Folks from wealthy families going nowhere on their own or crashing under the weight of some disorder in spite of all the money they have to treat it…

Folks raised in poverty with a single, addicted, or absent parent – or no parents at all – rising to win Olympic gold or to reach the top of their field…

Folks from a solid 2-parent loving household failing over and over…

Folks with mental illness, severe learning disorders, addiction, or autism transcending these challenges to succeed brilliantly… (google Temple Grandin – then watch the award winning movie starring Claire Danes).

We’ve all heard and read the stories, marveled at the triumph or sadness, shook our collective heads in disbelief and admiration…and never applied the underlying lesson to ourselves: It’s not what you’re given, but what you do with it.

Although we tend to think of young people when it comes to these “against the odds” triumphs, and indeed the stories we hear are mostly about the young, it also applies to Boomers and older adults, as we are in the midst of the second half of our lives and wish to make our last act our best. More particularly, it applies to the many Boomer women who have thus far lived feeling less than empowered, afraid to push for what we truly want, and deserve.

What those who’ve succeeded have in common is simple: an unfaltering determination to get where they want to go – and they were quite clear about the destination. They’ve experienced plenty of set-backs, but refused to be set back; were told over and again that they wouldn’t make much of themselves, but refused to buy it; they’ve thought about quitting, then didn’t.

They have one more thing in common: Someone in their lives who believed in them – often when they started having doubts about themselves.  Those determined people stayed close to the supportive one(s), and stayed away from the rest.

If this sounds like my idea of a formula for success, that’s because it is.  In fact, and in practice, you need only these 3 things to attain whatever it is you seek, and if you currently don’t have one or more of them, get ’em:

  • A clear, specific end goal you wish to attain based on your talent & skill-set (“I will turn the hobby I love into a viable business”; “I will be the first female CEO in my industry”; “I will write that book/start that highly monetized blog/(and in my case) have my own popular broadcast radio show…”);
  • Unwavering determination to get there no matter how many set-backs, and regardless of the nay-sayers or what they say – rise above them, move past them, ignore them – better yet, see if there is any truth in their criticism then use it to make yourself even greater;
  • Find and surround yourself with only those who believe in you – stay clear of the rest; sure you may have to interact with negative people for business or somewhere else in your life, but keep it to a minimum and certainly keep people like that out of your close social circle/personal life.

This formula works at any age, and does not discriminate based on gender, religion, culture, race, or sexual orientation. Take it from these folks:

  • Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade; he was defeated in every public office for which he ran until becoming Britain’s Prime Minister at age 62
  • Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything…” 
  • “Colonel” Sanders couldn’t sell his chicken; more than 1,000 restaurants rejected him – yet at age 62 he franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken
  • R.H. Macy had a history of failing businesses, including the first Macy’s in NYC
  • Marilyn Monroe’s first contract with Columbia Pictures expired because they told her she wasn’t pretty or talented enough to be an actress
  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas…” 
  • Albert Einstein didn’t speak until age four and didn’t read until age seven. His teachers labeled him “slow” and “mentally handicapped” 
  • In Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the judges wrote: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little…” 
  • Katherine Hepburn was labeled “box office poison” in 1938
  • After Sidney Poitier’s first audition, the casting director instructed him to just stop wasting everyone’s time and “go be a dishwasher or something…” 
  • Oprah Winfrey was fired from her television reporting job because they told her she wasn’t fit to be on screen 
  • After his first film, Harrison Ford was told he would probably never succeed

Then take it to the bank.