Ask 100 people for one specific answer on how to succeed, and you’ll get 493 answers. I note more than one per person because undoubtedly there will be multiple choice responses, explanations as to why something works in conjunction with something else, a lot of dancing and making it up as they go along, and a good deal of answers hidden within answers for one very good reason.

Not everyone is so quick to grasp those one or two things that make them a success. It’s not an easy question, and more often than not the answers get mixed up in a need to impress the questioner with some zen-like knowledge that will transcend all experiences and create a level of “success invincibility,” if you will.

Lasting success is exactly that because of the lessons we learn every single day. There is no one single moment in time that sets up “lasting success” Anyone who tells you that is pulling your leg, jiving you, looking to sell you a nearby bridge, and likely will also seek to get your credit card number for their new book of revelatory cosmic experiences that will ensure eternal life, shocking wealth, and assurances that when you are reincarnated it will be without the heartbreak of teenage zits.

Success lasts only when those dedicated to a craft, a belief, a mission in life, are willing to pound away at it every single day understanding it is a culmination of what we do that makes our dreams last and our goals attainable.

Stop focusing on that “one special moment” or that “one life changing meeting” that turned everything around.

Zero in on what makes for a foundation that will allow it all to happen as we learn and as as become better at who we are and what we do.

And now, your “listicle” for the day. Four simple concepts that without fail will impact your life every single day.

IF you dedicate yourself to understanding how they work for you and why they are integral to success.

1) Hard work 

Let’s begin with one of those truly intangible disciplines. What exactly does “hard work” mean?

I have been so very fortunate in my life to work with and around so many people exceptionally dedicated to their craft. Many who have surrendered their lives to be the best there is at what they do. And sadly, one of things I hear from those who have been at it for many a year is “I could have worked so much smarter.”

There’s the key. If one is dedicated to a craft, work isn’t “hard.” It’s sometimes tedious. Often it’s monotonous. Might even be physically and mentally taxing. It can, if we allow it to, drain us of our life outside of the task at hand. It can make us angry, despondent, depressed, pissed off, regretful, and in the end possibly the most non-productive person we would hope to never know.

We must enjoy what we do for a living. We have to make it work FOR us, not against us. That could mean a sacrifice we were hoping to never face, but one that needs to be taken head-on.

Here’s an example. I worked with a TV Director of enviable talent at a broadcast entity that was owned and operated by deceitful, lying, narcissistic people who merely used every employee to make more money for themselves. And that’s not a personal opinion, but the take of every single one of the 23 people who were there when the operation went belly-up. Every single one of them worked as hard as they could every single day under terrible management and no lack of leadership. But they stayed because they were all convinced their efforts would be rewarded and they could be at the forefront of turning the fortunes of this doomed company around.

I asked him one day why he stayed. He said “because they pay me well and I have a family to look after.” But in the same breath he pointed to the 60+ hour work week, the lack of vacation time, the level of mental stress he was caught up in every single day, and how it sent him home an angry man who felt as if his hard work culminated in a daily zero sum game.

In that moment, he came to the realization that he might be “working hard,” but he wasn’t “working smart.” That his immense talent was being wasted, and soon it would be 20 years from now and he would be filled with regrets for not understanding the difference between “hard” work and “smart” work.

He left the company not long after that, and a year later was working at an established broadcast network in another city. He was happier, excited, and grateful for our conversation. There were other people he had passed the message on to, and they also learned that sometimes “hard” work is not what we need. Rather we need the ability to fulfill our craft in a manner that made it seem less like work, and more like a passion.

Work hard, but work smart. Those who fail to see the difference are undercutting the foundation of their future success, and far too often ensuring the platform for such success can never be built on such shaky pilings.

2) Discipline 

The world we live in is rife with time-wasters and what I like to call “shiny things.” There is not a person among us who can state without question they have never buckled themselves down to perform a task, write a proposal, research a new cure for male-pattern baldness, (or something similarly critical to life itself), make their time count AND……suddenly……without warning…….drifted…….Hey look, a new cat video on Facebook”…..into……”did I leave that charging cable in the car?”…..something…….completely…….look, the new Deadpool trailer is out!”…..unimportant and mind-numbingly perfect for wasting valuable time.

Sure, it’s easy to call it “human nature.” However, it’s something we can control. It’s a discipline we can and must teach ourselves every day. It’s a lesson we often think we’ve learned, but then come to the realization we failed when we find ourselves at the computer ordering those new wine glasses imprinted with the words “It’s not drinking alone if the dog is home.”

Head in the game. Buckle in. Focus on what you are doing. Stay in the moment. Daydreams can be wonderful in allowing ourselves to seek out new ideas we would never even conceive in everyday life. But they can also be detrimental to our professional and personal growth in wasting precious time.

Time that we can never recover.

3) Accountability

It is the word we hear screeched at us over and over and over again, usually by people in a position of power, always by those who if their own character is examined we find far too often they have no real concept of what it means.

Do not simply seek to be held accountable for your actions and your words. Step out and demand those around you hold you accountable.

Personally, I find it often impossible to stifle laughter when I hear certain people talk about being held accountable. You know those of whom I speak. The ones who make promises, look you straight in the eye, (whether in person or via electronic means), and bellow something to the effect “HOLD ME ACCOUNTABLE!”

Shame of it is, we rarely do.

This is where you get to turn it around in your favor, prove it’s not blowhard hot air, stand your ground and be the individual that has the guts, the fortitude, and the integrity to demand accountability and then make it stick.

We will all, at one time or another, find ourselves in a team. Everything we seek to accomplish in a professional sense takes a team, often tucked away in a corner or not even within our realization. We rise and fall at the level of our ability to work with and within the team.

That’s where accountability comes in.

We are accountable to ourselves in our level of personal investment. We’ve taken our discipline and applied it to the task and the team. We take on tasks and assignments with no fear of failure, because we demand of ourselves and seek those around us to hold us accountable for our deeds and actions. We stay on track. We hold our focus. We are there to ensure balls don’t get dropped, we are there to drive those around us to seek out and fulfill their potential. We are always asking ourselves what more can we do to spread our success among others, and we are never afraid of taking suggestions from those who have earned our respect.

We trust, both ourselves and those around us who have proven to us their worthiness of that trust. We don’t seek to blame others for our mistakes.

Because when this happens, we attain a higher level of……

4) Responsibility

Which is not the same as being accountable. Don’t be fooled.

Being held accountable for an action or an action is what we need and desire. It emirates almost always from an outer source. It’s a system of “checks and balances” without which we fail and can never attain a lasting level of success.

Responsibility is then what we hold inside and must force ourselves to face on a very personal level. It’s what will drive us to be better at our craft and as individuals.

It is also one of the toughest disciplines to accept and conquer. Because in desiring to be responsible, we must understand the very real possibility exists that we will face what no one desires.

To be proven wrong.

That is where integrity plays a key role. In order to be successful, one must accept the possibility of being wrong. VERY wrong. Dead flat, “what in the world were you thinking?” wrong. Wrong to a level of sheer embarrassment.

No worries. That’s called building character. Being able to accept and take responsibility for your actions allows us to build a stronger foundation under everything we do, everyone we work with, every task we attempt.

Once we accept and appreciate being held accountable, it is easier for us to demand of ourselves a level of responsibility few would accept. It empowers us to have no fear in making future decisions, knowing that even if we get it wrong, we will learn from the experience and be responsible at a newer level for our actions.

In our personal lives. In our professional lives. In our attempt to change the lives of others and inspire them with what we have learned. They all lead to one inescapable conclusion we should all seek to attain.

Working smart. Being disciplined. Accepting the need to be held accountable. Understanding the inner drive to be responsible.

Being a leader. One of impeccable integrity, and who understands success is built over time.