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5 Steps To Master Your Success

Written by: Dr. John L. Terry, III, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


You cannot achieve what you do not believe. This quote, from my book “Black Belt Leadership 101” summarizes the first essential quality of a Black Belt Leader. By definition, it’s trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something. Belief is an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.

success on brown wood and a key

Belief defines success.

Simply put, if you don’t believe you can (or will) be successful, you won’t. Or, as Henry Ford aptly put it, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

As you think, you become.

Once you stop thinking, you stop becoming.

When you allow the image of success to shrink in your mind, you become less successful.

When you stop thinking about success, and defining what success looks like to you, you stop becoming successful.

You cannot achieve what you do not believe.

How Do You Define Success?

Interestingly, success is a relative term. By definition, success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. But it begs the question, what aim? What purpose? Again, it’s a relative term because the definition of success is different for each person. We each get to define and measure what success looks like.

But if you don’t have a definition of success, a clear visual image of what this looks like, then it’s impossible for you to be successful.

You cannot achieve what you do not believe.

This is also true for success.

If you want to be successful, to see yourself as a success, you must first determine what you believe to be true about success. If you don’t visualize what success means to you, you have no point of reference to measure whether you’re being successful or not.

Here’s what happens if you don’t.

You allow other people to define success for you, and to dictate the terms and conditions under which you can experience success in your life. When that happens, you are no longer in control of your life. You’re being led by others, living up to their expectations (and not your own), and they are defining for you what success looks like and whether or not you’re living up to their vision of what that looks like.

Now you have to ask the question, “If this isn’t my definition of success, am I truly being successful in life?”

Short answer, NO!

My friend, Jeff Henderson, author of Know What You’re FOR”, says there are two questions that must be answered in life. The first is, “What do you want to be known for?” The second is, “What are you known for?” You answer the first, and others answer the second. The gap between the two is your opportunity to grow.

These questions can be adapted to also defining success.

  1. Do you see yourself as successful?

  2. Do others see you as successful?

You get to answer Question One. Other people get to answer Question Two.

Both answers will reveal a LOT to you about what you believe about success and how you’re actually living that out before others.

Another important defining question as it relates to success is WHO you’re actually succeeding for. If you’re focusing on being successful, and improving yourself in some way, are you doing that for yourself or are you doing it for others?

If you’re doing it for yourself, good for you. You’re committed to learning, growing, maturing, improving, and pursuing your own vision of success. If you’re doing it for others, you’re relying on gaining another person’s favor, appreciation, or recognition to keep you going.

You have to then ask if you’re allowing that other person to define what success looks like to you.

And that’s a recipe for disappointment.


Success that isn’t your own doesn’t really satisfy or fulfill you. It may make you feel good for a moment, but it’s short-lived.

To truly DEFINE SUCCESS for yourself, there’s a process for that.

The Success Formula

First, you’ve got to identify your purpose, passion, or calling. Is there a cause, goal, or objective that energizes and excites you? Is there something you’re truly passionate about or that motivates you to take action?

If success is moving toward something, what is that ONE THING for you?

Secondly, you’ve got to do something to start moving toward your passion or your calling. It’s getting off the bench and onto the playing field of life. It’s doing something consistently, that moves you from where you are toward where you want to be in the future

It’s like choosing to run in the Boston Marathon as a success goal, but you never put on the jogging shoes and start getting in the preparatory miles to prepare you for the 26.2-mile run. It’s a lofty goal, but it only remains a dream until you take consistent action.

I was recently talking with a retired pro baseball player and we were talking about success. He said success, to him, was getting on base more often than he struck out. That’s what gets him back in the batter’s box again and again to take another swing of the bat.

And that’s how he measures his life. As long as he gets more wins than losses, that keeps him consistently moving forward toward his next success goal in life.

Thirdly, you’ve got to be willing to pay the price of success. Success isn’t free. It’s going to cost someone something, and that person is often you. That investment could be time, money, commitment, or resources. It could also require sacrificing sleep, time with family and friends, and missing out on a life of comfort and ease – at least for a season.

My mentor, Dr. John Maxwell, says everything worthwhile is always uphill. It requires work, dedication, commitment, and the investment of yourself if you truly want to get to the top and achieve success.

Part of defining success is defining what’s going to be required of you to achieve it.

Fourth, you need a recognition and reward system so you can stay motivated, committed, and celebrate the WINs along the way.

When I’m teaching Goal Setting, especially when it comes to BIG Goals, I often ask the audience how you eat an elephant. The answer is one bite at a time. It’s a HUGE task, but if you break it down into smaller chunks, it is more manageable. You eat a foot, you can celebrate the WIN, then go back to eating. Eat one leg, another WIN, then go back to eating.

Recognizing and celebrating the WINs is essential, as this provides you with both the motivation to keep going and a means to measure your progress along the way. Remember, what gets rewarded gets repeated. This is one of the ways you benefit from defining success. You define what a WIN looks like, and the mini-wins along the way, and you celebrate them.

A reward system is essential, as it keeps you going during those challenging, difficult times that all of us encounter at various times in our lives. Not every day is a “Perfect 10” when everything goes your way.

Celebrating the WINs releases dopamine, which feeds the “feel good” center of the brain, motivating you to push through the struggles and difficulties you’re facing in the moment so you can get to the next WIN and celebrate once more.

This is how you create Success Patterns in your thoughts and behaviors. It’s how you define success in such a way that the pursuit of success becomes a habit, something you do without conscious thought.

And given the choice, would you rather your brain be hardwired for success or failure?

Lastly, defining success is ultimately linked to your WHY. Your “BIG REASON” for doing what you do. If you’re a person of faith, as I am, your WHY may be linked to your faith walk, your spirituality in some way.

Years ago, I heard it described as having a “connection with your creator” that motivates you to GO, DO, or BECOME more.

But your WHY can also be linked to your legacy, how you want to be remembered when you’re gone, or the work you want to continue by those who one day take your place. Dr. John Maxwell refers to this in the 5 levels of leadership as “significance”. I’ve heard Dr. John talk about this as the pursuit of your highest calling, your greatest purpose, and the thing that gives you your greatest sense of accomplishment, joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

Who doesn’t want to be remembered? To build or create something for those you leave behind so your legacy lives on in and through the lives of those who stand on your shoulders and choose to define success in a similar way?

Don’t Settle for a Little Success

Defining success is a personal decision, something each of us must do for ourselves.

How we define success, or choose not to, will define what our future success looks like.

If you define success as too small, too easy, or not at all, you’ll live your life like the 99%. You’ll go through life existing, but never really succeeding at the level you’re capable of. You’ll be content with the occasional “crumb” of success life throws at you, but deep inside, there’s a longing that is never fulfilled, a passion that’s never stirred, and a fire inside of you that’s never kindled into a roaring flame.

I believe everyone on this planet was put here ON purpose, FOR a purpose, but it’s up to them to discover, develop, and deploy their own unique Black Belt Leader Within so they can rise to their full potential and experience the success they were destined to achieve.

Don’t define success too small. Anyone can do that. Norman Vincent Peale said it well, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” If you’ve not yet read, The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, read it. If you’ve read it before, read it again.

Don’t define success too small. Think BIG!

As you think, you become.

Once you stop thinking, you stop becoming.

As you think about success, you become successful.

Once you stop thinking about success, you stop becoming successful.

Thomas Edison, perhaps one of the most prolific, most successful inventors of the Modern Era, understood the importance of defining success. He noted, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Quitting is easy. Anyone can do that. Successful people don’t quit. It’s not in their vocabulary. Successful people are persistent, they find their WHY, pursue their passion, pay the price, celebrate their WINs, and they keep moving forward.

Let me leave you with a quote from Og Mandino, in his classic tale, "The Greatest Salesman in the World" that sums this up well.

I love this definition of success.

I will persist until I succeed.

I was not delivered unto this world in defeat, nor does failure course in my veins. I am not a sheep waiting to be prodded by my shepherd. I am a lion and I refuse to talk, to walk, to sleep with the sheep. I will hear not those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious. Let them join the sheep. The slaughterhouse of failure is not my destiny.

I will persist until I succeed.

The prizes of life are at the end of each journey, not near the beginning; and it is not given to me to know how many steps are necessary in order to reach my goal. Failure I may still encounter at the thousandth step, yet success hides behind the next bend in the road. Never will I know how close it lies unless I turn the corner.

Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult.

I will persist until I succeed.

Henceforth, I will consider each day’s effort as but one blow of my blade against a mighty oak. The first blow may cause not a tremor in the wood, nor the second, nor the third. Each blow, of itself, may be trifling and seem of no consequence. Yet from childish swipes, the oak will eventually tumble. So it will be with my efforts of today.

I will be likened to the raindrop which washes away the mountain; the ant who devours a tiger; the star which brightens the earth; the slave who builds a pyramid. I will build my castle one brick at a time for I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking.

I will persist until I succeed.

I will never consider defeat and I will remove from my vocabulary such words and phrases as quit, cannot, unable, impossible, out of the question, improbable, failure, unworkable, hopeless, and retreat; for they are words of fools. I will avoid despair but if this disease of the mind should infect me then I will work on in despair. I will toil and I will endure. I will ignore the obstacles at my feet and keep mine eyes on the goals above my head, for I know that where dry desert ends, green grass grows.

I will persist until I succeed."

This is how you define success.

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Dr. John L. Terry, III, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. John Terry went from being bullied as a 13-year-old boy to becoming a 3X martial arts Hall of Fame inductee and multi-discipline Black Belt. What he learned along the way was not just how to defend himself, but how to become a Black Belt MASTER of who he was and what he did. Today, Dr. John teaches individuals how to discover, develop, and deploy their own unique “Black Belt Leader Within” so they can rise to their full potential as they learn to lead their lives with Black Belt Excellence. He is the founder of Black Belt Leadership, a coaching and training organization dedicated to developing world-class individuals who live their lives ON purpose, FOR a purpose.



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