The “Success” Secret: What Happy, Successful Leaders NEVER Tell You

The “Success” Secret: What Happy, Successful Leaders NEVER Tell You

Most successful entrepreneurs are great at what they do. Many are great in how they do it. The super successful entrepreneurs however, are great in how they be. Yes, you read that right. They are great at BE-ing. Being themselves. Thinking. Creating. Sharing. Being themselves from moment to moment. Circumstance to circumstance.

The greatest entrepreneurs of all, our elite entrepreneurs, the ones who are the very best of the best however…

  1. Know themselves better than you likely know yourself. (Read “The One Thing Super Successful People Know That You Likely Don’t“)
  2. Practice – practice knowing themselves, testing themselves, elevating themselves.
  3. Live “self realized” or “self actualized” lives. They embody their vision of who they want to be.

How I Know This To Be True

I know this because I was a mentor and lecturer at an incubator in one of the most famous cities in America for Entrepreneurship. I had been for almost 13 years. In those thirteen years I had immersed myself in over 300 startups and small businesses. So immersed in fact, that I won “Mentor of The Year Award” – voted such by the entrepreneurs and small business owners themselves. I was (and still am) a mentor because I want to be one. I had originally volunteered. Received no remuneration. Now, after 13 years I have made it my profession. I am now passionately obsessed in helping make dreams come true. In fact, I am driven to help make everyone’s dream come true. Business owners. Leaders. Corporate executives. Artists. Athlete’s. Moms. Even yours!

From this experience, I have witnessed and studied very closely those that found success. I not only have witnessed, but also took part in their journey; I lived it with them. I was immersed in their thinking, their doing and their BE-ing. Immersed in all their challenges, obstacles; all the blood, sweat and tears. The great days and… the many, many difficult days.

Birthed out of that immersion, was a sense of clarity. A more holistic understanding of how and why success “happens”. And, where that begins as most of you know, is first with a dream. Their dream.

Because You Can Be BOTH Successful And Genuinely Happy

Dreams perhaps are one of the most sacred things every human has in them. Somehow though, society has taught us to relinquish our dreams as we mature into adulthood. We’ve learned that responsibility eradicates our dreams. However, what they haven’t told you, or you haven’t learned is that your responsibilities are created by you through the choices you make. Many entrepreneurs and business owners interestingly have learned to make different choices so as to hold on to, preserve and go after their dream. Startup (or even some small business owners and) entrepreneurs in particular, live with less. Most don’t drive a nice car. Live in a big house. Wear expensive clothes. Go on decadent vacations. Eat out at expensive restaurants. Other people do. That is why they let go; relinquished their dreams; made these choices and assumed these responsibilities.

Most start-up entrepreneurs and small business owners however, don’t do this. No, many new business owners and entrepreneurs live smart or at least smarter. They have somehow inherently realized that “responsibility” (that word all you dream relinquishers use) is a scapegoat, a farce, a word that you use to make it all okay as to why you have settled. Why you compromised your dream and your ultimate happiness for the material possessions you thought you absolutely needed – a nice car, a beautiful home or apartment, things in general that most people have around you. Never ever forget that all your possessions – well most – are wants, not needs. And while having less or more certainly doesn’t make you a failure (I am not here to judge), one thing for sure I’ve learned is, having less is the first step toward true happiness. Happiness in the journey rather than the destination.

This is why many entrepreneurs are often happier than most everyone else. They are focused on their dream, the canvass they are painting on in life. They are deeply connected to the passion that lives inside of them. Passion and love fill their worlds. And yes, while “hard work” and sacrifice also fills their worlds and dominates their lives, it really is only what you outsiders view as hard work and sacrifice. To them it is an expression of who they are, what they want most and best of all, an expression of love (perhaps the very reason why we are here in this world as living beings). For them, hard work and sacrifice are directly connected to thoughts filled with love, passion, purpose and self identity.  Most entrepreneurs I have had the pleasure of mentoring and coaching are more like artists, living more in the moment and loving their life now rather hitching their happiness to some future outcome they have no control ever really obtaining.

A Pattern Emerges And Reveals The Real Truth

Every entrepreneur and business owner however, like any person in business (and in life) needs help actually succeeding. While entrepreneurs are more happy living an inwardly fulfilled life, they, like anyone else need for their artwork to mean something – not just to themselves but also to others. They want it understood in a manner in which people, many people, are willing to pay for it. They want to complete the cycle of what it means to be entrepreneurially fulfilled – creation, meaning, purpose and money! So, as their mentor, I am there to provide some or all of the help they need. I am there to summon upon all my previous experience as a three time successful entrepreneur and apply those skills, experiences and know-how to help them plan and overcome virtually any challenge.

Very interestingly, in my own personal journey with them, helping them, a pattern started emerging. A most striking pattern. A pattern that when fully realized, wound up shaking the very foundation of what I thought mentoring or coaching for success truly was about. And, even more than that… simply where success really comes from.

Despite most new entrepreneurs and business owners naturally infused happiness and rather elevated constitution as everyday living human beings, I learned that most unfortunately don’t know how to actually BE successful. They don’t know to think, speak and act successfully. They don’t even know how to make the everyday decisions that will dramatically increase their chances for success.

The numbers are not good folks. 90 to 95% of all startup business owners fail. They don’t make it. That includes those that are getting help (inside an incubator, accelerator or anything of the like) and out. And while incubators do a heck of a lot of good, most aren’t noticeably changing (for the better) the worldwide statistic more than one positive percentage point. Similarly, while franchise academies/training programs are also incredibly effective in preparing their graduates to run the operations of their future business, they fall short in delivering other aspects of business and leadership success. Why? Because incubators and even franchise training academies (most of them) teach entrepreneurs how to best DO not how to best BE… BE an entrepreneur. Be a new, successful franchisee, small businesses owner, etc.

Every business school, incubator, franchise academy I know teaches you the principles in how to start, manage and grow a successful business. They teach you everything you need to know in how to make your dream come true, and how to help your startup reach and surpass its tipping point. They give you the proverbial blueprint or recipe book for entrepreneurial success. Or, that is at least what they will tell you. But, if success really was a blueprint or a recipe book however, then every entrepreneur would be successful… right? Why then is this not true ? Why is almost every startup and small business unsuccessful? Why are too many new, startup franchisees struggling to make it back to black? Why are some unsuccessful? And, by unsuccessful, I mean never reach its true potential – hover as a tiny business that overworks and underpays its founders and owners. Answer: Because it is not just about the recipe book but the person or people holding it!

Discovering Your Own Truth

Look at it this way, we are all creatures of habit. Have you ever asked yourself why you make the habitual decisions you do? Why habitually you react in the manner you do to solve the common or even difficult problems faced? Why you say what you say; think what you think and ultimately, as a result, do what you do?  Why do you tell yourself “I don’t do sales”, or “I don’t raise money” or “I don’t deal with confrontational matters well”? Why are you so good at actually creating the technology but not helping your client or customer leverage it? Why can you manage your company’s financial matters so well but not your people? Did you ever really get to the bottom of it and really ask yourself why? Your habitual actions or reactions are based on who you are; that is, who you believe you are or at least what you tell yourself you are.

However, if you ever took the time to ask yourself why… why you act or react in the ways you do, you very likely will find new, sometimes different answers that will emerge for you. New pathways to solving problems. Given this, it stands to reason then that the better more fully you understand yourself, the greater depth and vision for you and your business you will have.  And, the greater the depth and vision you have in new and creative ways (both to solve problems and create all new pathways), the greater the chance of achieving success.

Once I was struck with this revolutionary thought, the cognizance that I was only providing Band-Aid solutions to problems predominantly caused by startup entrepreneurs and small business owners not knowing themselves well enough to actually BE successful, other truths started to emerge for me.

The REAL Formula For Success 

In my years of being a happy, successful entrepreneur, business owner and organization leader and, in my time mentoring entrepreneurs and clients who have made it… who reached their dream and true potential… who are both happy AND successful (as well as from leaders whom I have studied – some, from the most successful companies in the world), I began to notice they all have one thing in common. They BE differently. They think differently. They live differently. They have different personal habits, traits, belief systems. They even speak slightly differently.

Ultimately what I learned was this… your “it” whatever “it” is (your idea, career, business) will only ever be as good as you are. And as good as you are is only as good as ‘it” will ever get. They are connected. Yet, we live in a world that teaches us only to focus on it. To learn it so that we can do it. To learn more or work in it more to grow it more. To raise money for it. Get technology for it. People for it. It. It. It.

So… (here it comes, the secret sauce as they say) what almost every super successful entrepreneur has not yet told is that you need to Invest In Yourself, not just your business. Invest in knowing YOU better. Far better than you presently think and believe you do. What they are also not telling you is that you can’t invest in yourself “when”… when your business grows to a certain point, when you have more time, when you make more money, etc. You must, and need to invest in yourself now. You must make YOU a priority immediately. You must commit to growing you as you commit to growing your business.

You are now likely thinking… well, why? Why haven’t they told us this?

The answer… they didn’t know how. Most successful entrepreneurs (at least in my experience) are great at what they do, how they do it, and yes, how they be! Some are even great at telling their story in how they got there (outside of themselves – their actions)… but, what I have learned over time and after mentoring many of successful souls, most unfortunately are just not gifted at explaining this universal truth, this realization that lives within them… this REAL formula for success.

It’s Not What You Know, Say and Do But, How You Incorporate All That Into You And Make It A Part Of How You Be

Now, I bet that while many of you will agree and acknowledge this undeniable truth, the unfortunate reality is that most of you will do nothing about it. Most will create a story (and make themselves believe it) as to why not to start now; start learning how to better BE now. And, the reason most of you will do nothing is because it will cost you money! Money, many of you will tell yourselves you don’t presently have (while of course having money or, some money for IT – their idea, their business, their dream).

So, my advice to all you future entrepreneurs and dreamers out there… don’t make the mistake that most unsuccessful entrepreneurs today are making… Don’t wait to invest in yourself “when”. Invest in yourself NOW. Commit to you as much as you commit to IT. Learn the practice of knowing yourself better. Learn how to test yourself. Elevate yourself.

Trust me… your business, your family, your dream likely can’t do it without the very best YOU.


Your business, your career, your LIFE will only ever be about as good as you are, and… as good as you are is as good as it will ever get. It all begins with YOU. Take the first step. Invest in YOU. Create a more fulfilling life, career and legacy. For more about Andrew and his personal story click –> HERE.


Andrew Kolikoff  is a former chief science officer, university adjunct professor, resource conservation not-for-profit founder turned author and entrepreneur (a 3 time successful business owner – one time landing him on the front page of USA Today). Today Andrew is a coach, public speaker, author and principal at Aurelius where we turn followers into leaders and ordinary cultures into extraordinary ones.

Are Great Leaders Born Or Made?

Are Great Leaders Born Or Made?

Are Great Leaders Born Or Made?

I mean like… it is a fair question to ask right? So, which one is it? Which would you choose?

Everytime I pose this question to a room of executives in my public speaking engagements, interestingly, about third of the room will raise their hand for born, another third for made and another for both born and made. Then, as everyone in the room is looking to me for the answer, I say, “Well, what if I told you it was really a trick question”? “You see, while I believe some great leaders are born, some are made and some are both born and made, the greatest, certainly the most successful leaders are simply this… an ordinary person with an extraordinary commitment. Let me say it again, great leaders are simply an ordinary person with and extraordinary commitment!”


I see the room filled with quizzical looking faces silently saying to me, “what is that supposed to mean?”

I then say, “Ok, the operative phrase here obviously, is extraordinary commitment, is it not”? “Let me explain what I believe makes a commitment extraordinary and how truly great leaders both consciously and subconsciously do this on at least a semi-regular basis.”

100% Committed vs 100% Committed And, How One Version Is Truly Extraordinary

Math is truth. We cannot argue that 1 + 1 = 2 and 2 + 2 = 4

However, right here and now I am going to prove to you how a truthful math equation may not always be true… as math cannot explain nor account for the human experience.

If I said, 100% = 100% everyone would agree. Yes?

What if I said they are not always equal… that there sometimes is a profound difference between one 100% commitment and another 100% commitment?

Oh, you say there is no difference? Well, let me share with you there actually is a world of a difference and that this is the difference between what makes people/leaders great and most others just very good to ordinary.

Many of us (when truly determined) cognitively make 100% commitments. Yes, that’s right… 100%. However, what you are about to find out is that incredibly great leaders have a different type of 100% than some of yours. Here’s what I mean… let’s use a diet (specifically pizza) as a metaphor.

Remember the last time you went on a diet? You felt some struggle at some point… yes? Some moments you even probably fantasized about your favorite food (in this case pizza), that which you have been denying yourself all this long. And, while you may have reached your goal, let’s say 20 pounds, you had at least a few difficult moments. Normal right? WRONG! Well, yes normal but, not for a truly committed and transformed person. Not for a transformed, extraordinary person. For extraordinary people… their 100% commitments are different… different than most others 100%. Why or how is that you ask? Because while you both didn’t eat the pizza (you were both 100% committed) the difference between most of us and those who are truly transformed (extraordinarily committed) is… those who incorporate the commitment into how they think and act do not struggle! Their decision to not eat pizza becomes a part of them. Down to the fabric of how they think, act, be and in this case, eat. It’s almost like it is in their DNA. Their commitment is so much a part of them it is in their proverbial bloodstream. And because their commitment is incorporated inside them, they don’t experience struggle, EVER! There is almost a serenity. A peace that resonates within them because they have incorporated this new act, this new way of being into them. It is now them. Who they are and how they be.

This almost spiritually elevated level of 100% is the focal point, from where profound progress and breakthrough begins. A special place within ourselves that attractively pulls our outer world dreams to us. A place where we begin to create true alignment – aligning our inner world (thoughts and feelings) with our outer world (words and actions). And, when we master specifically these types of 100% commitments – true incorporation – this is where true attraction and flow state begins.

So you see… there are indeed two types of 100% commitments… the person who says no to pizza and struggles and the person who says no to pizza without struggle or even thought. 100% doesn’t always equal 100%.

Great Leadership Is All About The Significance (Or Not) Of That Which Happens On The Inside

Great leadership goes far deeper than just intelligence, ambition, behavior correction and modification. It is about how you manage your own operating system and the depth in which you make your commitments extraordinary.

Ultimately, it matters not whether a great leader is born or made, what matters is that we make not just one, but MANY life lasting, life empowering commitments. We make them a part of how we BE… how we think, feel and navigate through life. Extraordinary humans can, just like a switch on the wall, turn the light on and add many positive, empowered behaviors into their lives at the level in which they are literally woven into them. No thought. No struggle. Only just, the way…

Anyway, that’s how I see it. How about you?

Andrew Kolikoff, Servant Sales & Leadership Coach

Andrew is a sales and customer retention innovator, leadership development and culture coach, public speaker, and author.
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