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The Little-Known American Success Formula

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I find of it.” -Thomas Jefferson

"The formula for disaster is: Could + Should + Won't." -- Jim Rohn

In a study of 100 smokers, who express desire to quit, 80 continued to smoke. Why do they continue to smoke?   According to the Journal of Marketing, “Consumers tend to consistently fail to attain goals that require sequential self-control” (Zemack-Rugar, 2012). While much has been written on goals, and goal setting, as much as 80% of people fail to reach any level of success with their personal goals. According to the Sports Science Review, “Roughly 90% of the studies with goal setting had a powerful and continuous effect on behavior” (Hvid, 2013). It seems to be that when people are taught how to set goals, they often see more success. To improve at goal setting, it is first important to understand what exactly is a goal? There is a little-known American success formula that many successful people employ. This little-known American success formula separates the top 10 % of income earners from the bottom 90%.

If you were to conduct a google search for the definition of the word “goal” you would find that, “A goal is the object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.” According to the Sport Science Review Journal goals, “1) direct[s] attention and action, 2) mobilize energy, 3) affects practice duration and 4) develop strategies of action” (Hvid, 2013). This explains why just having a desire is not strong enough to be a goal.

Eccentric and well known for his outlandish political views, “The Donald” is one of best known real estate entrepreneurs in the United States. Some of his biggest accomplishment are the Swifton Village apartment complex,  Penn Central, Commodore Hotel into the Grand Hyatt, Javits Convention Center, Wollman Rink in Central Park,  Taj Mahal Casino, Trump International Hotel and Tower – Honolulu,  Trump International Hotel and Tower – Chicago,  Trump International Hotel and Tower – Toronto,  and Trump Tower – Tampa. 

Donald Trump never wanted to just be known as the son of Fred Trump, a wealthy New York City real-estate developer, he had a goal for greatness; however, Donald did get his start from his father's firm, Elizabeth Trump & Son. Donald worked hard in the real estate business while attending the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1968 officially joined the company. He was given control of the company in 1971 and renamed it The Trump Organization (  

In Donald’s best-selling book The Art of The Deal he starts by saying, “I don’t do it for the money, I have got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it, to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. “ There is a lot to learn from this American icon. As a matter of fact there is this Little-Known American Success Formula every successful person employs and it is:


Desire without effort is a wish. Effort requires a strong, healthy, and full of energy attempt. There was a man in 1801 that was elected president of the United States. He was the first United States Secretary of State (1790–1793) serving under President George Washington. He organized the Democratic-Republican Party, He was elected Vice President in 1796. He over saw the purchase of the vast Louisiana Territory from France (1803), and sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806) to explore the west (, 2014).

Thomas Jefferson is an example of the Little- Know American Success Formula. Jefferson is known for American expansionism; According to the United States having doubled in size during his presidency. A leader in the Enlightenment, Jefferson spoke five languages and was deeply interested in science, invention, architecture, religion and philosophy.  He was an active member and president of the American Philosophical Society. These interests led him to the founding of the University of Virginia. He designed his own large mansion on a 5,000 acre plantation and the University of Virginia building. Needless to say, Jefferson could set goals and accomplish them. In an expert from Thomas Jefferson and Executive Power. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press:

“But there is a remarkable unity to his thought over his entire career. Term limits, unity of office, public opinion, strict construction, discretion by the faithful officer, and declarations of principle were brought together by the executive power. Properly understood, Jefferson’s transformation of the inaugural address from oath-taking to principle-declaring, his setting of an informal precedent for a two-term limit, and his refinement of the Electoral College all suggest a deliberate and coherent project to attach presidential power to a majority will. More than the struggle of an elected official seeking to maintain power, these reforms reveal his effort to further bind executive power with republican responsibility. It is significant that he told a foreign observer that the execution of laws was more important than the making of them” (Bailey, 2007). 

One of the deep connections you can draw out of this reference is the word “execution.” At the deepest understanding of setting goals, Jefferson knew that effort was the driving factor in reaching goals {Laws} set forth. In addition to effort, reaching goals require desire. The stronger the desire the more likely it is that you will reach your goals. 

According to the Journal of Consumer Research, “The process of enacting self-control can be broken into three primary activities: setting clear standards, monitoring behavior, and regulating behavior” (REDDEN, 2013). The Journal goes on to explain that in dieting you can overcome your desire for bad foods with strong willpower or “self-control” (REDDEN, 2013). This suggests that if a goal becomes your desire it aligns with your willpower, and you are more instinctively going to make choices in effort towards your goals. Remember “The Donald,” he said I “Do it, to do it” Doing deals is his art. This is the way he enjoys to express himself. His goals are his desires + his effort. 

Why would you constantly fight yourself? To me, fighting myself to ensure “self-controlled” choices would be exhausting. You can see that the difference between exercising self-control and having a desire is what your internal feelings are about what you want. Zig Zigler a motivational speaker and bestselling author says that, “Those who, know how and what, will always work for those who know why.”  Do you have answers to the questions:  why am I doing this? Why am I setting this goal? Why is this goal, my goal? Why must I not quit until I reach my goal? Each question is an introspective questions that forces you to look at your desires? 

If the introspective concepts such as effort and desire are the internal functions of goals, how then do you actually reach your goals? One on the reason that you must write your goals down is because they are objects. An object is anything that is visible or tangible and is relatively stable in form. To set a goal that is not tangible is a waste of time. There is a difference between wishes, hopes, dreams, and goals. Don’t get me wrong, wishes, hopes, and dreams (especially big dreams) are important. However, proper goal setting moves you towards your wishes, hopes, and dreams. There is a RIGHT way to set goals. To set goals the RIGHT way, the goals must be:

R – Realistic, I – Individualized, G- Gaping, H – Helping, T – Targeted
R – Realistic
To set the right goals they must be Realistic, Do you believe you can truly reach the goal you set? If you do not believe you can realistically reach your goal, maybe your goal is still a dream? Maybe your goal should be much more tangible? Over the years I have managed a number of sales professionals. One year I had a rookie sales agent set a goal to be the top producer in the company. They failed to reach their goal miserably. Why is this? It was still a dream for him. We discussed this and I recommended the following; “Let’s change our goal from the top producer, to be more tangible and believable for you,” I said, “If our goal was to set a number of calls each day that you know you can make, you could dramatically increase your income. You can realistically control the number of calls you make each day.” We did just that. We set a new realistic goal to make 20 contacts with live people a day. In no time his confidence grew and he was in the top 2 sales people in the company. Setting realistic goals matters. In addition to realistic goals, the more your goals align with your values the easier it is to reach them.  

I – Individualized
An individualized goal is a goal that is set based on your values, your personal desires, and benefits you in the long run. Without a personalized connection to the goal you will lack the internal desire to preserver when things get tough. This is why goals are personal and are not effective when they are set for you. One strategy that I employ when coaching a professional or team member is to allow them to set their own goals. I never set the goal for them. I help them uncover their needs. This way I can hold them accountable to what they told me they needed. Individualized goals that align with your values are not enough. Setting goals that are too specific can lead to feelings of failure. You can over comes this if your goals are gaping. 

G- Gaping
You know that your goals should be realistic and individualized, but did you know that you also need to set goals that are gaping. This concept is challenging to understand but critical in understanding goal setting. The goal needs to be open to failure. You have to put all your effort into reaching your goals, but you should be okay if you are not able to reach them.  Many people I have worked with struggle to set gaping goals. Are the goals you set open widely? Getting upset about not reaching your personalized, realistic goals only pushes you further from reaching your goals. The negativity that is released from the disappointment of not reaching your goals suffocates your ability to attract more positive things in your life. One of the ways to ensure that your goals are gaping is to take the focus off our personal success and focus on helping others.  
H – Helping
Are your goals helping others? You know from reading other books on success that your goals must benefit others. If your goals are not in line with other people’s needs, goals, ideals, or dreams, than you are out on your own. It is impossible for you to succeed on your own. You need to find people that you can align with and then help them succeed. Success happens for you, when you help enough other people. When you help others you are doing the right things and thus generating positive momentum in reaching your goals. Having completely selfish goals that only benefit you, will always backfire and cost you happiness and success.
I found the following on tumbler: “Helping a fellow human being, while it can be inconvenient, has a few humble advantages: It makes you feel better about yourself. It connects you with another person, at least for a moment, if not for life. It improves the life of another, at least a little. It makes the world a better place, one little step at a time. And if that kindness is passed on, it can multiply, and multiply” (, 2014). You can clearly see that the RIGHT goals help others. In addition to helping other they must be targeted

T – Targeted
Deer season opens and you decided to go hunting this year. You are going to bag a buck this year. You get your licenses and pack your gun, ammo, food, scent, and camouflage. You get into your truck and drive to the woods. You set up shop very early in your deer stand around 4:30 am. You wait for a deer. Two hours pass and you spot a buck 100 yards out. You lower your riffle, and look through your sites. You take off the safety, and put your finger on the trigger. You take a deep breath to focus. BANG!  When did you have your target? Was the target the buck when you set out to hunt the buck, or was the target the buck actually in the site. ?  You may say, I do not see a deer I do not have a target until the deer appears, but I challenge that. The target was there from the opening of deer season. A targeted goal is just like this example. When you started you had an idea of the target, but when the deer actually appeared you lowered the gun and fired. You did not shoot at a turkey, or squirrel. You shot at your target. It becomes confusing for other when you do not have a chief aim that your goals are aligned with. It becomes confusing for others when your goals do not have specific connections or conflict with each other. Make sure your goals are targeted.

In conclusion, the Little-know American Success Formula is Effort + Desire = Goals. To become successful you have to set the RIGHT goals. The RIGHT goals are Realistic, Individualized, Gaping, Helping, and Targeted.  I would suggest that you take some time over the next thirty days and re-evaluate your goals based on this essay. You will see a dramatic increases in your success.

Here is to your success!


Bailey, J. D. (2007). Thomas Jefferson and Executive Power. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Hvid LARSEN, C., & ENGELL, C. (2013). The Art of Goal Setting: A Tale of Doing Sport Psychology in Professional Football. Sport Science Review, 22(1/2), 49-76.

Presslee, A., Vance, T. W., & Webb, R. (2013). The Effects of Reward Type on Employee Goal Setting, Goal Commitment, and Performance. Accounting Review,88(5), 1805-1831. doi:10.2308/accr-50480

REDDEN, J. P., & HAWS, K. L. (2013). Healthy Satiation: The Role of Decreasing Desire in Effective Self-Control. Journal Of Consumer Research, 39(5), 1100-1114. doi:10.1086/667362

Zemack-Rugar, Y., Corus, C., & Brinberg, D. (2012). The 'Response-to-Failure' Scale: Predicting Behavior Following Initial Self-Control Failure. Journal Of Marketing Research (JMR), 49(6), 996-1014. doi:10.1509/jmr.10.0510


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