5 essential ingredients for an outstanding career

In his recent interview on The Mentor List, Zeger Degraeve outlined the key factors that influenced the outcome of Ernest Shackleton’s exploration of Antarctica. In 1915, Shackleton and his crew were ice-moored for 10 months aboard their ship, the Endurance. Eventually, the ship was crushed by ice and the crew were forced to use their lifeboat to travel 850 miles over treacherous seas to the tiny, isolated island of South Georgia. Incredibly, they reached their destination and were ultimately rescued.

Degraeve says that the 5 essential elements that led to the crew’s survival were skill, tenacity, perseverance, good process and luck. He believes that these elements were also responsible for his own success in life. He must be onto something as he has had an outstanding and diverse career. Today he still enjoys the little luxuries in life and continues to pursue his passions.

Let’s go through these elements in more detail to see how they can help you achieve success in your career.

1. Skill

You need to be great at what you do to become successful. That makes sense, right?

Skills can be tangible and intangible (such as communication and networking). To be great at what you do, it is essential that you find out all the skills you’ll need and become really good at them. Keep practicing and refining them as practice makes perfect. However, you also need to keep updating your skills so they remain relevant.

One vital skill that every successful person needs is to know how to learn. Experiment with different approaches to learning such as online tutorials, hands-on experience, and structured classes and find those that work best for you.

One woman with a deep thirst for knowledge in her chosen path is Helen Collier-Kogtevs. In their journey to building wealth, Helen and her husband became addicted to learning through courses, books, mentors and anything else they could find.

Sit back and listen to Helen’s podcast interview to hear her success story.

2. Tenacity

To be tenacious you need to be prepared to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. It is different to not giving up on your goal. Tenacity is all about personal growth and the satisfaction of doing something that you (or the world) has never done before.

Tenacity can also be described as resilience – looking for new ways forward when obstacles seem insurmountable.

Sam Cawthorn is a master of resilience. After a major car accident, he was left with a permanent disability in one leg and had one arm amputated. Instead of letting this ruin his life, Sam has embraced his story and is now a professional speaking coach, entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Tune in to Sam’s podcast for his expert tips on resilience.

“Persistence is doing something again and again until it works. It sounds like 'pestering' for a reason. Tenacity is using new data to make new decisions to find new pathways to find new ways to achieve a goal when the old ways didn't work.

Telemarketers are persistent, Nike is tenacious.”

Seth Godin (Seth’s Blog)

3. Perseverance

Perseverance is the art of hanging in there when the whole world seems to be against you. It is not taking ‘no’ for an answer when a ‘yes’ is of vital importance to you.

As Seth Godin says, telemarketers are persistent. They make endless phone calls knowing that most will be unsuccessful. Yet, telemarketing is still widely practiced because the organisations who use it know that it is a numbers game and, at some point, they will get the outcome they want.

Even if telemarketing annoys you, you can use the technique in other ways to help you on your road to success.

Brad Smith knows all about perseverance. While starting up Australia’s only motorcycle company “braap”, his proposals were rejected by over 50 manufacturing plants! Find out how he did it in Brad’s podcast interview with The Mentor List.

4. Good process

Most things in life need a defined system or structure for them to work optimally. Can you imagine what the world would be like without systems for telecommunication, medical procedures or law enforcement?

While you may not agree with the format of these systems and processes, you’ll surely agree that any system is better than no system.

Closer to home, we need effective processes for things like decision making, business strategies, and event planning.

Dr Sam Wylie has created his own systems for personal time management, goal-setting, and financial planning. Listen to Dr Wylie’s interview to discover how he has used his processes to build his career as a leading expert in wealth management and corporate finance.

5. Luck

If you wanted to make the perfect cake, you wouldn’t throw it all together without measuring your ingredients, using the right utensils or checking the cooking time.

Being lucky isn’t random, either. It is a result of being in the right place, at the right time AND having the right preparation and attitude. When all these ingredients come together, luck happens.


You can’t predict the future, but you can ensure you have all the right ingredients and processes ready to go. These 5 ingredients are the most important ones for a successful career – and all of them are within your control. Go ahead and see what you can make with them!


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Zeger Degraeve is the Dean of Melbourne Business School and the Co-Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Melbourne. He was an Associate Dean of the London School of Economics and has extensive experience in operational and management research plus a long list of over achievements.

In addition to these 5 elements of success, Zeger has lots more to share with you about decision making and success strategies in his podcast interview. Are you ready to listen?

Kick start your personal journey to success from the conversations David has with his inspirational guests on The Mentor List. www.mentorlist.com.au

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