I was speaking at an event one time and someone asked me this question, “If you had to attribute one thing to your success, what would it be?” To which I responded, “The grace of God first, but then I really believe it is consistent, productive, daily, habits.”
An interesting research by an author named Tom Crowley who researched the habits of the rich. Here are just a few statistics from his study:
Where this study got really interesting was when Crowley started comparing the habits of the rich to the habits of the poor.
Habits are just as powerful on the negative side as they are on the positive. And you can't just break a bad habit. You have to replace a bad habit with a good habit. Based on this research, it’s obvious that when you look at a person’s results in life and then you look at their habits, there’s a direct correlation.
Further, Crowley’s study noted that rich people intentionally build relationships with other successful people and they spend time thinking about and developing those relationships; they make an effort to stay connected and they actively provide value to those people. The rich are also more open minded than the poor because the poor generally have limiting beliefs and closed off ideologies.
There’s one more ideology by Crowley that is worth mentioning. And the best way I can anchor it in your minds is with a story.
About 120-130 years ago, a geologist from Pennsylvania was in pursuit of a rare earth metal in the Amazon rain-forest. Back then, there was not a lot of technology, travel, or medicine and it was very dangerous to go deep into the rain-forest. However, he recruited four people to go with him who had specific skills that would help round out his team so he could make his way into this remote place deep in the Brazilian jungle.
This crew was there for several months and they didn’t really understand what the geologist was trying to accomplish. To them, someone who takes this kind of dangerous, risky journey should be in pursuit of gold; not some earth metal. They didn’t understand what it was that he was looking for. But, the four men had been paid in advance so they decided to stay the course. Eventually, the good geologist contracted malaria. Because there wasn’t proper medicine in those days, and no access to a doctor, he knew he was doomed.
So, the geologist started packaging up a big wooden crate. He told his crew that the contents inside was a secret and they had to promise on his life that they would bury him in the jungle, put a cross on his grave, and take the crate back to the University of Pennsylvania. The geologist told them, “I promise you, if you manage to get this crate safely back to the university, it will prove to be more valuable than gold for you.”
Intrigued by this and sad that they were going to lose their new boss and friend, when the geologist died a few days later, the four men buried him as he requested and then started to wheel the big wooden crate back through the jungle and out of the Amazon. Eventually they got on a ship and made it back to the University of Pennsylvania.
It was a grueling journey. Many times the four of them started to squabble. Each of them had different ideas about which direction to take and which local guides to believe. In fact, they got lost several times and started blaming each other. They ran out of food a couple of times and had to beg at some villages. There were several times when each of them thought about abandoning the task. But, there was just enough curiosity about what was so valuable in the crate that they stayed together through it all.
Eventually, the four returned back to the port in Philadelphia. When they couldn’t stand waiting any longer, they got out a crowbar, broke the seal, pried open the lid, and opened the crate. At the very top, there was nothing but wood chips. So they started digging through the wood chips and reached nothing but sand. Then they started digging through the sand and reached nothing but gravel. So they start scooping out the gravel and they reach some sticks of wood. Still curious, they take the wood out and see two or three boulders. Then, at the very bottom of the crate, they saw that there was nothing but a mixture of all of the elements...nothing valuable at all!
“Better than gold?” they exclaimed. “What was he talking about?" So they walked away defeated and started questioning the geologist's motives. “Why did he do this to us? Was it supposed to be some kind of mystery or puzzle?”
One of the men, who was a sea captain, sat down and said, “You know what, a lot of times when I’m at sea and the storms get high, I have to tell my sailors something to keep them unified and working together. I’ll sometimes have to assign them work that has nothing to do with anything. But I have to keep them busy and focused on something so we can all make it out alive. I believe that’s what the good geologist did to us. He gave us a unifying goal! He gave us a reason to stick together and not quit, even though we hated each other’s guts. And by golly, it worked! The crate didn’t have to go to the University of Pennsylvania, he just wanted that crate to get us home, and it did!”
What’s so powerful about this story is that in Crowley’s research, he mentions that one of the biggest habits of the rich is that they work in concert with other people, on goals that are bigger than themselves, on a regular basis.
When you can combine efforts with other people, toward a goal that’s bigger than any one person, for reasons that are deeper than any of your own selfish desires and gratifications, and you work towards that goal consistently as a habit, not only is that what it takes to accomplish great things, but it actually gives you the unifying force to be successful.