahead, earning all the awards, acclaim, and admiration as they move to the top — and then they seem to hit a brick wall. Others falter and flounder and never get off the ground at all, though they proudly use the MBA letters to indicate their education.

No matter which way it happens, the result is the same: a sense of getting stuck. The important thing is to get unstuck and move away from the chance of failing!

Everyone who has ever succeeded at anything has tasted failure’s disappointment. I know I have. When I lost my job in radio, I went out searching and searching for work — but nobody would hire me. When I bought my mother a home and then lost it, I was embarrassed. When my television show was canceled, people would ask me if I was still Les Brown; how mortifying!

But in each of those instances, I had to decide how I wanted to view the failures. Sure, I had met disappointment, and no, things didn’t go as I planned, but I could either let that stop me or let it propel me forward.

I chose to let it propel me forward. I chose to see each failure as a tiny brick in the life I was constructing. The result has been wonderful and fulfilling work that has produced a positive impact, international acclaim, and financial independence.

The difference between those who succeed and those who fall by the wayside is in how they view failure. Losers view failure as the end of their hopes. Winners view failure as a building block to their success. I often quote a story about Thomas Edison. When he went to a press conference to show off his light bulb invention, he told reporters it had taken him more than 10,000 tries to get it right. A reporter asked how he was able to continue in the face of all that failure. Edison replied that he hadn’t failed. He simply eliminated 10,000 options that did not work. You notice that he did not get stuck with failing all of those times; he kept moving.

How do you view failure? Do you view it as the elimination of an option that did not work, or do you view it as your end, your defeat? I hope you’ll choose to be like Edison. Even if your life hasn’t been exactly as you wanted or envisioned it, even with your MBA, that doesn’t mean you are a failure. It simply means you are eliminating options that don’t work. Your getting downsized at work doesn’t have to be a failure. Maybe that job wasn’t the right one for you. Seeing your business get off to a rocky start doesn’t mean you are a failure. Perhaps you must tweak your plan and choose a different way to reach your goal. Even the fact that your finances may not be thriving as you’d like doesn’t mean you are a failure. Perhaps that, too, means you must review what you are doing.

Failure is nothing more than an opportunity to give success another try. It just doesn’t matter if you are among those whose star quickly rose and now seems to be burning out, or if you are one who never quite got going. Your success is within your grasp. It’s all in how you look at it.

If you view your failures as the end of your chance to make something of your life, then that indeed is what they are. But if you view your failures as simply additional chances to seek even greater success, you will indeed find that is true.

Your belief in yourself and your abilities is the key to your success. In my last column in this space, I shared with you some ways to optimize your success by building quality, strategic relationships. It is imperative that you build a network of resourceful people who are there to help you along the way. Remember, though, that no matter how successful those around you are, the drive for success must come from within.

There is an old African proverb that I love because of its simple truth. It says, “If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.” If you are not your own enemy, you will find your success. You must believe in your ability to make your way in this world. You must believe that your path will take you to untold success. You must believe.

Yet so many people don’t believe in their success. Benjamin Franklin said something that I am convinced is true: “Most people die by the time they are 25, but they are not buried until they are 75.” These people allow disappointments to beat the life out of them early on. So they coast through life, going to jobs that don’t excite them, listlessly letting one day melt into the next. They are alive, but they sure aren’t living.

If you recognize yourself in this, I challenge you here: What are you going to do about it? Will you continue coasting through life, letting all your MBA hopes lie dormant – dead – within your being? Or will you acknowledge your disappointments and choose to go forward anyway? Will you become a dead man – or woman – walking? Or will you choose to view your failures and disappointments as the stepping-stones to wild success that gives your life meaning?

Be among the few who do achieve their dreams. No matter how far off-course you may be, you can get back on track. Here is how:

  1. Commit to the commitment. Renew your interest in your goal, whatever it is. If the goal needs to be tweaked, then tweak it. Write down your success plan.
  2. Make a contract with yourself. Write down your new goal, with the affirmation that you will accomplish it. Sign and date this contract.
  3. Gain accountability. Share your dream with someone. Better yet, give that person a copy of the contract you signed with yourself, asking him or her to sign it also. When we add accountability to the equation, we increase our likelihood for success.
  4. Fortify your mind. As I told you last time: You must cultivate your mind. Plant powerful motivational messages there. Read books to broaden your thinking and to educate yourself about your chosen path and ways to attain success. Join groups and organizations of like-minded individuals. Attend training seminars related to your goal and interests, so you gain new knowledge to move yourself forward.
  5. Schedule a review. Pull out your calendar or PDA or whatever you use for schedule-keeping, and set a date three months from now to review your progress. Then set a date three months from that date, and another three months from there, then another. These reviews can help you see your progress and also will show you where you need to adjust.

Stick with this plan and you will find that even when you hit a stumbling block, unless you view it as a dead end, you can keep going. And that will keep you moving toward your success.

Les Brown is an internationally known author, speaker, television and radio host. Learn more at or e-mail Les at