What’s The One Thing You Have To Do To Succeed?


Thursday, 8.41pm

Sheffield, U.K.

String theory is an attempt at a deeper description of nature by thinking of an elementary particle not as a little point but as a little loop of vibrating string. – Edward Witten

I know nothing about string theory but this Witten quote makes perfect sense when it comes to the basic nature of everything we do.

Think of some of the people you’ve worked with, some of the people you know.

They might be old or young, experienced or new to the world of work, different genders, races, backgrounds.

Now, what kind of impression do you get about the way in which they seem to operate?

Some might be dots or spots – contained patches of ink that encapsulate what they are.

Perhaps they’re artists or lawyers or doctors or police or firefighters – defined roles that you see in children’s books of what jobs people have.

Perhaps they see themselves the same way, as people with a singular passion or focus – either one that really does fill them up or one that they have adopted because it works for their business.

If you do a search starting with the string “I’m passionate about” you get a bunch of results that tell you how to answer that question in the context of an interview.

And that’s because when you’re really passionate about something you don’t talk about it – you just do it and talk about it – and people see how passionate you are.

So, if passion is a dot what might a line be?

A line, I think, is someone that has a job – someone that does a certain task.

They might process things, file things, analyse thing – but generally they start at one point and traverse a line and end at another point.

And a lot of people see this as a thing – if you do process maps or flows this is the kind of way you represent what’s going on – starting here and ending there.

With spots and lines you’ve probably captured the ways in which most people think about work.

But, when they actually start doing work the lines no longer seem quite that straight.

Actually where you end up seems to be related to where you started – and so you find yourself turning back and heading to where you were at the start.

For example, if you are in charge of a project and you send an email requesting information then in the world of lines you’ve done your job.

If you don’t get a response, however, you’re starting to look back at that email you sent and wondering what to do next.

Many people think that they’ve done their job – they’ve sent that email and that’s it.

If they’re asked later why things went wrong they can always say, “Well, I did my part!”

That gap – that failure to close the loop between starting something and making sure it’s finished makes the difference between success and failure in most situations I’ve seen.

You go out and meet someone and fail to connect in some way so you can follow up your discussion.

That’s often my big problem.

A bigger one, though, has to do with all those tasks where you should really chase and follow up but you just don’t.

When people succeed it seems to be because they make the effort to close that gap, to make sure they close the loop and them move on.

Now you might not do this with everything but if you do it with the important stuff then you start to create little success circles – closed loops that mean stuff gets done.

And then, if you decide that string theory is for you – you can think of those success circles as the elements of business, the elements of what you do.

Instead of seeing them as static, once done and then forgotten things, you can see them as vibrating string loops – with the energy and passion you have emerging from that work you’re doing.

And really when you get the fundamental building blocks of reality on your side is there anything you can’t achieve?


Karthik Suresh

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