Achieving lasting and sustainable success, in business, leadership, and your personal life requires the right approach. In my experience, many people would benefit from a rethink about what success means and how to achieve it. Common sense tells us that becoming successful and having a good life is about accumulating. This assumption has catastrophic consequences for ourselves as individuals, and for the business ventures we participate in. I believe we need to deliberately challenge the way we think about success in all aspects of our lives.
Surpluses and Successful Businesses
The simplest way to think of group success and business success is to say that businesses succeed when they produce a surplus, whatever that surplus might be. The measure of the success of a business has traditionally thought to be the profit it produces, which is, of course, a surplus. The surplus need not be financial profit, however. It might be an educated child, or well-maintained infrastructure, or something else besides.
But the interesting thing about a surplus is that it only exists because the people co-operating in the business produce something bigger than what they collectively take out. They give more than what they take. It is only when people act for reasons bigger than their own immediate self-interest that they can work together to produce a surplus.
Think of the alternative. When a person within a group is primarily concerned about accumulating personal gain through their presence in the business, they will start to eat away at the surplus. This is why political corruption is such a destructive disease, it eats away at the surplus of a nation. A business that is populated by people who are primarily concerned with serving their own interests is not sustainable, it will have too many people taking more than what they are contributing.
The simple point is this: if you want your business to succeed, you must find contributors/givers. Contributors are people who concern themselves with what they should be giving; they are committed to the agenda of the group and subordinate themselves to it. This means that an altruistic motive is essential for business success, it is when people concern themselves with giving and making a contribution that they can come together and achieve great things.