“I was leafing through your success book,” Paddy began, “and a couple of thoughts occurred to me.”
“Yes,” I urged him.
“Well,” Paddy went on, “I thought, just for fun you know, that I’d count the number of elements of success you mention....”
“That’s interesting,” I interrupted him (always a dangerous thing to do with Paddy), “because my working title for the book was The Elements of Success.”
“Why did you change it?” Paddy asked in a normal voice, meaning I’d gotten away with the interruption.
“There would have been just too many of them for the title to be meaningful,” I explained, “also, I didn’t want to format it that way.”
“Aha!” Paddy barked, “That’s exactly why I quit counting. I reckon there are hundreds of statements in there that could qualify as ‘elements.’ ”
“You’re probably right,” I acknowledged, “but you said you had a couple of thoughts. Assuming that was one, what’s the other?”
“I was wondering,” he said, “that if you had to pick only one so-called element of success as the most important, what it would be. Or is that unrealistic?”
“Not at all unrealistic,” I assured him, “As a matter of fact, the most important element of success is reflected in the title change. As you know, the book is called How to Succeed in Anything by Really Trying.”
Paddy said, “I thought the title was just a play on words of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
“It was that too,” I agreed. “But getting back to your second point, the title reflects what I think the most important element of success is.”
“Which is?” Paddy urged.
“Always doing the best you can, with what you have, wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing,” I told him.
“Well,” Paddy opined, “there are a lot of key words in that statement, such as always, best, wherever and whatever.”
“Good going, Paddy,” I said. “You’re getting the message. A person’s ability is worth only what he or she does with it; which, in turn, depends on how hard you try.”
“Well,” Paddy said, “Sometimes it may be damn hard to keep trying. I’ve often heard people say that they’re in jobs with no future. What would you say to them?”
“I’d say,” I told him, “and have said many times, that the future is not in a job, the future is in the person who does the job, and in how they do the job.”
“But there are dead-end jobs,” Paddy argued.
“I don’t agree at all,” I countered. “I learned very early, when I was fifteen years old and working at a menial job at the CPR, that every job is important in some way; if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t exist.”
“Maybe,” he persisted, “but then what should people who think they’re in unimportant jobs do?”
“First, they have to figure out exactly why the job exists, because that will be their clue as to why it’s important. Then they have to treat it as if it’s the most important job in the organization. If they do that all the time, then other people will begin to see it as important,” I told him.
“So, you’re saying that people should do their best at all times, no matter what, if they want to succeed” Paddy said.
“Exactly,” I agreed. “And another reason people should always do their best is that a job done to the best of your ability is one of life’s most satisfying experiences.”
“You have a saying about not accepting being average that I’ve heard you spout from time to time,” Paddy said. “I assume it applies here.”
“If it’s the one I think you mean, it certainly does. Is it: when you’re average you’re as close to the bottom as you are to the top?” I asked him.
“Yeah, that’s the one,” Paddy nodded, “so you’re saying people shouldn’t accept being average, that they should always strive to improve.”
“Indeed,” I agreed. “Always striving to improve means that the quality of your work will improve; and quality always wins out in the long run. People should always be looking for ways to do their jobs more efficiently.”
“I know a lot of people who would agree with you in principle,” Paddy said, “but they just never seem to get around to doing anything about it. They never seem to, as you put it, try harder.”
“Yep,” I said, “there are a lot of those people around. What they fail to realize is that you can’t succeed based on what you’re going to do; but you can succeed based on what you actually do. One of the best ways to have success in the future is to make the most of the present.”
“Got a closing shot?” Paddy asked as he got up to leave.
“Yes,” I assured him. “Good enough is always the enemy of best.”