How to be successful in forty days

Published: August 22, 2014
The author is a Lincoln’s Inn Barrister and holds a degree in English Literature and Economics from Bryn Mawr College, USA

The author is a Lincoln’s Inn Barrister and holds a degree in English Literature and Economics from Bryn Mawr College, USA

Ladies and Gentlemen! I have great news. The secret formula for success that we have all been waiting, hoping and secretly praying for is about to be revealed. All you have to do, is to not do the things listed below and keep up the not doing for forty consecutive days. I promise you, that if you are good and don’t cheat, at the end of the forty days not only will you be well on your way to success but also you will be feeling lighter and happier. Sounds like a bargain doesn’t it? After all, not doing is easier than doing! Well, let’s see the list before we decide. Here goes:

1) Don’t tell yourself its too late, or that you don’t have the resources, or that people are against you

2) Don’t believe in everything you hear or see

3) Don’t feel that you have nothing more to learn

4) Don’t give yourself airs, act self-righteous or sneer at others

5) Don’t leave important things to be done by someone else

6) Don’t leave things until tomorrow things that can be done today

7) Don’t interfere in other people’s business

8) Don’t try to please everyone

9) Don’t run around sharing a new idea with everyone

10) Don’t always copy others

11) Don’t use your wit destructively

12) Don’t sit down and wait for life to happen

Easier said than done isn’t it? This list, which, incidentally, is not my own, but is based on the writings of a number of philosophers and life coaches, particularly on the work of the American philosopher Emmet Fox, prohibits only 12 things. However, the interesting fact is that most of us indulge in one or more of the twelve activities prohibited by this list almost daily, habitually and without any reflection as to their impact on our psychology and our ability to achieve success in our own lives. Perhaps if we understood their effect we would be more careful in mindlessly engaging in them?

Perhaps the most important realisation in this regard is that there is no magic formula for success. Success or failure, for that matter, has as much, if not more, to do with our state of mind as it has to do with our external circumstances. As I say this, I am reminded of the story of two frogs that fell into a bucket of milk. One cried that his life was over whilst the other refused to believe that this could possibly be the end. The first one sputtered, sighed and slowly sank to his death whereas the other struggled, kicked, bobbed up and down and created so much movement that a mound of curd formed under him. He quickly jumped on the curd and out of the bucket. Both frogs were in the same situation but their attitude was different.

By engaging in any one of the 12 items on the prohibited list we are very much like the first frog, who shuts himself off from the world, believes himself to be a helpless victim and does not make any effort to help himself. You may well ask, what can I do to be like the second frog? Writers in this field suggest that for starters, you can focus on your own life and make an effort to find your inner voice. You may also try and be your own best friend. Take responsibility. Take charge. Be original. Very much like the second frog, you may surprise yourself with the power and the magic hidden inside you.

What else? You must always be willing to learn and to experiment. Had the second frog not been willing to do so, his fate would not have been too different from that of the first frog. Recognise that every one and every circumstance has value. And, more importantly, that you have value. Believe in yourself and know that if you seek support with a positive mind, you will find it. Most importantly, go out there and take risks. After all, what’s the worse thing that will happen? You will fail? But you are failing anyway if we are not taking risks, aren’t you?

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2014.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Aug 22, 2014 - 4:46AM

    Ask Mr. Modi and you will have the answer.


  • a_writer
    Aug 22, 2014 - 6:03AM

    This is about as enlightening as telling someone that they should brush their teeth after every meal – is there no more originality left in this world?


  • Barrister Amna Abbas
    Aug 22, 2014 - 1:59PM

    I am going to print this and pin it to my wall! Succinctly put and a great guide for introspection. Thanks for the much needed reminder! Everyone should read, think, reapeat and apply!


  • Omar Bashir
    Aug 22, 2014 - 4:34PM

    “Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility”, Pablo Picasso

  • Toticalling
    Aug 22, 2014 - 6:08PM

    You do not need to be a genius to come up with things required for success. I have another attitude towards success: what successful people never do:

    Return to what hasn’t worked. Whether a job, or a broken relationship that was ended for a good reason, we should never go back to the same thing, expecting different results, without something being different.
    Do anything that requires them to be someone they are not.
    Try to change another person.
    Believe they can please everyone. Once you get that it truly is impossible to please everyone, you begin to live purposefully, trying to please the right people.
    Choose short-term comfort over long-term benefit.
    Trust someone or something that appears flawless…
    Take their eyes off the big picture.
    Neglect to do due diligence. No matter how good something looks on the outside, it is only by taking a deeper, diligent, and honest look that we will find out what we truly need to know: the reality that we owe ourselves.
    Fail to ask why they are where they find themselves.
    Do not blame those stood with you for your mishaps. Love and appreciate your family.


  • abhi
    Aug 22, 2014 - 10:53PM

    First you have to define what is Success.


  • Ateeb
    Aug 24, 2014 - 12:54PM

    The most encouraging and inspiring column i have ever read…..
    THANKS FOR twelve prohibitions ……


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