One of the frequent questions I get from college students is ‘How did I reach my current level of success?’ I usually assume the questioner is ambitious, admires my journey, and would like similar results in their own careers. Everyone loves a formula, but for my current success I can’t give you a packaged set of tips and tricks that can be replicated the same way by someone else. What I can share is my journey and hopefully that journey will reveal clues and strategies that you can use in your own life as a formula for success.
Many often pretend they know the answer to the riddle of success and proceed to relay an A plus B equals C type of answer. But everyone’s path is different. I want to share a few things that have helped me to this point with the hope that you will discover wisdom for your own journey.
Formula for Success: Work Really Hard
First, I work really hard. I strategize, I optimize, I reflect, and I do the hard work that others might be unwilling to do. That work, however, is not just on stage or when an opportunity comes my way. The work, for me, starts long before the invitations come and continues certainly afterwards.
One of my tried and true practices is the level of detail in which I work with the production team at every event. I spend hours with the team to identify every cable, every light sequence, every screen and monitor, and every channel on the sound desk. I then spend hours on hours in rehearsal perfecting the coordination of the entire production team.
To me all of this seems obvious to do but you’d be shocked by how many speakers are satisfied with just a soundcheck for their mic. My mindset and work ethic is about building the entire team; focusing on the back end as much as the front end.
Achieving your wildest dreams takes effort, planning, and being constantly aware of everything you are doing. Even though hard work and discipline are super super important you won’t reach your goal by hard work alone. I want to make that clear because we live in a world where we are told ‘if you just work hard enough, you’ll make it.’ I have met a lot of people who are disappointed because they ARE working hard and some are working harder than I am yet are not making progress toward their desired goal. The secret is in identifying and improving upon the small details. When you change your focus to the seemingly insignificant details you will see the trajectory of your success move in the right direction.
Surround yourself with Great People
I am surrounded by great people and I now know the community of people around you is just as important to your success as hard work. Be intentional about the people who you choose as your friends and for your inner circle. In my inner circle I have people who push me, believe in me, and create opportunities for me. The reason they are in my life involves a very simple trick.
Some of you reading this might be thinking ‘that’s nice for you Dan but I’m just surrounded by haters.’ You will see this change for you when you are intentional about investing in this one truth.
You get back what you give out
It’s that straightforward. The more opportunities I create for other people, the more opportunities they create for me. The more I serve and give to my inner circle and community, the more they give back. I don’t do any of these things expecting anything in return however. I want to make that clear. This isn’t some sort of transactional economics class but it’s a state of heart, and people will feel the difference. The more I love on people, create opportunities for people, and am generous with people, the more it keeps coming back to me.
Even though I charge for coaching, no matter what time of day or night a friend asks, ‘Hey Dan, can I run a pitch by you,’ or ‘can I pick your brain,’ my answer is absolutely! Invariably down the line, they are the same people who then say, ‘I’m hosting this event’, or ‘I know this client, can you come and add some value to it?’
It’s really simple
- Love the people around you
And you will cultivate a network that equally believes and loves you. I have to give credit to the people around me because I am not the one opening the doors. In fact, I have never applied for a speaking gig, ever. 150 speaking gigs a year and I have applied to ZERO of them. 100% of them are people coming to me. No one’s received a cold email from me asking me to speak at their event. It’s never happened therefore my network is super important.
Faith: God is working All things together for my good
What from the outside looks like good luck and perfect timing, the third element of my success has actually been God’s favor and providence!
In my 20’s I built a few tech companies and happened to have sold them at a good time when tech conferences were taking off. Because people wanted to hear the story of what worked and what didn’t, my story became my ticket into these first events. But what if my companies did not work out, or what if they worked out 5 years later? I would have missed the opportunities right now because my timing would have been off.
I clearly remember the moment I got my first speaking gig. I was volunteering at an event and it just so happened that a German woman paused at my stage. My stage wasn’t even the main stage but I was hosting one of the startup stages on the side. When she paused, it just so happened that a speaker ended early and I had a few minutes to fill. I turned to the audience and I improvised a fun and engaging activity. After the session the German woman promptly walked up to me, even though she didn’t have to, and she gave me a business card. She said ‘I’ll call you this evening, we need to talk.’ And she did call that evening.
Every aspect of that moment might seem only to be good fortune, coincidence, or luck but I attribute this “perfect timing” to God’s grace in my journey.
At that stage in my life I had been volunteering at events for years. It wasn’t as if I got lucky the first time I was on stage. But you can easily see that what seemed to be coincidence was actually God’s providence. When you constantly put yourself out there and hold on to your faith at some point it all clicks and this is something you cannot predict nor time.
Three speaking gigs later I was on stage introducing Richard Branson and that substantially boosted how people saw me as a speaker. My career trajectory soon put me on stage with President Barack Obama and other Hollywood Celebrities. None of these resulting outcomes were perfectly strategized by me. When I step back and see how everything has lined up for me I can see God’s hand.
Be encouraged knowing there are providential moments ahead of you – after all your years of overcoming insecurities and failures.
Providence in finding your purpose, in finding your calling does however come disguised as hard work. The work is worth every bit of effort when you arrive at that providential moment when everything you’ve been preparing for connects with the right opportunity.
If you want to be successful in life you can’t side step hard work, having good people around, and making sure you leave room for faith, the state of the world, and opportunities as they arrive from a God who can work everything together for your good. This combination is what has landed me at the success I have now. I cannot guarantee a specific level of success for you but I am certain that if these three elements are at play in your life you are certainly on the right path and if you stay the course you will surpass your own expectations.
Dan Ram ignites the stage as an in-person event and virtual event MC/ Moderator & Speaker at over 100 events a year. He has shared the stage with international luminaries including President Barack Obama, Sir Richard Branson, Reid Hoffman, Nico Rosberg, and Grammy-winning artists and celebrities. He has also been recognized as a Top 40 under 40 leader 2020 as well as a Top 100 Yale Alumni in Technology 2021. Level up your communication skills through his course and mastermind “Speaking Success”. His passion is to inspire people with his motto ‘Start Now Start Simple’ in building a future we all want to live in.