Advice for Achieving Your Goals from Remarkably Accomplished People

How did J.K. Rowling, Michael Bloomberg, Jeffrey Bezos, and David Sedaris get where they are today - and how can you get the same edge?


This book, a collection of advice and inspiration on how to be successful, celebrates self-made men and women. I’ve scoured autobiographies, interviews, essays, commencement speeches, and other sources to see what the Oprah Winfreys, Bill Gateses, J.K. Rowlings, Ray Krocs, David Sedarises, Pablo Picassos, and Madeleine Albrights have to say about their success -- and how their experiences might apply to you. Most of the CEOs, Nobel prize winners, politicians, academics, entrepreneurs, and celebrities who appear here are successful because they skillfully leveraged ambition, talent, knowledge, and hard work. They picked up a few tips and techniques along the way and are open about their discoveries.

Much of the advice and anecdotes excerpted in this book suggests that the “secrets of success” are in some ways transferable. In fact, the overwhelming consensus is that “secrets” isn’t the right word. Success isn’t sorcery.

It wasn’t always so. Take for example the Chamberlains, a family of seventeenth century male midwives. At a time when the mortality rate was morbidly high, the Chamberlains delivered one healthy baby after another. It was as if the family had godlike powers. They kept their secret under wraps, literally, working under sheets that hid their hands. Mothers-to-be were blindfolded so they wouldn’t see that the Chamberlains were using forceps, their secret invention. A bulky gilded box concealed the forceps and misled others into thinking the Chamberlains possessed a massive, magical machine.

Today, in America and throughout much of the world, success is associated with hard work and temperament more than with magic, divine right, or a blessed bloodline. Success is democratic. Successful people find themselves encouraged – even pressured -- to dispense advice and know-how.

Some of the excerpts in Success focus on specific action steps (“Work out all the steps of the process – the entire, what, when, where, and how. Then, sit down after you are absolutely positive you know it cold, and write it out.” – Michael Bloomberg) Most of the quotes emphasize the attitudes and ideas that made success possible (“If you can connect yourself to the source and allow the energy that is your personality, your life force, to be connected to the greater force, anything is possible for you.” – Oprah Winfrey).

I have loosely organized the excerpts by theme; for example, “Setting Your Goals," “Getting Started,” “Working with Others,” and “Projecting Your Image.” Career success here is not limited to success that manifests itself in abundant wealth or celebrity (although examples of these are certainly included). I have featured artists, poets, and others who have had extraordinary careers but haven’t become household names.

Although Success is not a how-to manual, my hope is that you will use it to realize your own goals and dreams. Perhaps, like forceps in the delivery room, this tool will make the process a little easier.

Can success change the human mechanism so completely between one dawn and another? Can it make one feel taller, more alive, handsomer, uncommonly gifted and indomitably secure with the certainty that this is the way life will always be? It can and it does!—

Moss Hart, playwright

Whatever success I have I owe, as does anyone, to a combination of luck, genetics, ambition, and perhaps a slight admixture of application.

David Mamet, author and playwright

I’d rather be a failure at something I enjoy than be a success at something I hate

George Burns, actor and comedian

The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.

Mark Twain, writer, journalist, and humorist

As a final incentive before giving up a difficult task, try to imagine it successfully accomplished by someone you violently dislike.

K. Zenios, aphorist

One must change one’s tactics every ten years.

Napoleon Bonaparte, general and emperor of France