Two Paths To Success (And Why Accountability Makes All The Difference)

Two Paths To Success

I want to tell you about the two paths to success. But, first, let me make a wild guess: you made one or more New Year’s resolutions.

You may have made them intentionally, writing them down, framing them, and hanging them where you’d see them every day.

Perhaps you’re not that serious. You just cobbled a couple ideas together before the New Year’s Eve party because you knew someone would ask.

Or, maybe, it was almost unconscious. Maybe you’re not one of “those people.” But even you couldn’t help thinking, “this year, I’ll…”

The New Year is a tantalizing opportunity for self-improvement and most of us can’t resist at least one or two stray thoughts in that direction.

But, wherever you fall on the resolution spectrum, I’ve got some bad news: you’ll probably fail. At least 8 out of 10 will, anyways.

Flip The Percentage

You read that right: approximately 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail.

And, because we humans are a notoriously proud species, I’d imagine that there are many resolutions and consequent failures that don’t get reported.

Those are long odds when it comes to your personal goals and achievements.

But what if you could flip that percentage? What if 80% or more of your resolutions could come to fruition?

That’d be a slightly more encouraging statistic, wouldn’t it?

And it’s possible. Maybe even a little low. Thomas Oppong writes that by taking one simple step, your odds of reaching your goal can increase by up to 95%.

So, what’s the one thing to do to help your resolution not end up on the wrong side of the statistical graveyard?

Don’t try to do it alone: invite someone to hold you accountable for results.

That’s it. Get somebody to check on your progress and your odds of success increase by approximately 175% (no, that math doesn’t work in real life, but you get the idea).

What Works For Resolutions Works For Life

It’s not just New Year’s resolutions. Most people want to succeed year-round.

So let’s broaden the point out a bit: the secret to success is to not seek it alone. Instead, get some accountability.

Unfortunately for most of us, the common narrative on success hamstrings us before we even start. Our fairy tales, our independence-obsessed culture, and our heroes whisper that success is the product of gritted teeth and gumption. The collective assumption is that the path to success is a lonely one, reserved for particularly special individuals.

The lone wolf, striving against all the forces of nature and against all odds.

The great man, shouldering great burdens that would crush anyone else.

In this view, what separates the successful individual from the failing one is intrinsic motivation. Success is ultimately self-centered, finding both its beginning and end in the individual. There is no need for others, really no consideration of them except as objects of usefulness to or beneficiaries of your success.

In this view, the path to success is simply a matter of getting up enough intestinal fortitude to get yourself where you want to be.

Trouble is, that won’t work for everyone. If New Year’s resolutions are any indication, it might work for about 20% of the population. But I’m guessing the actual number is much lower.

And that’s why accountability is such good news: it’s an alternative to our cultural assumptions. There’s a second path to success.

The Second Path To Success Is Just The First Path With Company

This second path requires every bit as much effort, but it’s much more likely to succeed. Accountability is no substitute for hard work. But not being alone on the journey makes it much easier to reach the destination.

Humanity has always known this, we just seem to always forget it. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, written hundreds of years before Jesus Christ’s birth flipped the calendar from B.C. to A.D., we read this:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

Accountability is not weakness and it’s not the admission of an inability to take the individual path to success. It’s also not shirking hard work. With or without someone, you can’t succeed unless you put in the time and effort required for the goal. Accountability simply the wisest way to use your hard work. It’s optimizing your life by opening it up to another’s input, criticism, and assistance.

When you invite someone to hold you accountable for success, you’re radically improving your chances of actually reaching it.

And it gets even better.

Success-Stacking

A major problem with the self-centered path to success is that it is just so…self-centered. Sure, you might (20% chance) get ahead. But that doesn’t help the person next to, behind, or in front of you.

But we’re naturally selfish creatures. So, really, who cares if you help anyone else as long as you get where you were trying to go?

Let’s look at it another way, then. I’ve already told you that both paths require the same work. But, if you do it right, the path of accountability gives twice the return on investment. Because when you invite someone else to help you reach your goals, you can simultaneously help them reach theirs.

And that doubled success is a good deal. If you could double the return on every investment, why wouldn’t you?

But the results of accountability can be so much greater than that. Because doubled success can lead to success-stacking.

Let me show you:

When you both succeed at your goals by working together, you’re both incentivized to tackle your next goals together. And the next ones and the ones after that. Seeing the results that come from holding one another accountable, you both start moving quicker, reaching higher, hitting goals and setting new ones.

That’s success-stacking: continually piling successes on top of one another.

You might be able to beat the odds traveling the individual path to success once, twice, maybe three times. But you’ll never get to a place of stacking success after success together unless you’re traveling with someone else in an accountability relationship that benefits both of you.

So, How Do You Get On (And Stay On) The Right Path?

Because the cultural bias towards solo self-improvement is so strong, it’d be helpful to have a roadmap for the path of accountability. After all, if you’re heading to Seattle, WA you don’t want to follow a GPS giving you directions to Key West, FL.

Here are simple, turn-by-turn directions for walking the path of accountability to success:

1. Directed Discontentment: “I’m not satisfied with where I am because I want to be over there.”

2. Engage Someone Else: “You’re not satisfied with where you are and want to be over there.”

3. Mutual Agreement: “Let’s help one another achieve our goals.”

4. Move Intentionally: “Here’s how we’re going to do it.”

5. Real Consequences: “Here’s what happens if we don’t.”

6. Evaluate Continually: “Here’s how we’re doing so far.”

7. Celebrate Success: “We made it!”

8. Stack Successes: “Here’s what we do next.”

That’s it, in a nutshell. You identify where you want to be, engage someone else who’s trying to get somewhere, and hold each other accountable until you make it. Then you do it again.

And that simple path boosts your chance of success exponentially.

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Two Paths To Success
By Carsten Tolkmit from Kiel, Germany (crossroads) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons