Sharing 10 Life Lessons That Helped Me Achieve Success

Dennis C. Miller, Speaker. Author. Leadership Coach. CEO

Sharing 10 Life Lessons That Helped Me Achieve Success

Life has taught me a lot of things that I could never have learned in a classroom. Especially since I never excelled in the classroom as a kid. Rising above challenges is a key part of life and a major ingredient in becoming a successful leader. Every time I failed or fell down in life, I was determined to get back up on my feet and become stronger. I became more motivated to succeed. A friend once told me that the best form of revenge was success.  I think that’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten. But there are 10 other life lessons that have helped me find my true path to becoming a leader and achieving my goals.

At the age of 24, I lived in a YMCA after being thrown out of my house by my abusive father. After that I lived in a boarding house sharing a kitchen and a bathroom with two other transients. I worked full-time at the local Ramada Inn cleaning bathrooms and the front lobby. In spite of my situation, I had high ambitions and expectations from my life. Though I graduated near the bottom of my high school class and got rejected by every four year college I applied to, I knew that in order to succeed, I needed formal education. I reapplied to college six years later, eventually graduating from Rutgers University before graduating with honors from grad school at Columbia University.

10 years after cleaning bathrooms at the hotel, I had become the chief financial officer of a community hospital. Soon after that, I became the president and CEO of a major medical center, after serving as the regional senior vice president of a publicly held consulting firm.  After living in a YMCA, I learned that regardless of one’s past or present circumstances, everyone can achieve happiness and success if they learn from their mistakes and make better choices going forward.

The following are the 10 life lessons I learned that enabled me to transform my life from hopelessness and failure, to happiness and success.

  • Accept responsibility for your life’s actions and behaviors. We can go through life blaming others for our difficulties, or we can accept responsibility for doing something about who we are now and go forward with a more positive attitude.
  • Envision your future and develop a plan of action to achieve it. Perseverance is steady persistence in a course of action, in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement.
  • Be determined to succeed. Wanting something to change and actually making it happen are two different things. Be determined to overcome whatever obstacles get in your way.
  • Develop the ability to love myself so that I could truly love others. Self-love and selfishness, far from being identical, are actually opposites. Love thy neighbor as thyself implies respect and understanding of one’s own self and cannot be separated from respect and love for another.
  • Emotional intelligence is the key to personal growth and happiness. This enabled me to build strong relationships, success at work, and achieve career and personal goals. Happy people are more likely to be successful, but not all successful people are happy.
  • Dreams come true and hard work does pay off. I knew that if I wanted to turn in my “mop and bucket” for the corner office, I had to work harder than anyone else. There are no short cuts to achieving success.
  • Mentors and friends are essential to achieving true success. I had to learn to trust others and ask for support. We all need to feel connected to others. No person can succeed as an island. Today, I never refuse a request from someone for my advice. It’s my way of giving back and returning the favor.
  • Never lose faith, and always believe in yourself. The biggest difference between successful people and unsuccessful people isn’t intelligence or opportunity or resources. It is the belief that they can make their goals happen.
  • Self-confidence is the key to achievements in life. Each small achievement leads to more self-confidence, continue to take small steps which will lead to larger steps. Self-confidence will grow with each step.
  • Your self-worth is not based on your income level, job title or size of your possessions. Happiness is learning to know who you really are in life as a person and not what you have.

Most importantly, I learned from these 10 life lessons that even a troubled kid from New Jersey can overcome any and all obstacles to live a happy and successful life.

[Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at]

About the Author

Dennis C. Miller is a motivational speaker, author, leadership coach and CEO. Dennis’ new book Moppin’ Floors to CEO: From Hopelessness and Failure to Happiness and Success has recently been released. Dennis can be contacted at