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When all else is equal...

Successful people and successful companies get where they are because of a host of reasons. Apple is a widely respected brand and a hugely profitable company not just because of Steve Jobs or elegant design. Harry Potter isn't the most widely read book after the Bible because of it's engaging plot and characters alone. Bill Gates isn't among the richest men just because he was smart and hard working.

Back in school, when I was studying Physics, I learnt how to determine what direction an object will move in and at what speed and acceleration, or why an object will stay still. It was a simple exercise of breaking down all the forces that the object is subject to at any given point in time along the three perpendicular axes (x-axis, y-axis, z-axis). Once I had broken down the effects of every single force along these three axes, it was then simple addition and subtraction of all components of forces along each of the axes to arrive at the net force on the object along each of the axes. Then all I had to do was sum the three net components along the three axes and arrive at the magnitude and direction that they would act at. And voila, I would have the force and the direction in which the object is subject to. And if I knew the mass of the object, I could tell with what acceleration it would move in the direction of the net force on it.

This little piece of math was so empowering. I could use it to explain and predict the movements of anything at all in the world.

How is this Physics lesson related to successful people and successful companies?

Success at the end of the day is achieving something, and that usually involves going from one place to another. Only it may not always be a spatial movement or a physical movement, but a movement in terms of revenue or profits or number of books sold or amount of money one makes or the job title one has. No matter how you define success for you, it is about moving from one place to another.

We all understand this much. But what we don't always understand is the impact of individual components that contribute to this movement, and our own mass (metaphorical of course).

Without understanding this, we go to the same colleges as other successful people went to. We go live in the same cities as other successful people did. We follow the 8 habits that these successful people all do before 8 in the morning. We read the same books that these successful people read. And so on and so on.

Going back to the Physics lesson, there is a golf ball and a football next to each other. The golf ball is on a downward incline while the football is in a concave crater. The wind is in the direction of the golf ball's intended movement while the wind is perpendicular to the football's intended direction of movement. Trying to emulate the habits or reading the same books as a successful person is like applying the same force to both the football and the golf ball in this situation. Clearly they will not end up in the same place.

What we need to understand is the breakdown of all the forces that are acting on us and understand the magnitude of individual components and the directions that they are acting in.

Then, we can easily identify what forces need to be negated and by how much and what forces need to be assisted and by how much and in what direction.

This will not only tell us what to do but where to focus on first.

A good mentor and a good teacher does precisely this. Help their students breakdown all the forces that they are exposed to and arrive at the net force.

But, alas, not all of us have good mentors or good teachers. Instead, we have those that give out the same advice and suggest the same actions to everyone.

But, in their absence, it is up to us to figure this out for ourselves.

Following the habits of successful people is only the way to go when all else is equal between you and them. If it isn't, you have to forge your own path.

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