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A Simplified Formula for Success

Some fun year end thoughts.

Below, I’ve listed three companies and/or products in groups – now, you have to determine the primary quality that each product or company in a group has in common with the others in the group. If the answer isn’t immediately apparent, spend a few minutes thinking about the possibilities – and if you figure out the answer for each group, then you’ll likely also figure out how each group differs from the others.

I’ve included links in case you’re not familiar with the companies or products that are included, although I’m guessing that will only be the case for one or two (hello, AMC Gremlin!). And by the end of this post, you’ll apply this to your life, too.

Here goes:

Group A:

Group B:

Group C:

Residential real estate

Okay, before I get to the answers for our game, a quick look at residential real estate, because just about every week someone asks me if now is a good time to buy or sell.

I don’t know that I can shed any light beyond what’s been in the news: Inventory is still low in certain markets and higher in others. Interest rates continue to rise. A lot of people who purchased in the thick of the pandemic are experiencing “buyer's remorse” now, according to the news, but I believe that with time, they’ll feel better about their purchases. Many people who haven’t been able to buy yet will, too, although you may not get the house or location of your dreams, not this time around.

As has been the case for the last year or two, if your goal is to buy a home that you’ll live in for a while, then yes, it’s a good time to buy. As I have always said, residential real estate is a great long term investment. Stay well within your budget – and remember, you can always refinance when interest rates go down, just as millions of homeowners before you have done.

If your goal is to buy and flip, in my opinion, now’s not the time – the numbers simply aren’t in your favor. And it’s still a good time to sell.

Now, back to my thoughts.

What does super-success take?

There are companies that achieve success because they offer products or services that are essential to our daily lives. Dentists know this, as do daycare centers.

This is the cornerstone of success – that your product or service is necessary. It’s also the most common reason that businesses fail: There’s no demand for their products or services (without demand, you have no sales and without sales, you have no money coming in and thus, we get to the root cause of business failure – lack of necessity).

So, necessity is the basic building block of success.

Then, there are those who take what’s necessary and create something of a revolution – we needed to get from Point A to Point B (making transportation necessary), but when we could do it via train or car instead of horse and buggy, that was revolutionary and led to great success for many companies.

Here’s a more recent example: When mobile phones were first introduced, lugging them around in briefcase-sized boxes was a symbol of status (if you could afford something so totally unnecessary) or profession (often, CEOs and sales reps).

The need to communicate with each other drove innovation in the field and when that evolved into mobile technology that was truly less cumbersome, it was revolutionary. This is the kind of necessity-based innovation that drives super-success for companies and products like those in Group A – in 2004, more than 90% of US households still had a landline; today, it’s fewer than 30%.

But things didn’t stop there: Once a need was met, the opportunity arose to evolve the products and make them even more interesting and engaging – the evolution from necessity to nifty, if you will, like those in Group B:

  • Although many people reading this post may never have heard of Nokia, the company was a leader in design-forward cell phone technology.

  • After Microsoft brought desktop computers to the masses, they made things infinitely more useful with the introduction of their Office suite, which leveled up intuitive, user-experience-based software.

  • And although many of you won’t remember the AMC Gremlin, it’s design was unlike anything built before by American automakers to compete in the emerging compact car market (today, original Gremlins are highly sought by collectors).

Group B took the products from Group A and made them nifty: They optimized the sleekness, the ease of use, the quirkiness, the design – whatever it was that moved the needle from necessity to niche and made consumers crave the functionality of Group A, but with a newfound sexiness.

The ability to fulfill needs while making us feel good is where necessity and niftiness come together – and the companies that can do that particularly well solidify their place in our heads, hearts and wallets. These are the companies and products in Group C.

Group C, then, represents the secret sauce: The exact combination of necessary and nifty that launches products, services and brands to next-level super-success in which they may never actually be the market leaders by volume or revenue, but their brands are forever linked to something that satisfies a need while elevating our general outlook on life. Apple does this over Microsoft; luxury brands over store goods; Tesla over Toyota.

Simply put:

  • Group A gets “Hey, thank you, this is great, I really need this.”

  • Group B gets “Wow, sweet, cool, fun.”

  • Group C gets “I don’t want to live without it.”

In 2023, create your Group C, next-level super-success

As is the year-end ritual, we tend to do professional and personal housekeeping with an aim to better ourselves in the coming year.

So, in these last weeks of 2022, try to find one thing in your life (personal or professional, it’s up to you) that you’ve developed based on necessity. It could be a skill you use at work, a product or service that your business offers or a daily habit, like working out, that you do for your health.

Then, try to find a way to level up that necessity to make it a bit more nifty – if it’s a skill, how could you improve it or tweak it for a more competitive edge? If it’s a product or service, can you differentiate it in unique ways? If it’s a habit, can you reinvigorate it?

Then, go for Group C status: As 2023 rolls on and you’ve made the necessary a little more appealing, how can you level it up again to make it legacy level (even if the legacy exists only in your own workout routine, your family, your workplace or your business)?

Whatever it is, it must be necessary. It may be nifty (like this Gremlin, because, really, can we have too many pics of it in one post?). Hopefully, it will become both.

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