So just what does it take to achieve real success? In her new book, “The 10 Laws of Enduring Success,” Maria Bartiromo aims to answer that question with energy and honesty. The anchor of CNBC’s “Closing Bell With Maria Bartiromo” shares insights gained from pivotal moments in her professional life, as well as important lessons she's learned interacting daily with some of the most famous and powerful figures in the world, from Jack Welch and Garry Kasparov to Dmitry Medvedev and Joe Torre. Here is an excerpt.
On May 13, 2009, I stood on the field at Yankee Stadium, looking up into a sea of excited faces. It was not your usual game day, unless you were talking about the game of life. The occasion was the New York University graduation, and since Washington Square Park was under reconstruction, NYU had been allowed to use the new stadium for the event. Walking across the field, I felt a little thrill of memory and anticipation. I graduated from NYU in 1989, and it was already twenty years later. Time goes by so fast.
It was a proud and happy day. As a member of NYU’s board of trustees, I was excited to be a part of the ceremonies. Wearing a cap and gown, I escorted the playwright John Patrick Shanley across the field. A 1977 graduate of NYU, he would be receiving an honorary doctorate for his award-winning play “Doubt” and his many other writing achievements.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered the commencement speech from a podium on top of second base. Here was a model of success, I thought, a woman whose titles alone were history-making — from First Lady of Arkansas to First Lady of the United States to U.S. Senator to Secretary of State. Her credibility as a role model was undeniable. It transcended politics. Hillary told the students, “This is your moment. You have made it to the big leaguesand you are up to bat.” And she challenged them, saying, “One of the best lines from one of my favorite baseball movies, ‘A League of Their Own,’ said it well: ‘If it were easy, anyone could do it.’ ” The movie she was describing was an inspiring story based on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which briefly thrived as a replacement baseball league during World War II. I, too, admired that movie and loved the idea that a scrappy girls’ team could capture the nation’s imagination. I thought Hillary hit a perfect note in her commencement address, and the students thought so too. They cheered wildly after her remarks.
The graduating students already had the basic qualities they would need to start out on the road to success: youth, energy, brains and optimism. But they would need other things as well — a support system of wisdom from people who had once been in their shoes. As John Patrick Shanley wrote in the preface to “Doubt,” “Life happens when the tectonic power of your speechless soul breaks through the dead habits of the mind.” Those words capture the spirit of striving that is at the heart of every opportunity.
This book is my gift to the students, and to all others who seek a truly meaningful path to success in their lives. In the course of my work, I am able to interact daily with many of the great men and women of our times, and I have drawn upon their insights here. I also have had the opportunity to interview some of the most successful people in the world, to learn what makes them tick and how they achieved their happiness and success. However, when I sat down to write, I realized early on that I didn’t want to merely present a collection of other people’s ideas. Writing this book has forced me to recall my own experiences and to draw wisdom from them. It is written from my heart.
I’ve learned that although the landscape of success changes from era to era, there are fundamental qualities that remain consistent, no matter what is happening in the outside world. I have chosen 10 that are the most meaningful to me — those that I believe make for success that is enduring.
1. Self-knowledgeWithout self-knowledge, nothing else is possible. It’s the ability to define for yourself what shape your life will take, and how you will pursue success. Success is not an abstraction. It exists in the context of who you are, where you are, and what you love. It is tangible but not necessarily monetary. It is a state of being content in your heart.
Depending on your goals, success can be holding a degree from Harvard or holding a new baby; singing a popular song or building a popular car; feeding your family or feeding a village in a remote corner of the world; winning a prize or winning a battle with cancer; achieving a promotion or planting a garden; earning a big salary or earning the love of another person.
While you can look outward and be inspired by the examples set by others, you can’t be them. You can only be you. In fact, your individuality is the most important foundation for success. Every successful person I’ve met has a strong sense of his or her unique abilities and aspirations. They’re leaders in their own lives, and they dare to pursue their dreams on their own terms. They’re not trying to be someone else.
2. VisionVision is the ability to look ahead and see possibility. It is the place where your dreams and your actions come together.
Vision may seem like a lofty ideal, but its most important characteristic is focus. The shotgun approach to your life and career almost never works. I once heard an older journalist counseling a young man who wanted to be a reporter but who was also pursuing a career as an actor. He told him, “As the ancient Chinese proverb goes, Man who chases two rabbits catches none.” I don’t know if there really is such a proverb, but the elder journalist’s words rang true. Without a focused vision, you’re just bouncing off walls.
Vision involves looking at the world around you and asking, “What am I going to do about it? How am I going to use the precious gift of my one life?” And then answering those questions with a plan, as did people such as Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton and Jack Welch. The question you need to answer is how vision separates giants like them from the rest of the pack; the answer allows you to pursue your own game plan.
3. InitiativeSuccessful people are always thinking about what they can do to move to the next level. Initiative is the drive to do it — to take the first step, and then the next step, and then the next step. You can’t sort of want it. You can’t sit around waiting for it. My mother used to say, “The early bird gets the worm.” That could be the journalist’s creed, since my job is all about getting there first and going the extra mile.
The great thing about initiative is that it’s free and available to everyone. It’s a matter of doing something instead of not doing something. A friend of mine, an admitted procrastinator, told me that she trained herself to take initiative by committing to do one thing every day that she would normally put off — whether it was making a phone call, writing a letter or paying a bill. She was determined not to let her life get away from her. This simple practice, she believed, changed her life.
4. CourageCourage is the inner fortitude that allows you to overcome barriers and to step up and take a chance, even when it seems impossible. The most successful people I know embody the kind of bravery that makes others remark, “I can’t believe you did that.”
An old Italian proverb says, “He who does nothing does not fail.” Courage means that you’ll try something even if you aren’t certain of the outcome, that you’ll take a stand when others are running for cover, that you’ll risk failure to get where you want to go. Courage isn’t bravado or taking stupid risks. It’s simply deciding to live in a mind-set of possibility instead of fear. It is manifested in everyday actions.
Integrity means doing the right thing. And what is the right thing? I guarantee, you’ll know it. You’ll feel it in your gut. Integrity means looking inside yourself. When you strip everything else away, what kind of person are you? When faced with an ethical dilemma, we all know in our hearts what’s the right thing to do.
Integrity has been on my mind a lot these days, because in some instances the crises in the economy were created by a fundamental lack of integrity — decisions based on making a quick buck, regardless of whether they would improve the economy or stand the test of time. But integrity is not just reserved for the big do-or-die decisions. It’s the way you behave in everyday work. And it isn’t just a nice thing to have. It’s also a cornerstone to success. People are attracted to integrity. If you have it, they want to be around you and to be like you. They trust you. They’re willing to take a chance on you because they believe in you. You can have money and not have integrity. You can have fame and not have integrity. You can have a corner office and not have integrity. But you can never have true success without integrity.
6. AdaptabilityAdaptability is the opposite of complacency. The survivors are always those who can adapt. That’s been true since the beginning of time, and it’s certainly the case now. Technology has changed so many industries, including the media, with newspapers closing down and information exploding on the Web. The manufacturing sector is faltering as production and jobs are outsourced to cheaper locales. Millions of jobs have been lost, and people are wondering if they’ll ever be recovered. The answer lies in our ability to adapt to change — not to resist it, but to find the openings to new opportunities. The key to adaptability is having the attitude that you’ve always got something to learn, even if you’re at the top of the heap. There is no question that the people who are best positioned to survive the financial crisis over the long term are those who will be adept at shifting gears.
7. HumilitySome of the greatest people I know are also the most humble. Humility doesn’t mean being wishywashy, or letting others run over you in their climb to the top. It’s merely the understanding that you’re human. People with humility are extremely appealing. We all love it when someone says, “I really screwed up.” We enjoy it when people can laugh at themselves. We dislike finger-pointers and sentence parsers — those who are always looking out for their image. Without humility, you can never see the truth about yourself and others.
I grew up with the poem “If,” by Rudyard Kipling. It always inspired me. “If ” is in part a poem about humility — about understanding your place in the world. My favorite line is: “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, / But make allowance for their doubting too.” In other words, believe in yourself, but don’t think you’re the center of the universe.
8. EnduranceSince success is fleeting, you can never count on keeping it once you have it. Success is a long march, and you need the tools to endure. Even if you’re doing what you love, you can get burned out over time. Endurance requires pacing, discipline and the ability to sacrifice short-term gains for long-term results. Endurance means measuring success, not as an ultimate goal at the end of the road, but as a daily fact of life. The most successful people are those who know how to pave the road with incremental triumphs.
9. PurposeWhile growing up, I was in awe of the nuns who taught in my Catholic school. They possessed this mysterious thing called a “vocation.” Or at least in my young mind it seemed mysterious. In those days I thought that having a calling was reserved for very special people. Now I know better. We all have a vocation, which transcends the material factors of job, income and lifestyle. Many of the people I’ve met admitted that they came late to the realization of what really mattered in their lives. Usually, they were awakened because of a crisis — an illness, ajob loss or some other event that shook them to the core and forced them to look at what really mattered. But you don’t have to wait for disaster to find your purpose. Deep down, we all long to live lives of meaning and fulfillment.
10. ResilienceLife is a seesaw. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. In your heart of hearts, you know that success is fleeting. It’s possible to lose it all — through your own actions or through circumstances beyond your control. But at times we see people coming back, almost as if they’re rising from the grave, and that inspires optimism. We want to know how they did it — what attitudes and abilities allowed them to make seemingly impossible comebacks.
These 10 qualities are the bedrock of enduring success. As I thought about them, a liberating realization came to me: None of the qualities are dependent on external circumstances. True success comes from the inside, meaning that anyone can have it and anyone can keep it,in good times and bad. I have always believed that you must take charge of your life; if you don’t, someone will step in and do it for you. These 10 qualities will help you do that regardless of the economic climate. If you draw one lesson from this book, it is that your life belongs to you, to make the most of in any way you choose. I’m just giving you a little help from some friends.
Excerpted with permission from “The 10 Laws of Enduring Success” by Maria Bartiromo (Crown Business, 2010).