If you’re like me you have little trouble identifying the things you want to accomplish. Ideas aren’t the problem. The problem comes in understanding how to succeed in any of them. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with where to start, how to proceed, and what needs to get done. 

Over time I’ve come to understand two principles of success. One, it is often simpler to achieve something than we think (The keyword here is “simple”, not “easy”). And two, all it requires are The Four C’s of Success.

We’ll break down those elements in a minute, but first a story.

Diamond Shopping as a Recipe For Success

When I was getting ready to propose to my now wife, I went to the jewelry store to look for a ring. I’d never purchased a diamond before nor had I ever been with someone who had. 

The jeweler asked me a few questions, then pulled out a chart with small text and confusing images. He went on to explain the Four C’s of Diamonds — Cut, Color, Clarity, Carat.

My head was spinning. There was a lot of information to understand and so many variables to consider. Did I want a higher carat stone with less clarity? Or did I want a smaller, more perfect diamond?

Aside from not knowing which direction to go, I thought the whole grading system was overkill. Why did it have to be so complicated?

What I soon realized is the system wasn’t complicated. My lack of understanding how to leverage it made it feel complicated. In fact, the diamond grading system is a good thing for a few reasons:

  • It demands consistency. – Because they’re universally understood, these parameters ensure all diamonds have an apples-to-apples standard for comparison
  • It simplifies things. The categories and the values within them are clearly defined, removing nearly all subjectivity.
  • It provides constraints. These are the agreed upon categories to use when grading, which ensures focus in those four areas only. (Though I’d like to propose a 5th C … Cost, anyone?)

Once I understood the principles, I was able to speak the lingo and  ask the right questions. Ultimately, it allowed me to leverage the system into a deal I was happy with.

So what does this story have to do with helping us understand how to succeed in life?

I’m so glad you asked.

The Four C’s of Success

Not long ago it occurred to me that the system of standards used in diamond grading might also work in other areas. The process of succeeding at something seemed to be a perfect candidate.

Can a process that appears so complex be simplified into principles that are broad enough to apply to any situation but detailed enough to actually help someone?

I think the answer is yes. And I think the Four C’s of Success are the solution. Let’s talk about them.

1. Clarity

I borrowed this one from the diamond grading system, but only because it fits so well. Think about it, how can you expect to succeed at something without being clear about what you want? Yes, you might stumble upon success without explicitly identifying  a desired outcome. But it’s neither ideal nor efficient. 

What if instead, you defined exactly what you want to achieve? Without clarity around your goal, any pursuit of it is like flying blind at worst, and like flying without a map at best. We start here because once you know exactly what you want, you can begin working toward it.

2. Commitment

It’s rare that we find success immediately. Anything worth celebrating requires significant work. And along the way, there will be challenges, obstacles, and setbacks. How committed you are will play an enormous role in how successful you are.

The key is remembering that commitment to the journey is as important (maybe more) as your commitment to the result. In other words, if you don’t find a way to enjoy the process, those inevitable obstacles are going to derail you.

3. Confidence

You can come up with any goal under the sun and I’d tell you anything’s possible. But not without confidence. If you don’t believe without question that you’re not only capable of achieving something but that you will achieve it, then success is unlikely.

All four C’s are important, but this one might be the most critical. There will be doubters, especially as your goals become larger, so it’s up to you to be your own biggest cheerleader. It doesn’t have to be loud and in public, either. Just program your inner voice to believe you can do it and you will.

4. Capital

When people hear “capital” they immediately think money. And that’s part of it for sure. In this case, “capital” includes any resources necessary to pursue the goal. Not everything takes money. I also like to include “time” as perhaps the most invaluable resource. There are finite amounts of it, and it’s single-use only.

In a general sense, with enough time and/or money, just about any other resource can be obtained or created. Some situations need both, but nearly all will require at least one. With enough money, you can buy help. Without money, you’ll need more time to get there. You get the idea. Some form of capital is required.

On The Road To Successful Living

So there you have it. I know it’s not easy — and it shouldn’t be — but the goal with the 4 C’s of Success is to make the process simple. And I think it does that. 

The next time you’re at the beginning stages of a new goal, ask yourself how you stack up in each of the four areas. 

Unsure exactly what you want? You need more clarity. 

Struggling with whether you have enough time? Maybe you need to lean on different capital, instead.

These fundamental pieces will help you understand how to be successful at just about anything in life. But that’s only half the battle. Now it’s up to you to put the work in and get it done.

How’d I do? Did I miss any other crucial pieces? Do you have a 5th C (or any other letter) that I should add? Let me know in the comments.

RJ Licata author headshot


I am a marketer, a writer, and a thinker. Sometimes I do all three at once. My greatest achievement is convincing my wife to marry me. We have three kids and yes, one of them is my favorite. I'm the author of "Lessons for Joey: 100 Things I Can't Wait to Teach My Son" and "Where Greatness Lives".

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