What No One Will Ever Tell You About the Formula to Success

Nowadays there’s a formula for everything:
Losing weight, writing a novel, setting up a business, getting hair like Beyoncé’s… Heck, even making a gazillion bucks overnight seems to be a matter of having the right (tested-and-proven) formula at your fingertips.

The bad news?

Formulas don’t work.

This means that brand experience is neither strictly in your control, nor entirely out of your control. You can control what you put out into the world, but you can’t control people’s reactions. You can, of course, try to gauge those reactions beforehand. But even more importantly, you can adapt to reactions and even adopt some of the feedback.

The secret to crafting a great brand experience is knowing when to exercise control and when to open up to adaptability.

Or we’d all be walking around with fabulous hair and money coming out our overstuffed pockets because the mattress and all the drawers were already full, and we simply didn’t know what to do with so much cash. (Now isn’t THAT a problem to have…)

Formulas have become quite popular these days disguised in the form of listicles:

  • The 5 Things Successful People Do Every Day
  • 3 Things Steve Jobs Did Every Morning
  • The 5 Words You Should Never Use in Your Copy
  • The 7 Steps to Setting Up Your Own Online Empire While You Shampoo Your Hair TONIGHT!

And the list of listicles goes on, and on, and on, and on…

We’ve all seen them.
And we’re all even guilty of indulging in them every now and again. Because, sure, it’s nice to dream that with just a little effort (or better, no effort) and a proven formula we can all do anything at all and become successful.

But here’s something hardly anyone tells you:

There’s a difference between FORM and FORMULA.

Successful people in every field—even the ones who sell their formulas like hotcakes—understand FORM. They DON’T follow formulas.

Formula is when you don’t really know what you’re doing, but you’re following someone else’s step-by-step instructions.

Like baking a cake out of a recipe: You expect it to work, and you expect it to be delicious.
Does it always work? No, not really. But most of the time.
Does making one cake with the formula means you can make any cake? Not even close.
Does making the cake from the formula make you richer in any way? Only around the hips.

The word “formula” in fact means “little form” (in Latin) and will do exactly that: keep your form little.

Form is when you’ve mastered your art (in whatever field you’re in—from painting to accounting) and know how to create a piece by heart.

You know how to make it, change it, break it, spin it, shake it, and truly make it yours.

Chefs don’t follow formulas (recipes) for baking cakes. They know the form of making a cake and invent their own creations by changing, bending, improving, altering the “rules” of the form. Eventually, they might put their own version of the form into a “formula” for divulging it to the rest of us who only know how to strike pots and bang pans around the kitchen.

And that’s why there are 7,684 formulas for making hot molten lava cakes out there. (Thank you, chefs of the world!)

The form is ONE. The formulas many.

During the most delicious days of my life, I (Julia here) used to have a chef for a roommate. I still remember the day I walked into the kitchen while she was talking to a chef-friend of hers on the phone about scones and heard her say: “What’s the fat ratio in these?”

I nearly keeled over in horror. “Don’t call it fat ratio!” I protested. “It makes them sound so… fattening!” She just shrugged. Because to her that’s what it was—fat: an essential aspect in the form of baking. Whether she would use butter or vegetable oil or coconut oil or what-have-you oil was beside the point. She would decide on that during the experimentation phase. At that moment all she wanted to know how much fat it takes to make scones.

She wanted to understand the FORM, not get a formula.

And it’s the same with your art—the thing you’ve decided to dedicate your life to.

To become successful in anything, you must understand the FORM, not have some magic formula.

Can you lose weight with a proven diet (formula)? You betcha!
Can you keep that weight off forever if you don’t understand even the most fundamental principles of balanced eating (form)? Not even for a month.
Can you instruct your friend with particular dietary needs on how she can also lose weight if all you know is a little formula but don’t understand the form of nutrition? You better not even try!

It’s not that formulas don’t ever work. It’s just that formulas are very limited things and can only work for very limited purposes. And anything you make out of a formula? It’s bound to be FORMULAIC. By definition.

When it comes to your art, to making great work, and to producing something of high-quality? You MUST invest in learning the form.

There’s no formula for writing a best-selling novel. A novel becomes best-selling because it surprises and delight us in ways we never expected.

There’s no formula for making a 3-Michelin-star pot-roast. A chef wins a Michelin star because her cooking is ingenious and innovative. Not because she got the recipe from Martha Stewart.

There’s no formula for creating an UH-mazing website that no one can stop talking about. Because no one talks about things they’ve seen a million times before from the same formula (known in web design as a template).

In a few words?

Formulas are only training wheels.

We all use formulas while we’re learning to do our art, or for making something that’s not really our art (like baking a cake if we’re not chefs, or getting into shape if we’re not professional trainers).

But YOU doing YOUR WORK?
That’s where you gotta find YOUR perfect form.

There’s no formula for creating your art and sharing what’s in your heart.
Because YOU are not formulaic.
There’s no formula for doing you, and no formula can ever make you a successful YOU.

Abandon the formulas in favor of the rules.

Dare to be different.

Dare to stand out.

Dare to play with true form.

And when you have all the rules of the grand FORM?
Go ahead and break them.

Because we don’t want to see a proven formula.
We want to see your true FORM.

What does your FORM look like?

And what’s your experience in playing with form and formulas?
Dish your heart out in the comments.