The only person that can stop you from being successful is you.

There is only one person in this world that has the ability to stop you from being successful: you. It’s surprisingly easy to keep yourself from succeeding by doing any of these:

  • Setting unrealistic goals for yourself.
  • Underestimating your capabilities based on your current work instead of understanding your current capabilities.
  • Not creating systems for yourself to excel over time and allowing yourself to get stuck in what you do today.
  • Not setting any goals for yourself.
  • Not being willing to accept that you can succeed and do better for yourself.
  • Letting others dictate your path.
  • Trusting in luck to get you through instead of trusting in yourself.
  • Not creating strong relationships with people you can actually trust.
  • Trusting people who are not worthy of your trust.
  • Stopping too early.

It’s never too late to start on your path but it can be too early to quit. Focus on you. Who you are, what you are good at, and what you want from your life. Don’t let the success others seem to have on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites influence your definition of your own success. I’ve never met two people with the exact same goals and dreams for themselves.


You aren’t successful until someone thinks what you do is a commodity.

A commodity is something considered easy to get and safe to procure. It’s something that people feel just happens without a lot of complicated efforts. Everyone wants to avoid being a commodity because it’s considered entering “the race to the bottom.” But anything too complicated is too difficult to sell.

I strongly believe in working yourself out of a job. There is no task too complicated to automate or eliminate. If it’s something that adds value it should be automated (or at least greatly simplified). If it doesn’t add value it should be eliminated. Over time you should not be doing any of the activities you started out with if you are doing a good job. You’ve been even more successful if you’ve made the process look easy.

If someone looks at the work you do and thinks it is a commodity, that is often the sign that you’ve successfully simplified it to the point that you can move on to the next job. If you are the only one capable of producing a commodity item, you have the market cornered by definition. When people can sell themselves on what you do and none of your competitors can replicate it, that’s the very definition of winning.

Very little is impossible to accomplish when you define the problem correctly.

So much of success comes down to how you define success. It’s a feat that is self-fulfilling if done right. One person’s success may be in completing a marathon while another’s may be walking around their block three weeks in a row. Success is what you need it to be at the moment of definition.

The same goes for business projects. If your definition of success is to be a billionaire by 30 or to create a billion dollar business, you will likely be disappointed. However, if your goal is to collect experiences that will allow you to be given more responsibility over some amount of time, you have a higher likelihood of success.

Similarly, if you update your definition of success every few months, years, and decades you will continually push the boundaries of what you expected to do. Success is not actually an event – it’s a habit. Success breeds success and is built from doing one thing at a time.

Failure is often a requirement for future success because only through failure can we understand where our problem definitions were out of alignment with what we were actually trying to accomplish.

Give yourself time to be creative today.

Art is the key to successful work. All great work contains the seeds of art. A well-structured email must be clear, concise, practiced and give meaning to a specific audience. This is not much different in concept than what a painter does on her canvas.

Art happens when we are inspired to do more than the minimum amount of work. It happens when we want to give context, meaning, and response together all while fitting into a form that may not seem conducive to these goals.

Today I created a two page PowerPoint file to more clearly describe a project we are trying to get consensus on. This project has had pages of emails sent back and forth describing it. There are more than a few detailed excel models showing how the numbers work. There have been conference calls to go through the nuance and detail. There have been face-to-face meetings to get approval and ensure we have our risks covered. Yet through it all, the team was struggling to agree on the path forward with conviction.

Often the answer in the face of detail is simplicity.

Often in the face of simplicity is to provide nuance.

Art is in understanding how to get people to shift from where they are today to a new way of thinking. My two page PowerPoint will never be in the MOMA and will likely be forgotten in two days. But for the moment it helps to move a group of people forward with a new way of seeing something.

Art isn’t just in museums.

Always be sure where you stand, don’t choose your positions based on what you think others want to hear.

Authenticity is a word that is used a lot these days when it comes to culture. Leaders that are authentic are more likely to be looking forward and are easier for their teams to predict into the future. Their grounding can serve as a base for others to act from without needing to worry about unexpected pivots.

I have been fortunate in my career to work for a number of leaders that were both consistent and predictable. Did I always like their direction? Of course not. But knowing where they stood and the direction they wanted everyone to move in provided a lot of opportunities to drive things forward and still impact the direction.

One of my favorite ideas these days is “a bad decision is often better than no decision at all.”

Leaders that are inconsistent create an environment beneath the surface of indecision where there is often a lacking of accountability. When people don’t know what path they should take moving forward and leaders are not giving clear direction things quickly begin to stagnate and stop. Yes, activity continues but it is the continuation of past decisions and just keeping the lights turned on.

Innovation requires knowing where the path forward is. My favorite example of this currently is Microsoft during the Steve Balmer era versus where it is now under Satya Nadella. For a decade they lacked a strategic understanding other than “keep Windows dominate.” There wasn’t a future mission, it was all from the past. Now they have become an innovation monster. Their advances in every area they are focused on are moving entire industries forward and their brand has a cool factor it has long been missing. That’s the power of authenticity and decisiveness.

You don’t have to know what is going to happen. It’s your job to provide the culture and environment that allows everyone else to thrive and succeed.

Thinking Moneyball in CRE

Moneyball is one of my favorite books about business operations. When you exist in a highly competitive environment it is in your best interests to think about the landscape differently than your competition. You need to find an advantage that you can leverage that no one else is focused on.

There are few spaces as competitive (with as many competitors) as CRE. Every building is competing with every other for tenants. Every business is trying to attract customers. Every company is trying to recruit the same talent. Time is an enemy for everyone.

It can be easy to fall into the same mindset of everyone else and compete on finances and physical building characteristics. It can be easy to think that the money is all the matters since so much of CRE ultimately comes back to the almighty dollar.

But CRE is fundamentally about business operations. Without companies that need your space to work from, your buildings lose value very, very quickly. Without retail customers that want a brick and mortar store to go to, your corner property suddenly looks less attractive. If you know what fundamentally makes your business successful you can target it when others aren’t.

And no, your fundamentals are not made successful by “cars that drive by every hour” or “pedestrian access” or “distance from the freeway”. Those all sound good, are easily measured and can be used to justify high rents but they don’t make a business successful. Think of all that store/restaurant/bar in the middle of nowhere that you are willing to drive 45 minutes to get to with nothing else around because it is the best. If they can make you drive 45, a good business can get you to go 5 out of your way.

What makes you successful are the right people (the good ones won’t care about your address but will care how you build out their space). What makes you successful is a product that appeals to people. What makes you successful is an attitude to please your customers no matter what. What makes you successful is a single-mindedness to ensure every part of your business is actually focused on your business.

Smart, successful people can also be wrong.

There’s a meme that hits LinkedIn every few months that is a picture of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes with the quote:

The minute you have a back-up plan, you’ve admitted you’re not going to succeed.

This quote started going around well before Theranos crashed and burned but picked up again because of their situations.

The point being you can find many great CEOs/founders/leaders that are wrong on a subject at some point in the past. Sometimes vocally, wildly and publicly wrong. Warren Buffett is not 100% in his financial plays. Steve Jobs failed at Apple before coming back as a savior. Yahoo was once bigger than Google.

There is a cult of success that sometimes throws up a blanket of “right-ness” around those that seem to live successfully. Reality is far different though. Success comes not from perfection, success comes from timing, process, skill and (more often than people care to admit) luck. If Google had been founded 3 years earlier on the east coast, would it be what it is today? I highly doubt it.

Don’t take your cues from standalone quotes of successful people. I’d much rather read a well-written biography than a quote-a-day calendar of inspirational business quotes.