Date posted: December 29th 2016
Book Title: The Common Denominator of Success
Become the master of your likes and dislikes by surrendering to your purpose in life
My Summary (audio)
This essay was written for a group of life insurance salesmen but you can definitely apply it to anyone—regardless of profession. In fact, you will realize after reading this summary that your success can be completely independent from your choice of profession. In the 1930s, Albert Gray was in charge of a group of salesmen, and he wanted to teach them how to be successful. The problem was that when he sat down to write something for them, he couldn’t…He realized he wasn't sure what the secret of success is. So he went on an endeavour to find the common denominator of success. He read a bunch of biographies and self‑improvement books1 and he realized that “the secret lies in doing the things that failures don't like to do.”
That is it! That is the essence of the book. “Doing the things that failures don't like to do.”
Now, let’s think about that for a second. This doesn’t mean that if we do a bunch of things we don't like doing, we’ll be successful. Clearly a lot of successful people love doing what they do. What Albert refers to are the mundane little things nobody likes to do. He doesn't mention them (because he says they are obvious) but I can guess it’s stuff like:
Most people don’t like doing (or even thinking about) these things. But successful people don't mind doing them, they even acquire a taste for them. They have become the masters of their likes and dislikes because they have a much grander purpose. And that “purpose” is what makes all those annoying things seem natural and even pleasant.
The word purpose is the key thing there, because it gives you tremendous willpower. It’s something that you see at the end of the road, much bigger than yourself, which makes all these day‑to‑day obstacles seem minor and secondary. Makes you swallow those pills that life gives you like they are gummy bears!
Think about it, do you think a very successful artist enjoys spending long hours struggling to get those details in the right place? Do you think a successful programmer enjoys coding intricate algorithms day and night? Do you think parents enjoy cleaning their kid’s shit? No! They don't! But the successful ones don't get discouraged by those things; they are thinking about something much bigger.
That last example is very interesting. If you think of it from an evolutionary perspective, parenting is one of the things that we humans do best—seven billion humans are good evidence of that (I’d say). Or perhaps I should say, guaranteeing the survival of our offspring, instead of parenting (because parenting is much more complex than that). Either way, during this activity we have a purpose. That purpose is: ensuring that the kid survives so our genes can be carried on—and it is engraved in our DNA. It is a subconscious purpose, of course. It’s instinct (if you will), but it works! It makes all the crying and shit‑cleaning bearable. It makes us sacrifice a lot of things without even thinking of them as sacrifices. We just do it!
Another example of purpose is religion. There are many historical figures that devoted their work to a God. That God gave them a purpose that is much bigger than themselves, much bigger and powerful than anything in the universe!2
To me, one of the most remarkable instances of people having a purpose was the American revolution. Every time I read about the founding fathers of the United States, it amazes me that each and every one of them was absolutely brilliant, and very successful in all aspects of life. And I’ve asked myself “what are the odds of having that many amazing individuals born on the same place and around the same time?” But that is not the right question. The question is, what was going on during that time, so that these brilliant minds felt the urge to come forth? It was precisely the repression from the British Crown that encouraged them to think outside the box, and gave the the courage to do what nobody else wanted to do. But their purpose wasn’t just the revolution and it wasn’t just defeating King George III. They were definitely thinking beyond the next 25 years or 50 years, beyond their kids and their grandkids. What they wanted was to establish a government system, other than the Crown, so that freedom and unity in the colonies would last for centuries. Centuries! See how big that is? That purpose made all the fighting, writing, and arguing bearable. It was this collective purpose that forged the minds and lives of some of the most outstanding people in history.
Anyway, back to the essay. One thing that Albert makes clear here is that our purpose shouldn’t be logical, he actually thinks our purpose must be emotional. Because passion and emotion are what make us thrive and do great things. Making money, having possessions, getting a decent job, even having a family is not enough3. We have to think bigger!
This is absolutely true. Every historical figure had a grand purpose that encompassed things far beyond their accomplishments. Their actions were driven by something bigger than themselves. I assure you that their purpose was NOT making tons of money or having power.
I actually have this essay sitting on my coffee table and I take a glance at it every once in a while. It’s short, but don’t let that deceive you, the message is incredibly powerful and will reflect in many different ways, if you read it at different stages of your life.
I actually would be really interested in knowing what your purpose in life is. Mine is still a little blurry. I know I want to be an educator and a scientists, but perhaps some of you can provide me with the inspiration I need to finish sculpting my purpose. So, what’s your life’s purpose? Please answer in the comments below, or tweet about it using #CDSquestion
Alright guys that is it! Short and simple right? Thank you so much for reading, and don't forget to read more. But don't read books to say you did. Read them consciously! And write about them, for it is the only way for them to stay solid in the mind.