The Secret of Success

Fritz Roethlisberger, a very wise Harvard Business School Professor, gave a talk at the school over sixty years ago with the title “What is the secret of success?” He concluded quickly that it was “silly, meaningless and unanswerable question”!

The problem is, he said, is that it encourages too many of us to think of the present time as a means and the future as some golden goal that we will eventually reach. As a result we never get to enjoy the present. The question we should be asking, he said is “What prevents me from learning here and now?”

He continued:

Are there not two different kinds of goals? . . . one kind which takes all meaning and significance out of the present, and . . . another kind of goal which makes the present more meaningful and significant. . . . By means of [the first kind] we make ourselves miserable in the present . . . we create a target just in order to shoot at it and we make ourselves miserable every time we fail to hit the bull’s-eye. . . .

In the case of the second kind of goal, we create the target to perfect our shooting here and now. This kind of goal works for us. It makes meaningful and significant the present. It facilitates growth, learning, the sense of adventure and exploration. In this frame of reference, hitting the bull’s-eye isn’t an end in itself. The bull’s-eye merely becomes a means for correcting the source of error here and now. Are not such goals treating the future as a means and the present as an end? If so, what are these goals which allow us to retain our zest for growth and learning and adaptation until the day we die? This [is the] question.


The journey is the only reward, so you had better enjoy it!



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