10 Rules for Success: Lessons to Live By

by Don Smith

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It seems like everyone has their rules for success these days. There's Bill Marriot's 12 rules for success, Steve Job's 12 rules of success, Arnold Schwarzenegger's 12 rules of success, Bill Gates 10 rules of success, Donald Trump's 10 Rules for Success, Barack Obama's 10 Rules for Success, and even a viral NSFW 12 f*ing rules for success.

As the founder of The Personal Growth Channel, a community focused on personal growth and development which now receives thousands of visits each day, I figured it was time to publish my own list and join the club.

MY 10 RULES FOR SUCCESS: Lessons to Live By

  1. Do Not Make Excuses
  2. Surround Yourself With Great People
  3. Show up Consistently and Add Value
  4. Learn When to Say Yes and When to Say No
  5. Keep People Around Who You Don't Agree With
  6. Never Stop Learning
  7. Go To Church
  8. Develop Relationships
  9. Ask “How Can I?” Rather Than Saying “I Can't.”
  10. Take Care of Yourself, Then Take Care of Others
  11. Bonus Round – Go The Extra Mile, Have Fun, and Be Happy


Never make excuses for where you are in life. You have the choice to change, to drive yourself somewhere else that you'd rather be. Think about this for a moment, some of the most well-known people in the world have huge disabilities. Stephen Hawking is a cripple in a wheelchair who can't even move or talk right, yet he's one of the most recognized figures on the planet. And oh yeah, he's got his own rules for success. I know people of every race from every walk of life who are successful. Don't let where you came from determine where you are going and who you will become.

Don't make excuses. You don't need them. Yes shit happens, and life isn't always rosy, that happens to all of us. You can't change the past, don't live there. Learn to fail gracefully. If you fail, fix it if you can, apologize, learn the lesson, then get back up and keep moving forward. The thing that separates the successful people from those who are not is how they react when they fail. Successful people keep getting back up after failures and keep moving forward. Unsuccessful people stay down when they fall down.


This one should be obvious, but it deserves to be repeated. Surround yourself with people you admire, and you'll find yourself emulating their habits and benefiting from their presence. Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I've found this to be true in every aspect of my life. When I surround myself with people I admire, I start picking up their habits and they carry me along with them.

I like to do this with different groups for different aspects of my life. There is no one expert for all aspects of life, you've got to find people who are good at what you want to be good at. For example, I've got Toastmasters for developing speaking skills, my soccer buddies and a personal trainer for my health, groups of life coaches and bloggers for trading ideas, groups from my church to hold me accountable, a group of local small business owners through my local chamber of commerce for ideas on developing our business, and many other similar groups that I am part of.


If you want to get good at something, you need to keep showing up and putting in the effort. If you read any biography or the research from books such as “The Talent Code”, you will find that the vast majority of “overnight successes” created their “overnight success” after preparing for it for about 10 years. Woody Allen once said, “80% of success is just showing up“. I believe a lot of the extra 20% is developing trust by saying what you're going to do and then doing it.

It's taken me two years to build this site to the point where it is now getting a lot of traffic. I've written an article nearly every week for the last few years, read several books a week for nearly 4 decades, and listened to a whole bunch of people. One of these days I have a feeling it'll be a breakout “overnight success”. It takes years to build a lot of muscle. It takes years to become an expert in any field. It takes years to become a great writer. That's how knowledge and skills work, much like compound interest, they build up over time. Keep showing up, doing your best, adding value, sticking with it, getting feedback, and you can become the best.


Time is something you can't get back. When you are getting started with a new adventure, I've found it is best to say yes to most everything. At first, you'll miss many opportunities if you say no to them, because you don't know what works and what doesn't. Over time though, you will find yourself getting overwhelmed and becoming ineffective if you keep saying yes to everything. That's when it is critical to start saying no. Learn to say no to those things that don't add value once you know what works and what doesn't.


Did you know that Abraham Lincoln intentionally created a cabinet of intelligent people that disagreed with him? It was documented in the book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln“, and is studied to this day in business circles. I'm not saying that you need to keep people that constantly argue with you for no reason in your life, but you do need to have people around you who will not always agree with you if you want to be successful.

Learn to appreciate those around you who have differing opinions. They will help strengthen you by pointing out pitfalls and helping your team avoid groupthink if you let them.


When I was born, there were no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet. It's hard to believe that all of that occurred in the last 4 decades, most in just the last 2 decades. That should give you an idea of how quickly things are changing. If you stop learning, you're going to get left behind. Never stop. Sign up for sites like this one and keep your axe sharp!


Yep, I'm going there. Your mom was right, going to church is important. Did you know that going to church weekly reduces your risk of divorce by 10%? How about finances, were you aware that the Bible has more than 2,000 verses on the topic of money? Or that there is a book in the Bible written by King Solomon, a name synonymous with wisdom, to his sons to pass along a lifetime of wisdom? Even if you don't believe in God, you're missing an amazing community and an opportunity to learn if you don't get to church each week. Go to church! You might even find that God-sized hole in your heart filled if you do it consistently with an open mind.


While it is critical to always be learning, it is equally critical to always be developing relationships with others. I'm probably sounding like a broken record here, but relationships are absolutely critical to your success. Wildly successful people are never completely alone, they've learned to connect to others. I would never have been able to get this website off the ground without the support of great people I've connected with in places like Triberr, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in person through organizations like The Red Cross, Toastmasters, and my local Chamber of Commerce. I would have never been able to run a successful recording and voice productivity company without great relationships with our customers, staff, and vendors.

Relationships are what you'll want at the end of your life when you're lying on your deathbed. Don't neglect either your personal or professional ones. We often neglect our kids and spouse in favor of professional relationships, or neglect our professional relationships in favor of our family. Find the balance.


This is a very slight adjustment in thinking, but as Robert T. Kiyosaki pointed out in the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!“, the rich ask how they can do something rather than assuming it can't be done. If there isn't enough money, they find a way to come up with the money. If there isn't a clear path, they talk to others and come up with a path to their goals. They also “embrace the and”, meaning they don't assume that they have to choose between two good things, they regularly find a way to do both.


Always put on your own oxygen mask first. You need to be physically and mentally fit if you are going to be of much help to those around you. That's why the stewardess on the plane always says to put your oxygen mask on first, you're not much good if you are passed out. Take care of yourself, you only have one body, it needs to last you a lifetime. Never forget that your physical, spiritual, and mental health are all connected.

Once you have your oxygen mask on and have had a chance to take a breath, it's time to help others. Zig Ziglar famously said, “You will get everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” I've found that if you add value to other's lives, you add value to your own life. It is important to do things at times without expecting anything in return, but the world has a funny way of repaying that favor in ways you might not expect. Help others, and you'll help yourself.


Many people figure out too late that happiness is a choice. You can choose it. I've worked with kids living in poverty, and you know what? They are often grinning and playing. They know how to be happy even when the world around them is in shambles. Leighton, one of the happiest guys I ever had the pleasure of knowing, was fond of saying “Life isn't complicated. Don't make it complicated.” Have fun with life, it doesn't need to be so serious all the time. Be thankful for what you already have, and learn to be happy today.

Here's a bonus in case you didn't notice it – this article is littered with links to other successful people's lists, videos, and books. There is enough in this single article that you could spend many days reading and watching things to get through it all. Go back through and reread it and click through some of those.

That's what I mean by going the extra mile. I could have just written all of this in one little short blurb. Instead, I took many hours to gather up links to other people's stuff and really think about it. Put in the extra effort, and people will notice. Go the extra mile.

Enjoy today, and also remember to always throw in a little extra bonus for others whenever possible!

I hope you've enjoyed these rules for success. If you'd like to stay in touch, be sure to sign up for our newsletter! Have an amazing day!!!


About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

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