You may have already seen these simple rules for success somewhere because H. Jackson Brown has had a productive career in the self-help industry. Whether you have or haven’t, they’re worth reading now.
1) Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.
2) Work at something you enjoy and that’s worthy of your time and talent.
3) Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
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4) Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.
5) Be forgiving of yourself and others.
6) Be generous.
7) Have a grateful heart.
8) Persistence, persistence, persistence.
9) Discipline yourself to save money on even the most modest salary.
10) Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.
11) Commit yourself to constant improvement.
12) Commit yourself to quality.
13) Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.
14) Be loyal.
15) Be honest.
16) Be a self-starter.
17) Be decisive even if it means you’ll sometimes be wrong.
18) Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life.
19) Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.
20) Take good care of those you love.
21) Don’t do anything that wouldn’t make your Mom proud.
Some of these are so standard you’ve probably heard them 100 times before, especially if you have an interest in self-improvement. What makes this list stand out to me is that Jackson talks about something you DON’T hear people talk about much anymore. He spends a lot of time on this list hammering home the importance of character.
In an age when rich dirt bags are common and movies promote anti-heroes who are able to succeed because of their lack of ethics, talking about character almost seems trite and old timey.
But, what’s “old timey” about being a good person? What’s “trite” about being honest, loyal, being generous, taking care of those you love and refusing to do anything that wouldn’t make your mother proud? Aren’t people who have those values the sort of people you want to be around? If you had a son or a daughter, wouldn’t you want her or him to marry someone with those qualities?
When you wave off the importance of character because you don’t see how it puts money in your pocket or directly aids you in reaching the top of your field, you’re missing the point.
Success is more than just the size of your bank roll or how many people know your name. It’s about building solid, lasting relationships with people you care about and want to be around. It’s about not building your success on a foundation of lies, disloyalty and selfishness that will eventually bring you down even if you do reach the top. It’s about KNOWING that you’re a good person who deserves success, not a pretender whom most people wouldn’t like if they knew the real you.
You don’t have to be a goody two shoes or Mother Teresa, but good character is the foundation of a successful life. It won’t make you successful in and of itself, but it will help you along the way and keep you from throwing it all away once you get to where you want to be in life.