Why beliefs about success can make or break your business

Walt Disney, JK Rowling and Richard Branson challenged popular beliefs about success. Here's how you can too.

If Walt Disney had taken to heart common beliefs about success, he would have believed the newspaper editor who told him he “had no good ideas.” Single mum JK Rowling would never have become the world’s first author billionaire thanks to Harry Potter and Richard Branson might have ditched his Virgin dreams because he didn’t go to university.

When he was at university, Bill Gates didn’t get top marks and even flunked some exams. That worked against him in a competitive academic world where genius equalled success—or did it?  “I failed some subjects but my friend passed it all. Now he is an engineer at Microsoft and I am the owner of Microsoft,” the entrepreneur and philanthropist said.

There are a zillion other examples of famous people—Henry Ford among them, who said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you are right”—who turned beliefs about success on their heads and ended up changing the world.

They were driven not by the idea that being popular is important, that first time failure means you should give up, that when things aren’t working out it’s best to hit the stop safety button. And there are just as many non-famous people who have done the same thing—challenged and changed beliefs about success—and made their own world extraordinary.

Debunking the expectations we have about success and what it feels and looks like is key to making sure they don’t hold us back. Remember Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first TV anchor job, and bounced back to have an okay career!

The first part of doing that is knowing what your beliefs about success actually are. For coaches, it’s even more important because the foundation of you having a successful business is your beliefs, and as you go out to create success it will be your beliefs that either hold you back or propel you forward.

Some common beliefs that may not serve you:

  • If I am successful people are going to leave me
  • I can’t be more successful than my mum or dad
  • I can only earn this amount of money
  • If I’m too successful everyone will notice
  • What will people think about me?

In Australia, we call it Tall Poppy Syndrome, and of course it revolves around the idea that you deserve to be cut down if you’re too good at something. That being mediocre is safer.

Pathway to Purpose

Going into creating a successful coaching business, that’s the last thing you want. You want to rise above that and be the best version of yourself you can be, and help your clients do the same thing.

One of the ways to know the beliefs you have about success is to look at the success you have—or don’t have.

If you don’t have the results you want, there’s a high chance you have a belief that’s holding you back. One thing we need to consider is your conditioning around success.

I grew up in a really wonderful family, but none of them had built a business before or broken through and done something on their own, so I didn’t have a history of determination, financial wealth, going out and creating my own thing.

So my belief foundation was the opposite of what I needed to look at my own beliefs and change them to something more empowering and knowing I was worthy of success.

Think about what beliefs you have about success in general.  If your beliefs are saying, ‘No we can’t have success’ but all of your actions are moving towards success, there’s going to be incongruency. This is where self-sabotage gets in the way.

When we make sure our beliefs about success are in alignment with our goals we have a clear pathway ahead of us and success becomes a sure thing.

As Steve Jobs said, “Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. You’ve got to find what you love.”


One of Australia's leading coaches, trainers and speakers, and head facilitator at The Coaching Institute. In between mentoring thousands of coaches and leaders all around Australasia and helping others build incredible culture, Matt is passionate about fitness and music. His healthy office lunches whipped up in five minutes are the stuff of legend

Matt Lavars
Matt LavarsThe Coaching Institute