The 4 Essentials of Achievement

UPDATED: May 22, 2023
PUBLISHED: February 24, 2017

People ask me, “How do you know if someone is going to succeed? Are there components to achievement? How do you know if they are going to do a good job, if real achievement is going to happen, if there’s going to be progress toward something?”

In other words, what are the building blocks to achievement?

I don’t think I’m the first person to take a shot at this. This is what the entire self-help, personal development, professional development, continuing education market is all about. That simple question: What can we do to have more success and achievement in our lives?

Related: TED Talks: ‘8 Secrets of Success’

I’ve learned from so many of the greats out there; I’m a product of this industry more than anything else. I’m one of its worst students, but I try really hard.

So what is it? What does it take to succeed? Here are the four cornerstones of achievement:

1. Desire

I’m not the first person to say it, but the first thing we have to have to achieve anything is desire. We have to want it.

You have to be hungry to succeed. You have to have a deep desire to move the needle of your life forward. You have to have a desire for a dream, for a mission, for a cause, for something you believe in that’s pulling you forward because you care about it so much.

A lot of people say, “I don’t care about anything.” Is there a worse place to be in life when you just have desire for nothing? Isn’t that ultimately where we fall into suffering, depression, loneliness?

Some people say, “I have no desire,” as if they’re a victim. Can you believe that? They act like it’s the fault of the world; well nobody gave me the desire for anything.

Maturity and enlightenment in life demands we decide:

Some people say, “I just don’t know, I don’t have any vision for my life, so I don’t have that desire.” You’re never going to have any vision for your life unless you go see the world. You have to get outside of your house, get away from the computer, and go into the world and say, What’s this about? What are people there doing?

To have vision for yourself, sometimes you have to experience a bunch of different things to know what you really care for, to sample different things and say, This is what I like, this is what I want.

You might not always know it, and no one wakes up in the morning knowing their purpose. Desire is built on experience. Desire is built on exposure to things. So go explore the world, read books, ask people what they do and see what’s out there.

We have to have desire. We have to be hungry for achievement and success, not just to have achievement and success. Not just for the ends of that experience of money, wealth, status, fame, power, satisfaction and pride. Those things will come, but we have to have the desire for that journey, to grow into the type of person who deserves such a lofty goal. To grow into the person who would deserve the experience of those things, to really desire that journey.

Related: TED Talks: ‘Success Is a Continuous Journey’

I desire the struggle, the challenge and the hardship of life that’s going to make me a better person. I don’t shy away from the stormy seas and sit at a harbor watching life go by, thinking, Oh boy hopefully someday I can…

If you can’t do it for yourself, cultivate desire to serve, desire to give something extraordinary to the people around you, to take care of your family, to take you and your family up to another level of joy and significance and feeling and abundance in your life.

It’s not about having desire to gain wealth, but maybe that is true. Desire of wealth doesn’t necessarily mean greed, because they’re two different things. I desire the wealth of health. I desire the wealth of meaningful relationships. I desire all the riches of those softer sides of life, love, compassion, kindness, connection, contribution, consciousness. I desire those things.

Once you have desire for something, you will work for it—you want it, you desire it, you’re excited about it. If you have no enthusiasm, it’s because you haven’t targeted something and said, I’m going to work toward that thing. I’m going to work toward not only achieving that thing, but also becoming a better person along the way. I think that’s what gives us great desire.

I desire to develop greater knowledge, skills, ability and talents in my life, so that not only can I feel that sense of mastery, but that sense of contribution. By honing those skills, the knowledge, the tools and talents, I know I can serve and make a better difference. By becoming a better person in my own life, I know I’m a better man for my wife. I know I’m a better man for my family. I’m a better son. I’m a better brother. I’m a better leader. I’m a better contributor, I hope, for you. I desire that and that gets me going.

2. Direction

You might have that desire. Many people do. It might be to lose weight or quit smoking, or to learn a new skill set, build a business or make money. Whatever the desire is, that ultimate ambition or purpose, goal or mission, you have to have a direction. How do you get there?

A lot of people have a lot of desire, but they won’t do the hard work that demands learning to stretch their competency, to get direction from other people. To chase down how other people have done something, to model others, to mimic their steps and the strategies they followed, to learn from others so that we know the path. To say, “Hey guys, this is what I want to achieve. How can I do it? Is there a class I can take or a book I can read? Is there a webinar I can attend? Is there a course I can take online? Is there somebody here who can mentor me? Is there somebody who has achieved this where I can read their biography?”

In Montana we have this saying: “The time to have the map is before you enter the woods.” A lot of people right now in their life feel lost, restless, frustrated, and often it’s because they never got direction at the beginning of the journey. They just wandered into some big field of opportunity and wandered around, and now they’re struggling. They’re upset and frustrated, and don’t know where to go because they never said, “Hey everybody, does anyone have a map for achieving this thing?”

They just do what our culture, at least here in North America, celebrates, which is this: They had an idea and desire and they did what? They threw stuff at the wall to see if it stuck. They just tried without any knowledge, information or wisdom gathering. If you have a desire, go out and interview people on how to have that, to achieve that or to accomplish that. Ask lots of questions. Be a student of life. Even experts are always students first.

I’m so unbelievably happy with where my career is, what I get to do and how I get to serve people. All around the world, I’m asked to come speak on motivation, high performance, leadership, marketing in business. All day long, I’m asked to do these things. I’m honored and thrilled by it. I’m seen in my career as one of the leaders of what I do. I appreciate and love that, but I always say, “I’m just a student, man. Here, let me share all the lessons I’ve learned. Have you read this book? Have you done this course? Go follow this person over there.” I’m always curating all the content in my area, not just so I know what’s going on, but to continually provide me fresh new direction, new ideas, new strategies to continue moving me toward my desires.

I’m never complete. None of us are; we’re always learning. So if you really desire something, you need a map. You need to get direction.

Related: Answer 6 Questions to Reveal Your Life Purpose

3. Discipline

You will have to work and be more consistent than you’ve ever imagined possible if you’re going to make your ultimate desires come true.

How easy is it not to be disciplined?

It’s like I always say, “When you knock on the door of opportunity, it is work that answers.”

You need a high level of discipline each and every single day. You need to set up repeated habits, repeated methods and practices in your life that you do over and over again to move you toward your desire. You need to check in on them to make sure you have the right direction, because if you’re disciplined toward the wrong direction, you’re distracted.

If you want to master any area of your life, you need to work at it consistently. If you’re just doing it occasionally, not only do you risk becoming just a dabbler in life, but you absolutely ensure your inability to accomplish mastery and long-term growth and success and achievement in your life.

Discipline is required. You don’t see any high-level achieving person in any area who doesn’t have an extraordinary amount of self-discipline. They are absolutely committed to their habits and practices that positively support them on the path to their desires.

Sit down tonight with a pen and paper and say, OK, what discipline could I set up in my life that I’m going to do consistently?

  • Every day I’m going to study these things.
  • Every day I’m going to try these things.
  • Every day I’m going to ask these types of questions.
  • Every day I’m going to try to be this type of person.

Whatever it is for you, set it up as a discipline and try to meet that every single day. That’s where a lot of achievement comes from.

A lot of achievement looks easy and people say, “They’re so lucky.” A lot of people watch my videos and send in messages all day long, “Brendon you’re so good on video. You have gotten so good at this.” I say, “Thanks, I’m still working at it. I’m still a student. I’m still trying.”

What they don’t see is I’ve tried this so many times. I’m able to do that now because I’ve trained myself with discipline to be able to speak extemporaneously. I started in college and the first time I spoke in front of people, I threw up because I was so nervous. I was terrified to talk. I thought, If I’m going to make a difference in the world, then I’m going to have to learn to become a master communicator. I’m going to have to be dedicated toward that.

I have discipline to get present for the people around me. As soon as I see someone’s eyes, I remind myself, Be present, Brendon. It’s a constant challenge and discipline for me to remind myself to be present, to be engaged, to be connected, to be interested in other people, to learn from them, to respect them and love them.

Discipline is not a negative thing; it’s a joyful habit of pursuing your dreams. That’s why I’ve gotten good at the things I care about.

4. Distraction Radar

The last piece requires a lot of discipline, too. The last component that is critical to be able to predict if you will succeed or others will succeed is so simple, but it is powerful: You must have a distraction radar.

You must be fantastic about managing distraction, because everything is going to get in your way. Other people will give you their agenda, emergencies and needs. The world will throw this emergency, this challenge, this problem. The world will toss in front of you 300 new emails or 1,000 new posts to read.

There’s so much to be consumed by, but your job is to have that desire. Your job is to have direction on how to get there. Your job is about discipline and working toward it and so much of that commitment today means minimizing and removing distraction. Get rid of it.

Most of us are distracted three to five hours a day. The average American watches four hours of TV a day, and that time over the course of the average adult American life span is somewhere around 13 years of their life, 24/7 in front of a TV. What do you think about that? They lost more than a decade of their life. At an average salary, they’ve lost nearly $1 million of potential earning power. But even if it’s not about money, think about the reality that they lost 13 years of life, of exploring new places, learning new languages, talents and skills, of giving, of creating, of being with their loved ones or mentoring their children. For what? For four hours of distraction.

Maybe TV isn’t your drug. For many people, their drug is the computer. I call it “browser blackout,” where they start watching this thing and that thing… and I know it’s dangerous me telling you this, because maybe this is your distraction for the day. I get it.

I hope if you’re watching me, it becomes a purposeful habit to grow your mind, to refuel your motivation and keep yourself on the right path in life. Choose to watch me; don’t just randomly bump into me. I want you to stay disciplined on your path of learning. I want not to be a distraction, but to be somebody who’s empowering people with better direction, to refuel their desire, to re-aim who they are and what they’re about.

So you have to choose to consume the right things, the things that are going to support you on your path to success. If you’ll do that, you’ll get a decade of your life back. Just by removing four hours of distraction.

How do you do that? You wake up in the morning and say…

  • What do I desire today?
  • What is my direction, what am I going to do today?
  • How am I going to be disciplined today?
  • What distractions can I remove from my life?

That’s when you start feeling as if you have progress in your life. That’s when you start feeling like, Wow, I’m knocking off these steps to get toward my idea!

That’s when you start to feel like you’re really moving forward in life.

Life becomes more energized and engaged. You’re more enthusiastic for tomorrow because you know you control your destiny. You know what you’re after, and internally you feel such a magnificent spark and fire each and every day.

That’s how we experience the charged life.

Related: Caged, Comfortable or Charged—Which One Is Your Life?

This was adapted from a post that originally appeared on

Brendon Burchard is the world’s leading high performance coach and one of the most watched, followed and quoted personal development trainers in history. He is a #1 New York Times best-selling author, a Top 100 Most-Followed Public Figure on Facebook, and star of The Charged Life, a top 10 self-help podcast and the #1 self-help show on YouTube. 5 million people follow him on Facebook and over 75,000,000 have watched his videos. SUCCESS named him “one of the Top 25 Most Influential Leaders in Personal Growth and Achievement.” His most recent book is The Motivation Manifesto. Meet him at