What it Really Takes to Succeed is More than Hustle

by Alli Polin on February 9, 2016

the hardest part about creating success

Ever wonder why someone in your industry is incredibly successful and it feels like you’re practically standing still? It’s an awful feeling – a mix of jealousy, powerlessness, futility (I’m sure you could add a few more to the list). They have what you want and you’re spinning your wheels trying to get it. Looking at those people in front of you, it’s natural to question what it really takes to succeed.

You look at them and think, “I can do that. In fact, I do that!”

You wonder, “What makes them so special?”

You ask all your friends, “Am I missing something here?”

I’ll tell you what you’re missing… drum roll… patience (and maybe a little creativity). For many of you reading this, it’s not skill, knowledge or lack of value. Oftentimes the truth is that someone else got there first. Simple as that.

Yeah, yeah. Clearly hustle, vision, persistence etc. are crazy important when it comes to creating success. I’m not denying that and have written about it many times on this blog. However, we live in an age of instant gratification. Send a tweet, get RTs. Post on FB, get likes. Nobody likes to wait but there is no shortcut to success, it takes time. 

I know the feeling of wanting to be at the top and having tons to contribute now. Unfortunately, despite the big seemingly overnight success stories we all know oh-so-well (Hello there, Facebook) most people don’t make it to the front of their industry before they’re 25 and for some, even decades later.

Jealousy shows up everywhere you go when you carry the “When it is my turn?” mindset. It’s not helping you.

On Social Media: Why do they have a trillion followers on Twitter and I have a lousy 683? They’re saying what I’m saying but nobody hears me.

At the Office: How did Joe Schmo get promoted to SVP? I’m doing a ton of the work behind the scenes. I want to be promoted too, ya know.

In Your Home: The kids are always asking why you get to stay up late and they have to go to bed. Annoying. You tell them because you’re 30 years older, but they don’t care.

I know people who are working their asses off to create a successful business, get noticed at work and make a difference in the world. It’s easy to want to pull your hair out when success is not happening fast enough or aggressively enough.

What it Really Takes to Succeed…

At first blush, waiting in line to pick your child up at school has very little in common with achieving success. However, as I sat in yesterday’s pickup line, I also had a lightbulb go off over my head. Luckily, I also had my laptop in tow.

A few weeks ago my child started middle school. Unlike in primary school where I walked to her classroom to pick her up, I now get in line in my car and wait for her to walk out of the building. There are four spots at the front of the line where kids can get into cars.


I should mention that there are over 700 students that attend her school. Yes, some of the kids drive themselves home or walk or bike or take the bus but a heck of a lot are picked up by a parent.

The first few days I showed up 10 minutes early and was significantly farther than 10 spots from one of the four magic spaces. I moved it up to 15 minutes early and was still at least six spots behind the front four.

Moving up my arrival time wouldn’t actually make it go any faster. I could wait for 25 minutes in one of the four magic spaces or wait for 25 minutes for the front runners to leave and make room for the next group of line leaders. Essentially, that left me with one choice – waiting.

Even when there are 30 cars in line, not one car can move up until the first four spaces are vacated.

A few parents were unwilling to wait in line and created their own pick up process. They parked down the street and told their kids to meet them there. Others pulled up on the grass nearby and got out of the car while wildly waving their hands until their child saw them.

I don’t want an alternative, I want to get to the front, so I wait. Losing 25 minutes a day also isn’t of interest so I’ve learned to bring my planner, laptop, and a book to ensure I can use the time I have available.

Let’s break this down:

We all strive to get there early.

Four parents get there first.

The rest of us wait.

It feels like a standstill.

We’re actually not stopped, we are idling. Ready to get into motion.

The line ultimately moves, bit by bit, one car at a time.

We all eventually make it to the front of the line and pick up our child.

Goal achieved.

Sound familiar?

Getting to the top or your industry or finally getting a promotion or getting some real traction for your small business is not as simple as picking up a kid at school, I get it. Still…

What it Really takes to Succeed is Not a Mystery

You show up every day. (persistence)

You make the most of your time. (productivity)

You find a new line that isn’t as long. (innovation)

You transform waiting into creating. (hustle)

You hang in there and be ready – your time will come. (patience)

You WILL get there.

Break the Frame Action:

Here are three things you can do to dial down your jealousy and frustration and transform your wait into your secret to success.

1) You can always accelerate your success even if it still takes time. Here are 50 ideas to get you started.

2) Read Blue Ocean Strategy by Mauborgne and Kim. It’s over ten years old now but it may give you the inspiration, insight, and know-how to bypass the competition.

3) Keep showing up even when you don’t want to (or would rather take a nap).

Eventually, the line leaders move on and there’s space for new people. Will you give up before you get to where you want to be?


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Cynthia Bazin February 9, 2016 at 6:50 am

Awesome article Alli! I appreciate your leadership! You always bring such value to me and everyone. Thank you my friend!!!


Alli Polin February 9, 2016 at 7:03 am

Thanks, Cindy! Appreciate you!


Corina Ramos February 9, 2016 at 7:34 am

This is a great post Alli, thanks so much for sharing it. I agree it takes more than hustle to make us successful.

I like the way you broke it down here. And yes, it is no mystery on what it takes and patience sure is the hard part…at least for me it is, lol. 🙂

Thanks for sharing and for the video. I love that song and hadn’t heard it in such a long time. Made my morning. 🙂

Have a great one Alli!


Jon Mertz February 9, 2016 at 7:44 am


Patience is doing the work. This is not waiting your turn but doing the work to continue to have a bigger impact each day. Appreciate your insights here, as patience is one of the key traits to be a purpose-filled leader.




Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ February 9, 2016 at 8:17 am

Great point about jealousy Alli. It is a pain inflicting trip via the denial train to nowhere. Jealousy is another procrastination and excuse that covers up many fears and worries. Get rid of all of them and get busy. Take one step toward your goal and then another and another. It brings you to many opportunities that the denial of jealousy can never find.

Great post!


Terri Klass February 9, 2016 at 9:29 am

Your insights into how to stay the course and not let others derail us is extraordinary!

Along the way, I have tried not to choose a direction just because every else is going there. To do that, I keep an open mind to learn new things and then pull out my core values and vision to drive them. Sometimes easier said than done. But I am also willing to switch spots like you did to create new possibilities.

Love the post, Alli, and your waiting in line story! Can remember those days. Will share your article! Terri


Joy Guthrie February 9, 2016 at 9:45 am

Terrific post, Alli. Even with all of the things you mention, sometimes, it still doesn’t happen. You don’t get to be to the point you wanted to be. You get to be really good and people like what you do; but, you just don’t make it to the top. Even in those cases, you can still be happy. Have fun with the process. Even if you don’t make it to the pinnacle, you will have enjoyed yourself, learned quite a bit, and hopefully, helped others along the way.


Marcella Bremer February 9, 2016 at 11:42 am

Spot on! Thanks for making me smile, Alli. I’ll practice my patience next time when I’m in line for success – or whatever the goal is 🙂


John Bennett February 9, 2016 at 11:44 am

Two thoughts, from my 29+ years in higher education – BUT, I believe, applicable everywhere for everyone:

(1) Though they rarely said it (yes, a few did), I frequently felt students were sending the message: “Tell me the thing(s) I need to learn so I’ll be successful.” Yes, I did seek to let them know they needed to develop skills of effective learning, problem solving, communicating, working in teams, … And yes, they needed to find an environment that supported their mastery, autonomy, and purpose. And other realistic efforts including facilitating their learning core knowledge – at a usable level. BUT I also reminded them they were going to be assigned situations that had no current solutions, often not even identified at the time of our working together. THERE WAS /IS NO WAY I OR ANYONE ELSE COULD IDENTIFY THE KEYS FOR THEIR SUCCESS! Lifelong learning will always be required!

LESSON for everyone: Reading articles, books, blogs, …; listening to presentations, webinars, … all provide material for careful Consideration. But there’s no magic shortcut!!! Everyone everywhere needs to be patient and persistent, while hoping the extremely rare easy success falls in their laps.

(2) With regard to efforts made and subsequent outcomes: There will always be false steps that are rarely fatal but rather opportunities to assess, reflect, and revise; there is NO outcome we can ever know to be correct (though one probably exists) but only one that is useful in addressing current situations; there is never a process/procedure that will always work, that will need revision if not an entirely new approach; there are existing outcomes (with minor revision most likely) that can be used for SOME other purposes but there many current situations for which no existing solutions are usable; NO proposed solution for a current situation should be proposed without careful Consideration of likelihood of usability and usefulness! USEFULLY ADDRESSING A CURRENT SITUATION IS NOT ABOUT FINDING A SOLUTION SOMEONE ELSE PUBLICIZED!!!



LaRae Quy February 9, 2016 at 11:59 am

I love this post!

What a great reminder that time, patience, and persistence. But it also takes innovation and ambition—your decision to make those minutes waiting in line count shows how to get around a roadblock when faced with an obstacle.


Blair February 9, 2016 at 1:48 pm

Great insight, great writing, leadership. What a real and inspirational post, Alli!


Kaarina February 9, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Everyone has ideas. Most people “know”. But it’ only in the doing that results are achieved. Awesome post as always my friend. Cheers!


Karin Hurt February 15, 2016 at 5:49 am

We have that same scene at Seb’s school. Yikes, what a mess.

Love the analogy. This weekend we went to see a high school friend of ours starring in Fiddler on Broadway. With all the folks that want to be on broadway, it would be easy to assume that he “got lucky.” But the truth he had a deep passion, he was willing to take the risks, he worked his ass off, he carved a niche, he worked harder…. and finally an “overnight success” 😉


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