The Two Elements of Success

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Manoj Bhargava knows a thing or two about success. The brains behind 5-Hour Energy and a billionaire philanthropist, he is setting out to change the world.

India-born, he went to high school, got into Princeton and dropped out after a year. He didn’t see the value in the education he was getting at America’s best college and knew there were other ways to learn. He became a monk for more than a decade, where he honed his thinking, learning to appreciate challenges for what they really are and developing a focus for simplicity. Solutions, in his mind, must account for all aspects of a challenge – logical, logistical, technological, practical, political and emotional – in order to be considered valuable.

He’s made a documentary about his approach to solving some of the world’s toughest challenges. In “Billions in Change,” he outlines how his team is tackling some of the most pressing problems facing humanity and through it all, the notion of simplicity, accountability and a decided lack of aggravation – he has no tolerance for it – are paramount.

He sat down with Adam Carolla on his motivational podcast, “Take a Knee,” to discuss the film and how he goes about solving problems and there was one particular segment that stood out to me as particularly profound. If you’ve never heard “Take a Knee,” on it Carolla interviews the hyper successful to try to understand what they do, how they tick, what and how they think, all in an effort to understand the key to success.

“Students often ask me what it takes to be successful,” Bhargava said. “It’s simple, success is a combination of common sense and a sense of urgency, do it now.”

In other words, success isn’t about super human intelligence. It’s not about the degrees that hang on your wall. Success is seeing an opportunity – usually in the form of a challenge – and understanding all the things that will get in the way of a solution. It’s about envisioning the simplest solution possible and then acting on it… now. Not later. Not someday, but now.

I was driving home from a visit with my in-laws when I heard this and it struck me as so simple and profound that I had to pull off the road to jot it down. The equation for success:

Success = Common Sense + Urgency

It doesn’t get much simpler or clearer than that.

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