21 Success Principles to Unleash the Leader in You and Achieve Greatness in Your Life

By M.S. Rao

When it comes to success, whether in life and career, there is no one-size-fits-all formula to achieve your desired greatness. But one of the tried and tested techniques to reach optimum level of your potential is creating your own blueprint of success, which includes building your character and self-efficacy. This article will tackle the 21 bricks needed for a strong foundation of success and resiliency of one’s psyche.

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world.” Archimedes

Do you know what makes some people stand out from others? Do you know what habits are essential to achieve greatness in your life? Do you know why some leaders stand taller beyond their lifetime? The answer to all these questions is that they possess some unique habits and adopt unconventional approaches and practices. In fact, there is a pattern of unique habits that convert ordinary individuals into extraordinary individuals, and extraordinary individuals into inspiring individuals. When you understand and apply them, you can unlock your hidden potential to achieve greatness in your life. Here is a distilled list of habits, tools, and techniques to help you stand out:

1. Be an Early Riser: Rise early in the morning as it is the time that the human mind is highly productive and creative with fresh thoughts. It is like starting on a clean slate. You find total tranquility and peace in the morning. You don’t find any distractions; hence, you can concentrate well. It helps schedule your activities to roll out effectively as you have a fixed time at your disposal.

Invest your time on maintaining your health, because if you are healthy, you can surpass any kind of challenges in your life with flying colors.

2. Exercise Regularly: Do exercises regularly. Invest your time to go to gym or go for a walk or do meditation. You must burn calories during your walk to energise your body. It can elevate your body with new spirits and you can fill your mind with new ideas and thoughts during exercise. A regular physical activity maintains good appetite, ensures free motion, and provides sound sleep – these three are the symptoms of good health. Invest your time on maintaining your health, because if you are healthy, you can surpass any kind of challenges in your life with flying colors.

3. Follow your Heart: Find out your passions and follow them. Unfortunately, some people follow others’ passions and they fail miserably. You must find out your strengths and concerns – capitalise on your capabilities and overcome your fears to achieve big in life. Passion can take you to greater heights of success. When you work within your passionate areas, you will not know how you spent your time and life because your work doesn’t become boring, rather, it becomes inspiring thus getting the best out of it. There are some people who chase money, ignoring their passions and they fail in the end. The truth is that when you follow your passion, the money will follow you automatically. The noted author and speaker, Wayne Dyer rightly remarked, “When I chased after money, I never had enough. When I got my life on purpose and focused on giving of myself and everything that arrived into my life, then I was prosperous.” Remember to follow two things in your life – choose the career of your choice and marry the spouse of your choice. When you choose the right career, you will enjoy doing your work and excel professionally. When you marry the spouse of your choice, you will enjoy your personal and social life. In this way, you can enjoy your personal, professional, and social life.

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4. Acquire Attitude: In twentieth century, a lot of research was done on successful people to understand what made them extraordinary achievers. It showed that the attitude was the main reason. It is your attitude that determines the altitude of your success. People can support you if you have the right attitude. Employers prefer attitude over experience during employment interviews. A person with a great attitude and without experience is often preferred over a person with a great experience and without attitude. Remember the slogan, ‘although the righteous man falls ten times, he rises, but the wicked man never falls twice’. It means God handholds the individuals with right attitude many times but He never gives second opportunity to individuals with rotten attitude.

You must visualise yourself as a successful person. It is rightly said that a battle is won twice – first in mind and second in reality. You can become the way you want to become if you visualise yourself the way you want to be.

5. Visualise Yourself: Understand the power of visualisation. Learn how to visualise success. You must visualise yourself as a successful person. It is rightly said that a battle is won twice – first in mind and second in reality. That means you will have a mental script first and then roll out the real script; hence, visualisation is the crucial thing to achieve great success. You can become the way you want to become if you visualise yourself the way you want to be. Ralph Waldo Emerson rightly quoted, “We become what we think about all day long.”

6. Equip with Positive Affirmations: You must always visualise with positive affirmations. Positive affirmations are like goal setting as they improve your attitude and the way you look at your life. They help you stay focused on your goals and manage your time. They enhance your longevity as you feel to live for a longer time with optimism. James Allen once remarked, “All that you accomplish or fail to accomplish with your life is the direct result of your thoughts.” Whether you want to succeed or fail, it is in your hands, as your thoughts will lead to actions. When your thoughts are positive, your actions will also be positive. Replace “if” with “when,” “hopefully” with “certainly” and “I hope” with “I expect.” Don’t think what you don’t have, instead, think with what you have. Don’t say, “have a great day!” but say, “make it a great day!” It all depends on what is inside your mind. Your thinking will create magical words that will inspire you and mesmerise others around you. Adopt the following tips to affirm yourself positively: appreciate yourself; look at the positive things within yourself; use sentences like ‘I can do it’ and use the letter like ‘I’ to affirm yourself; use present tense in your statements to achieve maximum outcome and be optimistic and lastly; look at the door that is opened rather than the one that is closed.

7. Discover your Biological Clock: Every human body is unique and when you discover your biological clock, you can achieve greatness. You can also call it ‘moods’. Every human body is productive and creative at some point of time during the day. If you understand the time when you are highly productive, you can do important tasks and achieve optimum outcomes. It is the time where your body and mind connects quickly and creates an amazing chemistry to achieve the outcomes the way you want. For instance, if you identify the ideal time to read in a day, and read the book, you can absorb and assimilate the content quickly. You will be able to apply it effectively and achieve great success; hence, instead of reading at the wrong time for ten hours, and if you read one hour at a time when your body is highly productive, you can achieve the desired outcomes easily, quickly, and smartly. Similarly, if you want to lead a happy married life, you must create a right chemistry with your partner by adjusting and synchronising your biological clock accordingly. There are married couples who divorce due to lack of physical and emotional chemistry between them. Their bodies may be allergic to each other resulting in divorces. Understanding this clock and readjusting and setting their body clocks can create synergy and energy between the partners. It creates both physical and emotional chemistry between partners, thus minimising divorces.

8. Strengthen your Subconscious Mind: We operate 95 percent from our subconscious minds and 5 percent from our conscious minds. To strengthen your subconscious mind, give positive commands 30 minutes before you go to bed. A study shows that when we go to sleep, our conscious mind clicks off and our subconscious mind clicks on, and begins to entertain itself during the rest of the sleep. What we did in our last 30 minutes will replay 15 to 17 times during the night; hence, you can understand the importance of giving commands and giving instructions the way you want to become in your life. If you want to win Nobel Prize, give daily commands before you go to bed that you are bagging Nobel Prize. When you do so regularly, you strengthen your subconscious mind and you start to think and change your behaviour accordingly and work hard to accomplish your goal. Additionally, when you learn a new skill, your conscious mind is very much alert. After acquiring the skill, it is shifted to your subconscious mind and you apply it automatically to achieve your ends. For instance, when you learn swimming, you will be alerted initially due to your conscious mind. Once you master the art of swimming, you transfer this art to your subconscious mind, and the conscious mind thinks of other things.

All human beings should have a dialogue within themselves throughout the waking hours, which is known as ‘inner dialogue’ or ‘self-talk’.

9. Improve your Concentration: Light the candle in a dark room, and observe the flame for a few seconds without any distraction to enhance your concentration. When you practise this for a few days, you will be amazed to find yourself with an improved concentration.

10. Use your Inner Dialogue Effectively: All human beings should have a dialogue within themselves throughout the waking hours, which is known as ‘inner dialogue’ or ‘self-talk’. This is the most powerful one when you use it effectively. However, it becomes a noise when you don’t listen to others during the conversation. We can use it effectively throughout the day by practicing or thinking about good things. You can use your inner dialogue during your leisure time and travelling time on your goals to succeed greatly.

11. Write and Burn the Paper: It is often tough to forget unpleasant experiences and events; but there is a solution where you can get rid of them. When you get negative thoughts frequently or when you are angry with someone, write it on a piece of paper and burn it. When you write on paper, you vent out your feelings and relieve yourself from negative people and thoughts. When you burn it, you put an end to them.

12. Acquire Internal Locus of Control: Internal locus is all about taking responsibility about success, and external locus of control is all about blaming the external forces and factors for failures. Internal locus is about taking action and responsibility for the consequences. It is about making things happen. When you look at leaders, they possess internal locus of control as they take responsibility for their actions. Remember, it is the bad tradesmen who blame their tools, and it is the good tradesmen who avail what they have and work within the constraints to achieve the desired outcomes.

People often complain that they forget certain things quickly. In fact, people rarely forget them. The only thing is that the insignificant information is the one that comes to the surface for some time, sidetracking the important information.

13. Practise ‘Winner and Mirror’ Method: Whenever you are depressed, go inside the room and lock it. Stand in front of the mirror, smile, and shout ‘I am the winner’ for a few minutes. You get back to normalcy and stay motivated. When you see your smiling face in the mirror, you enjoy looking at your face. Secondly, since you locked the room, you can hear the echo of your voice loudly and it reinforces your mind with positive inputs. It is like having audio and video effects simultaneously where the audio is for hearing your own voice and the video is for seeing your face with a smile in front of the mirror.

14. Improve your Memory: People often complain that they forget certain things quickly. In fact, people rarely forget them. The only thing is that the insignificant information is the one that comes to the surface for some time, sidetracking the important information. However, such relegated information resurfaces subsequently to the top of the mind. People often mistake it for forgetfulness or decreased memory power. Here is an innovative technique to improve your memory: move your eyes sideways from left to right and vice versa as this activates both sides of your brain. We mostly use the left or right brain, not both sides of the brain. When you do this exercise, you only not improve your memory but also unlock your potential since you use both sides of your brain.

15. Hold your Thoughts for 21 Seconds: Whenever you get any negative thoughts, have control over them for a few seconds and try to replace them with positive ones and you will bounce back with a bang. Whenever people find themselves under depression, they must hold positive thoughts for 21 seconds and they will be amazed to find themselves staying motivated. They must hold thoughts about their past achievements or events for 21 seconds to bounce back to energetic mode. In this way, people can get out of their depression state and overcome from suicidal tendencies.

16. Practise for 21 Days: Habits will change your life for the better, and to form habits, you must work hard sincerely and consistently for 21 days. You may have to struggle for a few days to acquire the habits, but once you start working hard, you will be amazed to find yourself acquiring good habits. Similarly, if you want to get out of any bad habit, control yourself for a few days, and you will be astonished to find yourself free from that bad habit. For instance, you may want to hit the gym regularly at 4 in the morning. You must work hard to get up before the time for a few days. Once you start getting up regularly, from the 22nd day onwards, it becomes a habit and you hit the gym on time regularly. Similarly, you can also get away from bad habits by staying away for 21 days continuously.

Taking feedback is one of the greatest habits of highly successful people in the world. It helps them know where they stand and track their status of success. It helps people address their concerns to bring out better behavioural changes.

17. Journal Regularly: When you journal, you manage your time as you stay clearly focused on your activities. It aligns and guides you in your destined direction. You learn to prioritise and get disciplined to take it forward what is important to you. It enhances your focus and inculcates perseverance. During days of information overload, it is essential to prepare a To-Do list to work on only what is essential. Remember, journal is different from diary. A diary is a place where you record events while a journal is a place where you analyse and evaluate them. Additionally, journalising enhances self-awareness. For instance, Warren Buffett has an interesting routine to increase his self-awareness. He writes down his reasons for making an investment decision as well as its anticipated results. Once the decision is implemented and in play, several months or years later, he reads his initial thoughts about a decision and compares the actual results with what he expected. Explicitly, Warren Buffett assesses the outcomes of every decision he makes. Therefore, maintain a diary to jot down the lessons you have learned and journal to analyse and evaluate to take things forward for execution.

18. Take Feedback Constantly: Taking feedback is one of the greatest habits of highly successful people in the world. It helps them know where they stand and track their status of success. It helps people address their concerns to bring out better behavioural changes. It is a fact that changes in one’s behaviour will bring out dramatic improvements in performance resulting to success. When you look at CEOs, they hire executive coaches to address their concerns to perform better. Mark Zuckerberg took lessons to heart when he realised that he needed to be a leader, and not just another tech guru if Facebook was going to be a great company. He hired an executive coach and worked on his weaknesses. He strived to identify and hone the skills essential to running a fast-growing company. He met with, and learned from successful leaders in his industry, and he matured as a leader. He makes learning a priority and takes feedbacks. What worked in a particular context will not work again, and this means that you cannot take success for granted; hence, taking feedback identifies the blind spots to become a better professional and a great achiever.

19. Be Persistent: When you observe great people like Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edition, and Colonel Sanders, to name a few, they are persistent by nature. They achieved the unachievable not through their intelligence but with their imagination and persistence. Failures did not prevent them from achieving their goals. What made them stand out from others is their persistence. John C. Maxwell once remarked, “Water boils at 212 degrees, but at 211 degrees, it is still just hot water. One extra degree, an increase of less than one-half of one percent, can make the difference between a pot of languishing liquid and a bubbling caldron of power. One degree can create a full head of steam – enough power to move a train weighing tons. That one degree is usually momentum;” hence, don’t give up with desperation when you are close to victory. Invest a little more effort to achieve your ultimate victory. And to acquire the habit of persistence, cultivate the habit of writing as it not only helps you improve your writing skills but also enhances your persistence. Remember, apart from attitude, it is your persistence that makes a huge difference. Persist until the end to be a great achiever in this world.

20. Be a Giver: There are three types of people in the world. The first type is the taker who often takes from others. The second type is the taker and giver. The third type is the giver who often gives to others. The first type always expects from others, and you will mostly find such people in this world. We can call them selfish people. The second type gives something to others only when they get something from others. They have “What’s-in-it-for-me?” mindset and expect reciprocal response from others. This type is still better than the first one. The third type never expects anything from others. They often think about others and care others. They are large-hearted people. They are givers who live for others, not for themselves. They are altruists, and are rarely found in this world. They stand taller in the world. Everybody departs from this world with empty hands. Why should we not try to give away something to society before we depart? Be a giver, rather than a taker to leave a legacy. There are many people who are born and dead everyday and we don’t remember them. But we do remember great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela because they were givers and they always lived for others, and made a difference to the world.

21. Volunteer to Make a Difference: Society is a collection of individuals. When all individuals think collectively to contribute to others, they can make a difference. Margaret Mead rightly remarked, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” The people who are altruistic and think of helping and serving others make a mark for themselves beyond their lifetime. Most high achievers have this type of mindset and do philanthropic activities to help the society. They realise that nobody carries their wealth at the time of death; hence, they serve society as best as they could and make a difference in the lives of others. Nelson Mandela rightly remarked, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

The human mind is very powerful and you must know how to exploit and channel it effectively. By acquiring these habits and adopting this time-tested tools and techniques, you can unleash your hidden power to achieve greatness in your life. 

Treat these 21 tools as 21 bricks of your brand. Cement these bricks to build an everlasting leadership brand by practising regularly to fast track your career and provide meaning to your life. Malcolm Gladwell emphasises that the key to high levels of success in any field is practising a specific task for a total of about 10,000 hours. He uses the Beatles, Bill Gates, and himself – an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, and venerated public speaker as case examples for the 10,000-hours rule. Invest your precious time on your passionate areas for 10,000 hours to become a successful professional and leader.

Help locate the fish. Show the opportunities as most people grope in darkness. Help people discover talents and ask them to build skills around their talents. Inspire them to unlock their potential. You all have a huge potential.

A study by Dr. John Hagelin shows that we are using at most 5% of the potential of the human mind. 100% human potential is the result of proper education. So imagine a world where people are using their full mental and emotional potential. To conclude, human mind is very powerful and you must know how to exploit and channel it effectively. By acquiring these habits and adopting this time-tested tools and techniques, you can unleash your hidden power to achieve greatness in your life.

Book cover of “SPARK the power to becoming big is within you” by Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.

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About the Author

Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is an International Leadership Guru, C-Suite advisor, and a sought after keynote speaker globally with 38 years of experience. He is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He has authored over 45 books including the award-winning ‘21 Success Sutras for CEOs’, and most of his works can be read through his blog professormsraovision2030.blogspot.com. He is an advocate of global gender equality and is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He coined the innovative teaching tool – Meka’s Method; leadership training tool – 11E Leadership Grid; and leadership learning tool –Soft Leadership Grid.

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