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12 Simple Success Secrets from My Dad

Secrets of Success from my Dad

How did you learn the success secrets you use every single day?

More importantly, how did you learn what success should look like for YOU?

We’re surrounded by everyone else’s good ideas about what makes a successful life at work: more money, bigger teams, a higher profile, a larger budget.

These might equal success for you.

But maybe they don’t.

how are you celebrating success?

In my work as a professional coach, I’ve learned that the most successful people at work have made an active decision about what success means for them.

And most of the time, those decisions were influenced by people they love, respect and value.

I hope you have one, if not many, of those people in your life to help you define your own success.

For me, one of those people was my dad.


(Of course, another is my mom, whose lessons I’ve shared here. )

A few years before he died, my dad jotted down his simple success secrets.

As you navigate your path to whatever success looks like for you today, perhaps one of these secrets will help you get there easier.

12 Simple Success Secrets from My Dad

1. When people do things that are hurtful and you don’t understand why, remember that their action is seldom about you.

It’s almost always about them.

They may never have even thought about you while committing what you saw as their offense. Looking at the situation through that lens can save you a lot of heartache.

(In my book Red Cape Rescue: Save Your Career Without Leaving Your Job, I call this “assuming positive intent.” It’s gotten me through a lot of tough situations. More about the book here.)

2. If you’re going to lead, you have an obligation to those you lead.

Don’t underestimate that their jobs—and lives‚—can depend on your judgment and actions.

If you're going to lead, you have an obligation to those you lead.

Yes, you can choose lead without choosing to have an obligation to others, but Hitler and Stalin did that, too. Choose your actions carefully.

3. Being a little scared is not unhealthy.

Some internal apprehensiveness can sharpen your thoughts, drive action, and generate a lot of healthy energy.

4. Never ask your boss what you should do before telling him or her your own thought-out solution.

Once your boss tells you his/her thoughts, it’s not easy to carry out your own should your ideas differ.

5. Conversely, if you’re the boss, ask your team their opinion first.

ask first

While you may already know the solution, you’re never going to get their true thoughts and creative ideas once you put your ideas on the table.

6. No matter what business you’re in, the ability to write and speak a clear, concise report is vital to success.

Words still matter. Use them.

7. Nothing you say or write to anyone is guaranteed private.

Know that anything you say or do today could be shared anywhere, and even your closest friends have loose lips at times.

(How true this continues to be, more than my Dad ever could have imagined!)

8. Personal involvement in charitable, community, religious and civic activities often provide training and experience that your current workplace can’t offer.

thank you volunteers

If you want to grow but can’t find out how to do it inside, make the time to get involved outside.

9. If you’ve been doing things the same way for several years, chances are you’re behind the times and don’t yet know it.

Get out and go to trade shows, conferences, or visit other organizations to see how they’re doing things. Don’t work to justify your current way and be a victim of culture and procedural bias. Expect there’s a new way developing.

10. Just because someone has a broader or more prestigious education than yours doesn’t guarantee more analytical ability or better judgment.


Everyone is capable of good judgment if they ask good questions and apply common sense to confusing situations.

11. As basic as it seems, learn to look around inside an organization.

Look for dust on inventory shelves, repairs that have been left undone, people who are in the office but not really present.

What’s it sound like, or smell like? Everything from your first step inside the door of an organization tells you about what’s happening in that company—and what’s not.

(It’s also a great way to find a new job right where you are.)

12. Accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative. Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.

(Well, Dad, Johnny Mercer actually said that, but it’s still one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from you. Thanks for helping me soar.)

Success secrets from my dad--always wear your red cape!

Red Cape Rescue: Save Your Career Without Leaving Your Job