The Beginning: to be Successful

By | January 3, 2023

[January 3, 2023]  A young man was assigned to me as a Military Aide after I became General.  These Soldiers are always promising Lieutenants, competent and hard-working.  I could see in him much of what I was like; I was new to the Army and desired to soak up as much as possible to help me succeed.  He asked one early morning, “What can I do to be successful?”

By that time in my Army career, having been in over 35 years and seen both ends of the career spectrum, I had thought about that question quite a lot and developed a short list of traits that can make you successful anywhere you choose to compete.

I’ve often spoken about those things that are traditionally predictors of success, like intelligence, internal motivations, social networks, specific skills, and personal interests.  We are born with a certain amount of intelligence (IQ is a measure of intelligence), and we gain it through the vulgarities and uncertainty of life, yet it is a big predictor of success.  Sadly, no one knows how to raise IQ.

Another predictor of success is conscientiousness which seems to measure orderliness and industriousness.  Industriousness seems to be the better predictor of the two, and there is also a strong biological component to it.  But you can work on habits concerning your conscientiousness by establishing specific, achievable goals for yourself that you value.  And now, you can be motivated to achieve something for yourself.

Some sources of motivation for yourself might be wanting to have friends, an intimate relationship, winning competitions, engaging in creative activities, and security.  You can draw on these sources and tailor them to your personality and circumstance.  What do you want from your friends, from the competition, from your family, etc.?

Establish your habits based on these goals.  The habits you create are rewarding in proportion to their association with the value of your goals.  The implication is that you best have a valued goal because otherwise, you can’t get any positive motivation working for you.  The more valuable the goal, the more the habits associated with that goal propel you forward.

Specify your long-term goal (and what you want to stay away from, too) that motivates you, and that may be, and likely to be, something others have achieved that you see worthwhile.  Look at what people accrue that’s valuable across the lifespan, like family, friends, a good job, educational goals, attention to your health, and time outside work.  You don’t need them all, but if you don’t have most of them, you will miss what life is about, and all you will have left is misery and suffering.

That is what you should be doing early in your life, trying to figure out who you are trying to be and then you aim at it.  Then, if you could have that life and believe it is worth living, set up those goal structures and proper habits.  Your path will not be perfect, and there will be setbacks, tragedies, and loss.  All things considered, that goal must justify your efforts.


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

35 thoughts on “The Beginning: to be Successful

  1. Mother Picasso

    Predictors of success. That is not just what we are born with, and there is some randomness to that but we can actually overcome much of it and show we can be successful leaders and successful in life. Be a family man, be a pillar of your community, be a person folks can go to and rely upon, be that rock in the stream. We need real men life this.

  2. Pink Cloud

    I want to commend Gen. Satterfield on this article and several over the past week that shows us how to be better people and improve our leadership skills too. That is why I came to this website and am staying.

    1. Emma Archambeau

      … on it. We got your back too. Thank you Gen. Satterfield.

  3. mainer

    Being successful is hard and for many reasons that I won’t get into here. But I think, IMO, that the first step is defining what you personally think is success. That means looking at others and trying to find out if their life is something you would like to copy. If so, ask them what they did to be successful (in your eyes). That is the start. Then focus on it and move in that direction will all your might.

    1. JT Patterson

      Excellent ideas discussed in the leadership forums. I know this is making us all ‘better’ and you can improve only if you want to.

  4. Fred Weber

    One of the best articles from Gen. Satterfield, to the point and does not pull punches on what is required. If you are a college snowflake, then I just feel sorry for you, so take a long vacation in a warzone. You will learn a lot about yourself there.

  5. Lynn Pitts

    I believe the key to this topic on how to be successful is first picking a noble goal that you can achieve. That may take some thought and training on your part, but it is doable and altho it make take a long time to get there, at least you have an end point.

  6. Yusaf from Texas

    Great article, Gen. Satterfield. exactly why I keep coming back to your site.

    1. Qassim

      I think that is why most of us do so. And pay close attention to those who post here in the forums. There are some great ideas here also and expansion on what Gen. Satterfield writes about.

  7. Armywife

    I could never have been ‘successful’ without my faith in God.

  8. ZB Two Two

    Please don’t fall for the lie that family, friends, and quality time off is unimportant and that any of the list of neo-Marxist, progressive goals are what will make you a good person. Beware that you are being lied to. Be very careful.

  9. Idiot Savant

    Success can be defined in many ways and Gen. Satterfield has chosen how we can be successful by having a balanced life. But you can focus your attention to be highly successful in narrow areas of life such as in a career. And many men do this and are super competitive and highly narrow in their lives without families, friends or spare time. Yet, who would want to be the top of this competitive commercial enterprise? Yep, very few folks. The rest of us just want a family to go home to and love us.

    1. Pumpkin Spice

      But we are told that the “family” is old fashioned and out of date for us and do not strive for it. Believe the lie that careers are the most important thing in your life.

  10. American Girl

    Gen. Satterfield, never give up on your mission to help those of us who need the most help to pull ourselves out of the socialist propaganda that we find everywhere now. Even the president of the US is pushing the same propaganda on us an has his police arm looking at those who resist. That is why my comment here might be removed by the DOJ, CIA or FBI. They are fundamentally corrupt and must be shut down to keep our freedoms. They are the enemy along with their ilk in the media. Go America, stay strong.

    1. Rides Alone

      American Girl, wow, good points. But be careful. We are more like China every day.

  11. Mother Picasso

    Boycott China. Become part of the movement that helps destroy the largest Communist nation in the world before it drags us all down. #boycottchina

  12. Rowen Tabernackle

    The university used to be the place for, “That is what you should be doing early in your life, trying to figure out who you are trying to be and then you aim at it.” Now it is just where you go to get indoctrinated. Don’t go to the university. Get an education elsewhere.

  13. Pen Q

    Gen. Satterfield, this young man was fortunate to have you as his mentor.

  14. Bryan Z. Lee

    Specify your long-term goal (and what you want to stay away from, too) that motivates you, and that may be, and likely to be, something others have achieved that you see worthwhile. – Gen. Satterfield
    The next question is ‘what are those things you want to stay away from?’ That is the evil.

    1. Greg NH

      Illegal drugs, alcohol, smoking, pornography, casual sex, etc. There are plenty out there that we take for adventures but are in reality just traps that destroy us. So beware. ✔

    1. Doug Smith

      You nailed it Wesley. The higher the goal/aim, the more positive feedback you will recieve from yourself and others and the more likely you will be properly motivated to continue to that goal. Wow, the best way to get your house in order. Start there.

    2. Max Foster

      Yes, a noble goal. That is the way. The problem for most young folks is that they have no idea what a real noble goal is about. So they chose propaganda driven “noble” goals like “saving the planet” which is a false god to worship. And they waste their lives on it.

      1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

        Great comment Max. That is an excellent point but also points to the idea that we do all need noble goals, even the ‘modern’ godless souls of the unwashed young folks who believe they are superior to the rest of us.

    3. Dead Pool Guy

      Nice, to the point, discussion here. Glad I read to the bottom of the comments section.
      Oh, don’t forget folks to get Gen. Doug Satterfield’s book “55 Rules for a Good Life.” Now that is a place to start.


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