The past few years, I've noticed a common theme in talks by the rich and successful people I've seen speak. They all seem to be extremely (in some cases obsessively) curious about why they, in particular, have been successful. It seems almost as though they feel undeserving, as if the rest of their lives have been an attempt to prove their first success had a reason or formula.
One of the them, a guy who practically created an entirely new industry with his company, seemed to be deeply disturbed by the fact that he could not find any particular quality in himself that led to his success. His next entrepreneurial attempt failed, and he wrote it off as being cursed by his own hubris. "Why did my second attempt fail?" he asked. "I think I let it get to me. I let the success of [my first company] get in the way of my rational thinking. I was trying to replicate what I did the first time, and for some reason it didn't work."
Another person, who created a whole microindustry in computer software, seems to be almost obsessive about applying his past experience against a future success. He has created an entire philosophy that drives the way he lives his life, searching for the same kind of opportunity that led to his first success. "I want to catch the next wave of innovation; I want to dive in at the very start of a new infant industry and grow it like [my first company]. So I look for these random sparks among the noise, these flashes of potential in intelligent young entrepreneurs and I try to find myself.”
Why are successful people so focused on discovering their formula for success and replicating it? Very few of the successful people I have met seem to bask in their success and power. Instead they seem focused on doing it again, to gain even more power and success or to prove themselves.
It almost seems as though these people think their first success was a random once-off occurrence by chance, so they feel obligated to prove themselves worthy. And it takes some of them their entire lives. •