The Big Secret

The Big Secret

What is the secret to success? In a job, for a business? Is the answer complicated or is it easy? What is success? I am thinking about this because answering those questions are at the heart of Good & Prosper's mission. Let’s start from the end and work backwards.

Success is thriving. Success means growing in strength and developing one's full potential. Thriving means converting energy into form. A plant thrives when it is able to draw on all the resources available to it and emerge healthy and strong and in balance with the environment in which it is situated. As it grows and absorbs resources - water, light, nutrients from the soil - it changes the delicate balance of its biotope. Grow too big and there are not enough resources for the others, stay too small and it will not receive its share of the resources it requires and will wither and die. True success is growing without creating imbalances; is both using and returning resources, whilst reaching the fullest possible potential. Sunflowers don't become trees and trees aren't roses, but you can tell a successful tree, rose or sunflower when you see one.

So is the answer easy or complicated? Do you need to understand every aspect of a plant's progression from seed to flower in order to understand why it thrives or dies? Probably not. You do need to recognise that the system that produces the plant is highly complex. It is organic, which means it is made up of life itself - the complex interplay of thousands upon thousands of independant organisms from bacteria through worms and soil and other plants and insects and animals, from water quality to air and the components contained in it. Can we understand how they all interplay and connect? How a change in one can and will effect the trajectory and growth of a million others? No, we can't. So the answer is complicated, right? Yet we know that the impediment to growth can often be found in one very simple variable. When you return from a two week holiday and find your Ficus plant tan-grey and wilting, with its dried leaves scattered like a carpet around the base of its pot, you don't need a degree in bio-chemistry or an agriculture masters to figure out what the most pressing impediment to its health and growth is. You forgot to water it and so you supply that variable and, if you are lucky, the plant will resume its previously happy, thriving state of growth and hopefully, not hold a grudge against you for the rest of your life together.

The answer, then, is usually simple enough - figure out what the single largest impediment to growth is and deal with that and nothing else. You do not need to take soil samples and air tests and calculate optimal room positions and temperatures for your ficus, if the problem is lack of water. The system in which plants exist is complex, the answer to why they are not thriving, is usually quite simple.

What does thriving mean in a job or business context? And is the plant comparison relevant? Is there anything we can learn from plants that might help us thrive in our jobs and our business ventures. I think there is.

As a business or an individual , you are living in a highly complex, organic system. There are millions of moving parts, some of which you can see and know about, others which are invisible and you may not perceive. For instance, you know the price of fuel and can guess that it has some bearing on your company or job, but you may not recognise the culture or the mood of fear or exuberance, which is affecting the way in which you and people around you, see the world and the decisions you take. Can you tell whether you are thriving? Can you recognise if others are thriving? Can you assess whether you or they are successful in the sense I described above: "growing without creating imbalances, [...]both using and returning resources, whilst reaching [their] fullest possible potential."? Are they stuck, not growing? Are they losing their leaves and drying out? Are they smaller than they should be? Are their leaves green and healthy? Are they flowering and returning to the soil from which they derive their nutrients? Are they in the sun? Are you?

And if they are not, what is the single largest impediment to their thriving? What is the largest impediment to your thriving? Sometimes it is blindingly obvious and you run to fetch the watering can. Sometimes it is neither water nor sunlight, but something else. Maybe a mineral in the soil, maybe the wrong type of soil, maybe it is stuck in the shadow of a larger plant, competing for all the same resources, but being denied access to them, maybe in the wrong part of the garden and so on. The difference between a plant and a business or a job-owner? You can't ask a plant. You can ask people though. They may not aways be able to tell you exactly what the problem is, but they can describe the symptoms, they can tell you their frustrations and heartaches and desires and pains. They can, sometimes, describe to you their vision of success and tell you what they would be like if they were allowed to bloom and reach their full potential. And when they do, you can figure out what the single largest impediment to their growth is and fetch the watering can, or whatever it takes.

Is there a secret? Yes there is. And it is on plain view everywhere. It is hinted at or explicitly stated in every book on business and strategy and growth that I have ever read. Businesses exist to solve problems. Businesses are there to solve specific problems for specific customers. Customers, from the perspective of the business, are all those who suffer from the problem, it has identified and set out to solve. Businesses exist simply to serve. They are not there to provide you or anybody else with a job, or make profits or pay taxes or create wealth, although they should and do do all of those things. They are there to serve, by removing their customers impediments to growth and helping them to bloom and acheive their fullest potential.

Recognising the call to service and dedicating yourself and your business to solving very specific, relevant imediments to growth is the secret of success.