The Success Cycle


I think it’s a fair assumption that everyone has a desire to be successful. I’m pretty sure I’ve never met anyone who says, “you know, I don’t want to succeed”… So how do we get there? How can we become successful?

The first question is really, what is success?

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” – Earl Nightingale

Success then is really not a destination, it is working towards and bringing to pass a worthy goal. It is a person who says, “I am going to become this,” and then works to make it happen.

  • It’s a school teacher who teaches school because that’s what they want to do.
  • It’s a woman who is a wife and mother because she wanted to and is doing an amazing job of it.
  • It’s a man who runs a mechanic shop because that was his dream.
  • It’s an entrepreneur who starts their own company because that’s what they’ve always wanted to do.

A success is anyone who is intentionally pursuing a predetermined goal because they deliberately decided to do it.


Whether or not you are a goal setter, I cannot emphasize the importance of goals in the success cycle enough. A goal is a destination, without it, you don’t know where you are going.

Consider two ships leaving a harbor. The first ship has a destination and it’s voyage mapped out and planned. The captain and the crew know where the ship is going, how long it will take, and where it will be stopping along the way. It has a definitive destination and probably 999 times out of 1,000 it will arrive at it’s destination.

Now consider the second ship. Except this time it doesn’t have a captain, it doesn’t have a crew, and it doesn’t have an end goal in sight. We just start the engines and let it go. It may get out of the harbor, but most likely it will either sink or end up deserted on a beach somewhere because it was never given a destination or guidance.

I love this quote by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where -‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.” – Lewis Carroll

Goals help us know where we are going. Otherwise we can spend a lot of time and effort working, but never really get anywhere.

The Success Cyle

This success cycle was shared by Paul Martinelli and John C. Maxwell. It is how successful people and organizations continually find success.

  1. Test
  2. Fail
  3. Learn
  4. Improve
  5. Re-enter


Successful people test more. If you have entrepreneurial tendencies like I do, then you probably have more than 50 ideas a day, and most of them will never go anywhere… But you will never know if you have a good idea unless you try it.

“The value of an idea comes in the using of it.” – Thomas Edison

Not every idea will be a good one, but successful people are willing to take risks. They are willing to test their ideas and make things happen.


Successful people also fail more. They test more, and because not all ideas are the best solutions, they also fail more. But failing isn’t a bad thing. In fact, failure can be our greatest teacher. We can learn not only what we did wrong, but also what we did right.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

People who are afraid to fail, by default also let fear prevent them from being successful. Have courage to go to a daring destination, and know that you will fail along the way. It’s part of the process! It’s alright if you fail, as long as you learn something from it.


Many people stop when they fail. They don’t don’t take the time to learn from it, and many don’t try again. I can guarantee you that we will all fail at something in our lives. So, if it’s going to happen anyway, we mind as well keep an open mind and learn from it!

“Those things that hurt, instruct.” – Benjamin Franklin

In Live2Lead 2017, John Maxwell illustrates this point with an example. He talks about a person who tries and fails and gets back up and tries again. Then they get knocked down over and over and don’t let it stop them from getting back in the game over and over again. We think this is great. We love their tenacity, but we over look the problem. They are getting knocked back down by the same thing over and over again and aren’t learning from it.

When we get knocked down, we need to take the time to learn from it so that when we get back up we don’t get knocked back down by the same thing again.


After we’ve been knocked down and learned from our experience, then the next step is to improve. It does us very little good if we test, fail, then learn, but we don’t change our behavior.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.” – Jessie Potter

To advance in the success process step number four is critical, we have to improve.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

Learning from our experiences is very valuable, but if we don’t do anything different with that knowledge, it doesn’t do us much good. To continue being successful we need to continually improve.


The last step of the cycle is to re-enter. The success process is considered a cycle because it is ongoing. Success is not a single destination. Once you have achieved one goal, it becomes a baseline for the next. We have an entire lifetime to improve! We have an entire lifetime to be successful. And it can just keep on getting better and better.

Think how many major companies have failed because they neglected this last step. They were successful for years and years and then the market changed but they didn’t. They continued operating at a lower level which wasn’t good enough to stay competitive because everyone else was improving. They were left behind.

“Regardless of how good you are, you could be better.” – John C. Maxwell

Start the process again! Test, fail, learn, improve, re-enter. Test, fail, learn, improve, re-enter…

If you look at any successful person or organization, this is what they do. This is how they are continually successful, and I know that you can be too!

Test, Fail, Learn, Improve, Re-enter


  1. Maxwell, John C. (2018). Live2Lead. Retrieved from
  2. Nightingale, Earl. (2013). The Strangest Secret. Merchant Books.

Krista Palo

I'm Krista, the owner and creator of Evolve. I have a masters degree in Business Administration and I am passionate about development, motivation, and change. I love stories in all of their forms, and believe in continuous learning and the power of positivity.

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