The Secret to Success

Sep 28, 2017

Is there a "secret" to success? Yes, but it's not a secret. Michele Tafoya, Sideline Reporter for NBC Sunday Night Football, shares the secret...that you already knew.

To succeed, you need persistence. You have to knock on a lot of doors. 

  • Expecting fast results can often backfire. Patience and persistence allow you to learn and grow enough to be comfortable in new positions.View Source
  • Employers are often overwhelmed with applications and work of their own. Persistence won’t guarantee you a job, but you won’t have a chance at getting hired without it.View Source
  • Expect to be rejected more often than not. Persistence shows your desire to work for a company and is often valued over talent or experience.View Source
  • Getting no for an answer isn’t a bad thing. If a person isn’t willing to buy, then it does no good to try and pressure them.View Source

To be successful you must learn accountability. Until you run the show, you answer to the person who does.

  • Accountability is about focusing less on what is happening to you, and more on what you can do about it.View Source
  • Being accountable is an excellent trait for employees and employers. Taking responsibility and avoiding a “blame and complain” mentality is a skill that provides success no matter your position in a company.View Source
  • For a problem to be addressed, the problem must be called out, then personal responsibility must be taken.View Source
  • But accountability isn’t just about taking blame when problems arise. It’s about making achievable goals and delivering on them.View Source

You can’t control luck, but you can set yourself up to take advantage of the opportunities luck provides. 

  • You can’t control luck, but you can set yourself up to take advantage of the opportunities luck provides.View Source
  • Timing and luck are external factors. Focusing too much on them takes away from the ability of a person to control their own actions.View Source
  • Timing is perhaps the most key element of business success. In 1983, Osborne Computer was selling 10,000 personal computers a month. But when Osborne started prematurely hyping a new product, sales of the existing product plummeted, sending Osborne into bankruptcy.View Source
  • While much of the immediate success of a product can be attributed to luck, the continued success of any business relies on hard work.View Source

The path to success is paved with failure. Mistakes are life’s way of highlighting what you need to improve.

  • Many successful entrepreneurs dealt with failure before achieving success. Evan Williams started a failed podcast company before co-founding Twitter. Reid Hoffman, before co-founding LinkedIn, started a failed dating website. Sir James Dyson spent all of his life savings on developing 5,126 prototypes before creating a viable bagless vacuum.View Source
  • Making one mistake once for an honest reason is bound to happen. But not learning from the mistake and making it a second time is inexcusable.View Source
  • Failure is not always bad. Sometimes it’s inevitable and even good, particularly when it can provide knowledge that reveals a competitive edge. To grow from failure, it’s important not just to fix it, but to understand why it happened in the first place.View Source
  • You must make a conscious decision to always get up and try again. Failure is inevitable, perseverance must be as well.View Source

Countless books, seminars, and gurus promise to teach you the “secrets” to success. Well, here’s my secret: There are no secrets to success.

Actually, it’s pretty simple. Want to excel in whatever you do? Get to work. Keep working. And don’t stop until the job is done. That’s called “work ethic.”

I’m the sideline reporter for NBC’s Sunday Night Football. I won’t lie – it’s a dream job. But it isn’t a dream-come-true. There’s no fantasy involved. Just a lifetime of hard work.

I had my first real job at 13. I was a papergirl. I delivered newspapers to people’s homes and sold subscriptions door-to-door. That job taught me persistence. I learned that to succeed, especially in sales, you have to knock on a lot of doors.

In high school, I worked at Baskin Robbins. The manager didn’t appreciate it when I gave out overly-generous portions to customers. That taught me accountability. Until you run the show, you answer to the person who does.

A few years later, I worked as a telemarketer for an insurance company. A lot of people look down on telemarketers. I don’t. If you think a legitimate job is beneath you, you don’t deserve that job – or any other. Like all telemarketers, I was rejected far more often than not. Usually, I didn’t get past the first sentence. But sometimes I did – enough to make some good money. The path to success is paved with failure.

As a waitress in college, I learned that you need to smile and treat customers well, even when you’re having a bad day. Leave your mood at the door, or expect to be shown the door.

After I graduated, I had seven jobs – count ‘em, seven! One of those was a public relations assistant in Los Angeles. It was fun, but it involved ridiculously long hours. That was okay, though. I got used to it. And when long hours were called for later, I was ready.

I went from PR to producing a morning radio show. The host had talent. We put out a good product. But it wasn’t enough – because timing and luck are also important, and you can’t control those. You can only control what you do. You just have to keep working. What choice do you have?

The radio show gave me the idea that I could be a host – the talent. I put together a demo and sent it out to every station I could find an address for. I finally caught the eye of a sports show in Charlotte, North Carolina. I decided that I would never think of myself as a “female sports reporter,” but just as a sports reporter. My ambition is to be the best sports journalist, period. What does being a woman have to do with it?

As the newbie, I was at the station all day, and took every assignment that I could, especially the ones no one else wanted. After five months, TV stations noticed I was scooping their stories and started calling. One of those was CBS Sports. I took that job.

It was a huge jump, and it put me under a microscope. I wasn’t used to that. I made a lot of mistakes – some honest ones, and some really dumb ones. All of them were public. My bosses didn’t hold back their displeasure, and neither did the viewers. This pushed me to screw-up less and taught me how to deal with criticism. Mistakes are life’s way of highlighting what you need to improve. So I kept making mistakes, and I kept improving.

After 5 years, I was offered a job at ESPN. After 10 years there, I joined NBC, where I am now.

After all of that – a lifetime of work – I think I’ve learned what it takes to succeed.

Whether it’s your first job or your dream job, the formula is always the same: Get to work. Keep working. And don’t stop until the job is done.

That’s the secret – that’s not a secret – to success.

I’m Michele Tafoya for Prager University.

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