The Common Denominator of Success by Albert E. N. Gray
I just finished reading The New Common Denominator of Success by Albert E. N. Gray. Charlie "Tremendous" Jones calls it "a little booklet with the most wisdom in the fewest words I have ever read." I have to agree.
Enjoy this classic wisdom.
Of course, like most of us, I had been brought up on the popular belief that the secret of success is hard work, but I had seen so many men work hard without succeeding and so many men succeed without working hard that I had become convinced that hard work was not the real secret even though in most cases it might be one of the requirements.
And so I set out on a voyage of discovery which carried me through biographies and autobiographies and all sorts of dissertations on success and the lives of successful men until I finally reached a point at which I realized that the secret I was trying to discover lay not only in what men did, but also in what made them do it.
I realized further that the secret for which I was searching must not only apply to every definition of success, but since it must apply to everyone to whom it was offered, it must also apply to everyone who had ever been successful. In short, I was looking for the Common Denominator of Success.
But this common denominator of success is so big, so powerful, and so vitally important to your future and mine that I'm not going to make a speech about it. I'm just going to "lay it on the line" in words of one syllable, so simple that everyone can understand them.
The common denominator of success --- the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful --- lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don't like to do.
It's just as true as it sounds and it's just as simple as it seems. You can hold it up to the light, you can put it to the acid test, and you can kick it around until it's worn out, but when you are all through with it, it will still be the common denominator of success, whether you like it or not.
It will still explain why men have come into this business of ours with every apparent qualification for success and given us our most disappointing failures, while others have come in and achieved outstanding success in spite of many obvious and discouraging handicaps. And since it will also explain your future, it would seem to be a mighty good idea for you to use it in determining just what sort of a future you are going to have. In other words, let's take this big, all-embracing secret and boil it down to fit the individual you.
If the secret of success lies in forming the habit of doing things that failures don't like to do, let's start the boiling-down process by determining what are the things that failures don't like to do. The things that failures don't like to do are the very things that you and I and other human beings, including successful men, naturally don't like to do. In other words, we've got to realize right from the start that success is something which is achieved by the minority of men, and is therefore unnatural and not to be achieved by following our natural likes and dislikes nor by being guided by our natural preferences and prejudices.
Perhaps you have wondered why it is that our biggest producers seem to like to do the things that you don't like to do.
They don't! And I think this is the most encouraging statement I have ever offered to a group of life insurance salesmen.
But if they don't like to do these things, then why do they do them? Because by doing the things they don't like to do, they can accomplish the things they want to accomplish. Successful men are influenced by the desire for pleasing results. Failures are influenced by the desire for pleasing methods and are inclined to be satisfied with such results as can be obtained by doing things they like to do.
Why are successful men able to do things they don't like to do while failures are not? Because successful men have a purpose strong enough to make them form the habit of doing things they don't like to do in order to accomplish the purpose they want to accomplish.
Many men with whom I have discussed this common denominator of success have said at this point, "But I have a family to support and I have to have a living for my family and myself. Isn't that enough of a purpose?"
No, it isn't. It isn't a sufficiently strong purpose to make you form the habit of doing the things you don't like to do for the very simple reasons that it is easier to adjust ourselves to the hardships of a poor living than it is to adjust ourselves to the hardships of making a better one. If you doubt me, just think of all the things you are willing to go without in order to avoid doing the things you don't like to do. All of which seems to prove that the strength which holds you to your purpose is not your own strength but the strength of the purpose itself.
1. Prospecting habits 2. Calling habits 3. Selling habits 4. Working habit
Any successful life insurance salesman will tell you that it is easier to sell life insurance to people who don't want it than it is to find people who do want it, but if you have not deliberately formed the habit of prospecting for needs, regardless of wants, then unconsciously you have formed the habit of limiting your prospecting to people who want life insurance and therein lies the one and only real reason for lack of prospects.
As to calling habits, unless you have deliberately formed the habit of calling on people who are able to buy but unwilling to listen, then unconsciously you have formed the habit of calling on people who are willing to listen but unable to buy.
As to selling habits, unless you have deliberately formed the habit of calling on prospects determined to make them see their reasons for buying life insurance, then unconsciously you have formed the habit of calling on prospects in a state of mind in which you are willing to let them make you see their reasons for not buying it
Here's the answer. Any resolution or decision you make is simply a promise to yourself, which isn't worth a tinker's dam unless you have formed the habit of making it and keeping it. And you won't form the habit of making it and keeping it unless right at the start you link it with a definite purpose that can be accomplished by keeping it. In other words, any resolution or decision you make today has to be made again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and the next, and so on. And it not only has to be made each day, but it has to be kept each day, for if you miss one day in the making or keeping of it, you've got to go back and begin all over again. But if you continue the process of making it each morning and keeping it each day, you will finally wake up some morning a different man in a different world, and you will wonder what has happened to you and the world you used to live in.
First of all, your purpose must be practical and not visionary. Some time ago, I talked with a man who thought he had a purpose which was more important to him than income. He was interested in the sufferings of his fellow man, and he wanted to be placed in a position to alleviate that suffering. But when he analyzed his real feeling, we discovered, and he admitted it, that what he really wanted was a real nice job dispensing charity with other people's money and being well paid for it, along with the appreciation and feeling of importance that would naturally go with such a job.
Recently I was talking with a young man who long ago discovered the common denominator of success without identifying his discovery. He had a definite purpose in life and it was definitely a sentimental or emotional purpose. He wanted his boy to go through college without having to work his way through as he had done. He wanted to avoid for his little girl the hardships which his own sister had had to face in her childhood. And he wanted his wife and the mother of his children to enjoy the luxuries and comforts, and even necessities, which had been denied his own mother. And he was willing to form the habit of doing things he didn't like to do in order to accomplish this purpose.
He looked at me with rather a pitying look and said, "But Mr. Gray, there's no inspiration in logic. There's no courage in logic. There's not even happiness in logic. There's only satisfaction. The only place logic has in my life is in the realization that the more I am willing to do for my wife and children, the more I shall be able to do for myself."
And if it's an honest purpose, you will be honest and honorable in the accomplishment of it. But as long as you live, don't ever forget that while you may succeed beyond your fondest hopes and your greatest expectations, you will never succeed beyond the purpose to which you are willing to surrender. Furthermore, your surrender will not be complete until you have formed the habit of doing the things that failures don't like to do.