The Success Equation: a simple formula that every manager should apply

[3 min read]

Why attitude and not ability is the key to success.

The focus of many organisations is on increasing margins, reducing cost and satisfying shareholders. In the process, they forget to take care of their greatest asset: the workforce. According to Dr. Kazuo Inamori, Japanese management expert, billionaire entrepreneur and Buddhist priest, managers should shift their focus from making money to making employees happy.

Dr. Inamori, who founded two multibillion-dollar companies and rescued another, spent decades honing and successfully applying his organisational philosophies. After working with thousands of employees, he realised that there are only three things we must do to succeed: have the right attitude, the right effort, and the right skill.

“Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple.”

The success equation is very simple and suggests that the outcome of our life, work, studies, hobbies etc. is the product of three factors: ability, effort and attitude.

Success  =   Ability   x   Effort   x   Attitude  

The maximum score we can achieve is 100 x 100 x 100 = 1,000,000. By way of example, let’s assume you want to teach your sporty child to skateboard. Even though you know they could master this quite easily, the first few attempts are failures. The success equation might look like this:

[Ability] 60 X [Effort] 60 X [Attitude] -80 (they’d rather play a video game) = -180,000 (epic fail)

All the sudden, cool skateboards become the latest craze at school. Your child begs you to teach them, and the success equation looks very different:

[Ability] 60 X [Effort] 60 X [Attitude] 80 (they want to ace this and be the cool kid) = +180,000 (raving success)


  • Ability and Effort range from 0 to 100

Because these two factors are multiplied (rather than added), the person who exerts unbeatable effort to compensate for their only average ability can accomplish more than a genius who just makes a minimal effort.

  • Attitude range from -100 to +100

Depending on your attitude, the outcome of your results can change by 180 degrees. Thus, while ability and effort are very important, it is our attitude that counts the most.


Let’s explore how we can positively influence these equation factors to unlock potential and success for ourselves and those around us.


Ability results from intelligence, physical capability, health, and other factors, which are partly innate and beyond the will or control of each individual. How to positively influence our ability:

  • Increase stamina through repetition and practice
  • Stop smoking, eat healthier foods, reduce alcohol and improve sleeping habits
  • Regularly stimulate and train the brain to keep it in shape

Ability is multiplied with effort. Some people are apathetic and lack self-discipline, motivation and ambition, while others have a burning passion for life and work and continuously exert diligent effort in everything they do. How to positively influence our effort:

  • Show resilience and self-discipline; don’t give up when the going gets tough
  • Accept that you might start a new chapter and be prepared to work for your success
  • Focus on the process, not the end result
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes and do better next time
  • Concentrate on one thing at the time rather than multitasking and watering down results
  • Be open to new learnings and to experience the unknown
  • Be an inspiration to others; pass on your energy and passion
The key: Attitude

Attitude is the most important element in this formula. It can be a positive or negative multiplier; hence a negative attitude will significantly drag ability and effort into the negative. However, a positive attitude will catapult the success score into a high positive number. How to positively influence our attitude:

  • Have clarity around your WHY and what motivates you
  • Align your values and beliefs with your actions
  • Trust yourself with anything you do
  • Take responsibility for your actions
  • If one approach doesn’t work, try another; and another; and another
  • See situations for what they are and maintain positive feelings
  • Introduce fun and light-heartedness
  • Be grateful for everything you have
  • Always aim for win-win and a positive outcome for everybody


“The ladder of success doesn’t care who climbs it.” – Frank Tyger

You can assist yourself, your employees and others around you to improve their score and achieve greater success at work and in life. Get started by calculating the score in any chosen area or task and evaluate the result. Not what you were hoping for? Simply positively influence the attitude factor and be amazed by the transformation!


“Dare to make a difference!” #WeMakeItEasy #LeadershipSkills


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Martin Probst

AUTHOR | Martin Probst - CEO (Chief Education Officer)


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