THE Single Biggest Difference Between Successful People And ‘The Mediocre Majority’

By: Dan Kennedy on: December 24th, 2013 15 Comments

This spring, I’ll celebrate my 16th anniversary of having my Professional License for harness racing.

Getting this license fulfilled a lifelong dream for me—to be able to drive as a professional driver at the track I grew up at as a kid, Northfield Park, in Cleveland, Ohio.

When I’m harness racing and things go right, these two-minute races are the best times of my entire life. I would rather do this than anything.

It’s my purpose for continuing to work—so I can afford to feed the horses and do what I love to do. I believe everyone ought to find something in their lives that they feel this way about. I believe it gives you the fortitude to persevere when you’re ready to give up on your goals and gives you a bigger motivation for personal gain.

I had to fight hard to be able to do this. In fact, it took years of work, plenty of angst, fighting considerable opposition.

You see, in harness racing, the path to a professional license to drive is tortuous and political. If that isn’t hard enough, I had to prevail against opposition, obstacles and my own ineptitude.

I will not lie to you. There was a time I was despondent. For a few days, I was ready to give up after my provisional license was yanked a second time and I was told there wasn’t going to be a third time around.

But I continued to go for it. I got a number of top drivers to sign a petition asking the judges to give me another chance. I pleaded my case. It came down to my being willing to agree to risk it all—and agree to give up on my lifelong dream and never try to get licensed again.

Frankly, I think the overwhelming majority of people in my boots would have given up.

But I did not.

The result being, I still get to do what I most want to do.

I believe you are never too old, never too young, never too poor, never too anything to be required to give up on your dreams.

Most people who make a lifelong practice of giving up on their dreams, ideas and opportunities wind up mastering only one skill: excuse-making, so they have a long, comforting list of reasons why they have not done more with life.

I prefer achievement.

It remains the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Driving harness races has a least as much frustration as golf, with the added attractions of dirt, grime, mud, manure, snow, frigid temperatures, and physical danger. There are other obstacles I’ve had to overcome (that I won’t go into here.)

I’m extremely pleased that I did not let this dream die.

I’ve decided that THE single biggest difference between successful people and ‘the mediocre majority,’ between leaders and followers, between those who enjoy generally rewarding lives vs. those who lead mostly frustrating lives, is this…

How easily they take ‘no’ for an answer.

If you wanted to focus on the one single behavior that has more to do with success than any other, this is it.

Most people take the first “no” that comes along, in trivial as well as important matters. Somewhere along the way, people lose the ability to refuse to accept a ‘no.’

Watch a kid told “no” by a parent in a store—does he give up easily and quietly accept the verdict?

Think back to when you were a kid, asking to go someplace or to stay up past your bedtime or past curfew, when you got your first no, what did you do?

I got my first job by refusing to take no for an answer.

I got my first wife by refusing to take no for an answer.

I got my most important mentor by refusing to take no for an answer.

I’ve gotten a lot in my life by refusing to take no for an answer.

Goal-setting’s fine and useful, but what good is it if you are willing to give up on or compromise the goals you set? The real key to success is “adamant refusal.” (Tweet this!) What conditions or circumstances or limits do you adamantly refuse to accept?

You need to have your big emotional purpose that gives you the motivation to not give up…and then refuse to accept that it can’t happen.

Consider financial success? Put up a sign that says, “I’m 46 years old. I’ve got an education, a family to take care of, a lifelong dream I want to fulfill and I’m embarrassed to still be struggling and broke in this land of abundant opportunity.”

You have to identify an emotional reason for doing what you do. You have to get to the point of adamantly refusing to stay where you are and not getting what you want.

Don’t accept that you must wait for the right time…that nothing can be done…or too easily take no for an answer.

Be relentless. Keep working long after others have given up. Think about what you want and work at it every day if not more often. Call, chase down, bug, badger every and any person who might help you. Don’t give up. It can be done.

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Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to

15 Responses

  1. Today as I was walking in the forest near my home in Portland a man passed me on the trail and said, “This trail is a dead end.” I said, “It comes out on a street and you seem to know where you are going , so do I.” I don’t know why he told me that. I knew the trail came out on a street and that from there it was possible to enter the trail system in 3 different places. I thought what if I hadn’t been this way before. Would I have believed him and turned around and given up. How often does someone tell us our idea or vision will be a dead end and we listen to them? I came out of the forest thinking about this and opened your letter and thought you said it so well and it is so true. Thanks!! If we don’t take no for an answer then our visions are never dead ends. There are always new turns to take! May this be a year of manifesting new visions and new stories for us all.

  2. Dear Dan,
    Thank for this present. It is providing great encouragement for my new venture as GKIC CBA.
    You are also giving me an excellent role model that I am eager to follow.
    Congratulations for your outstanding achievements !!!
    Very cordially,


  3. Carl Picot says:

    Great post thanks Dan…

    It’s good to have people like you that give encouragement and show what can be achieved with little bit of ‘no-ness’ 😀

    I would love to go on one of your courses – so that’s my next goal!

    cheers Carl

  4. Dan you’re inspiring. Perseverance and belief are key, along with hard work and pure grit. I’ve found when you dig deep you find diaminds within yourself and then you’ve grown to a whole new level. Just attending my first Superconference with you has been a life changer. You MUST continue to teach us entrepreneurs out there! You are the master.

  5. Stephen Roulac says:

    Great message, Dan. Would like to know more of the details re all of the obstacles and how you overcame them. Them the lessons you’ve derived therefrom and applied in your professional work. Happy holidays SER

  6. phil chow says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. I read somewhere, can’t remember where, of a study that concluded the most important predictor of success is will power.

  7. Roger Risner says:

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you I have a big problem to deal with after the First of the year $20,000.00 +

    I have accepted no on a State of Michigan safety project from many Municipal Officials,
    My motivator is the 3-children that have died in the last 3-years from non-code compliant
    Automated Vehicular Gate systems. I have been working this project at a loss for over
    5-years and now am running out of money to continue until TODAY, ‘The Quest’ is the
    only thing to matters.’

    TO DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM ! Thanks Dan for all your time in writing to me.

    Your Noahide Brother in Christ our Lord, ROG

  8. Cathy says:

    Dan, I won’t go into all the challenges and obstacles I (like so many others) have been facing over the last few years. BUT I refuse to quit. In fact, I’m determined to do something to make the world a better place and transform my own life.

    My quest is to bring art, horses, nature and people together – In a place where there is healing, growth and community – A place to foster a sense of inter-connectedness, to learn to recognize, allow and open one’s self to the flow (or still small voice) and learn to release the joyous flow of creativity, unity and reverence for all life.

    Here’s my project – Please consider sharing or helping – THANK YOU!

    Will try to catch the workshop – I could use a dose of focused optimism and direction!

  9. jerry says:

    Hey Dan!

    This is exactly what I need to hear at this moment. After so many years of blogging, I have come to know that the income potential of marketing far surpasses it.

    I’m back doing marketing and its really not easy starting off from where I had stopped.

    Thank you

  10. Mike says:

    As a new GKIC/Dan Kennedy member I’ve been interested to read a bit more about the harness-racing side of ‘Dan Kennedy’ (being one who was involved myself for many years — as a drop-dead-broke punter!)

    I’ve also wondered if someone scratched the surface of ‘Dan Kennedy’ would we see blood?

    Well, after reading this revealing post, I am a little the wiser on both questions.

    Thanks for revealing what goes on behind the ‘Dan Kennedy’ we get to know publicly.

  11. Cindy says:

    Good luck Roger. That is a GREAT motivation!

  12. […] by Michael Martel I have taken inspiration from a post by Dan Kennedy.  These words ring true for so many […]

  13. […] Take time to define your “why.” In Dan Kennedy’s recent article, THE Single Biggest Difference Between Successful People And ‘The Mediocre Majority,’ Dan points out that you have to find your real purpose for doing what you do. This is the big […]

  14. Dan Kennedy again hit the nail on the head.

    Felt the same about flying.
    Was in an airplane with my boss and mentor. I got sick and got out of the plane when we returned to the airport.
    On the next take-off, my best friend got killed when the engine failed.

    I felt guilty . . . and developed a severe fear of flying.

    My dream was to fly again.

    It took years of start-stop, visits to a therapist who specialized in hypnotic techniques.

    Ten years later got the pilot’s license.

    Twelve years later bought a new Cirrus aircraft.

    Alex L Wasilewski

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