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As I came along the corridor, I saw Mr. Morris looking out the window. - Dracula

True Success in Times of Change

From Your Philosopher, Tom Morris:                                                             

If you've come here after reading one of my books or hearing one of my talks and are looking for a little reinforcement for the framework of ideas I call "The 7 Cs of Success" you're in the right place!

Welcome! Let me hit some highlights quickly.

Life is supposed to be a series of adventures—and that means reinventing our work, renewing our relationships, retooling how we do things, refreshing our inner attitudes, and coming to new forms of personal achievement as a result. If you've read or heard about my 7 Cs of Success, I hope they will help with your upcoming adventures, in all the opportunities you face. And I hope to keep serving you as your philosopher! The great thinkers of the past have given us lots of ideas we can use with great effect right now. With that in mind, Email me any time and tell me what you think of the 7 Cs!


The Most Requested Quotes From my True Success Talk

After almost every talk on The 7 Cs of Success, someone comes up to me to ask if I could repeat something I had said. People often show me a piece of paper where they were taking notes and got half a statement before something else grabbed their attention. I wanted to put here the most commonly requested quotations. Any that aren’t attributed are just from me.

Vague thoughts cannot motivate the best specific behavior.

No wind blows fair for a ship that has no port. - Seneca

Know Thyself! - The oracle at Delphi and most of the Greeks

The lesson of Hill A and Hill B: Do not allow what is very good to keep you from what is best.

Life is supposed to be a series of adventures. The one you’re on now is preparing you for the next one and sometimes in ways you can’t imagine.

The world is shouting, “Tough Course!” The great thinkers say: Ultimately, it’s not the course, but what we bring to the course each and every day that counts the most.

The one thing all champions share is Precursive Faith - faith that runs ahead of the evidence. (William James)

The evidence of the past is always insufficient to prove the success of the future. Champions are precisely the people who do not let that hold them back. They run ahead of the evidence, believing in themselves and their efforts.

Divide, then Conquer.

Be like water. - Many Chinese philosophers

The three most common causes of persistent inconsistency are: Ignorance, Indifference, and Inertia. Only the power of the imagination can overcome inertia, the entrenched power of habit.

People are attracted to people who care.

Aristotle on what it takes for great persuasiveness and salesmanship: Logos, Pathos, Ethos - Logic and information, Passion, and Character.

The greatest people in any field tend to be those who love what they’re doing. Cultivate a capacity to enjoy the process along the way.

I'll Rise Up and Fly

In case you've heard me recite my little poem about my own childhood, "I'll Rise Up and Fly," and want to see it in print, it's on the sidebar just to the right of these words and down a bit. I often speak it at the end of a talk, when time allows, to illustrate how I feel about the wisdom of the ages, and in particular, these 7 Cs of Success—that, with them, we can in new and wonderful ways rise up and fly!


Our Framework on Success

A quick recap: For nearly a quarter of a century, I've been reflecting on the ideas of the wisest people who have ever thought about success and excellence in changing times. And I've boiled it all down to a framework of 7 universal conditions for success.  My claim is that, in any challenge, we need:

(1) A clear CONCEPTION of what we want, a vivid vision, a goal clearly imagined.

(2) A strong CONFIDENCE that we can attain that goal.

(3) A focused CONCENTRATION on what it takes to reach our goal.

(4) A stubborn CONSISTENCY in pursuing our vision.

(5) An emotional COMMITMENT to the importance of what we're doing.

(6) A good CHARACTER to guide us and keep us on a proper course.

(7) A CAPACITY TO ENJOY the process along the way


Some Notes on the 7 Cs

Some people seem successful in nearly everything they do. Others struggle constantly, almost regardless of the situation. What makes the difference? What do the most successful people have in common that helps lead to their accomplishments?

I’ve come to believe that there is something like a personal and organizational toolkit for success. From Plato and Aristotle to the present day, the wisest people who have ever thought about life achievement have left us bits and pieces of powerful advice for attaining true success in nearly anything we do. I’ve put these great ideas together into a simple framework of seven universal conditions for success. Let me lay them out in the simplest possible way, and then we’ll briefly look at what they mean.

The 7 Cs of Success

There are certainly many other concepts often associated with success, but I’m convinced that every other one of them either falls short of the universal applicability test or else is just a version or application of one of these seven in specific situations. The 7 Cs give us the most universal, logical, integrated, and comprehensive framework for success in whatever we do. I’d like to share a quick word about each. We need:

(1) A clear CONCEPTION of what we want, a vivid vision, a goal clearly imagined.

In any facet of our lives, we need to think through as clearly as possible what we want to accomplish, and what we’d like to see happen. True success starts with an inner vision, however incomplete it might be. The world as we find it is just the raw material for what we can make it. We are meant to be artists with our energies and our lives. And the only way to do that well is to structure our actions around clear goals. Vague thoughts cannot motivate specific behavior. We need clear goals, as precise and specific as we can make them. In times of change, this is more important than ever, however difficult it might seem. The fight for clarity in our vision for what we want to make happen is well worth the ongoing effort it takes.

Two great pieces of advice on goal setting come down to us from the ancient world. First, every exercise in goal setting should be an exercise in self-knowledge. “Who am I as a person? What’s right for me? Who are we as a business? What’s right for us?” Second, we need inner boldness in setting new goals, bigger goals, and realizing that our goal setting should never stop. Life is supposed to be a series of adventures. Great goals make for great adventures.

(2) A strong CONFIDENCE that we can attain the goal.

Inner attitude is a key to outer results. Over a century ago, Harvard philosopher and psychologist William James learned from championship athletes that a proper confidence should be operative in all our lives. In any new enterprise or challenge, we need upfront initial faith in what we’re doing. And we need resilient confidence, confidence that can take its lumps and keep on going. James called it precursive faith—faith that “runs ahead of” the evidence. Sometimes we may have to work hard to generate this attitude. But it’s also well worth the work it takes, because it raises our objective prospects for success.

The best confidence naturally arises out of competence and then augments it. It’s of course no guarantee of success. But it is among the chief contributors to it. In times of great change and economic uncertainty, confidence is one of the first things to disappear. We should follow the champions and guard it in our hearts. If you find that you need help with confidence, try to help someone else with it, and you may be surprised how it quickly rises in your own spirit.

(3) A focused CONCENTRATION on what it takes to reach the goal.

Big dreams just lead to big disappointments when people don’t learn how to chart their way forward, step-by-step. And one of the greatest pieces of advice ever given about achieving any big dream is to “Divide then Conquer.” Divide it up, break it down, and then take it on, step by step. If I want to be at a certain point a year from now, where do I have to be six months from now? How about three months from now? What can I be doing today and tomorrow? Daunting goals become manageable objectives as we divide and conquer. Focus on what’s first, then on what’s next. Success at anything challenging comes from planning your path and then putting that plan into action.

Gestalt psychologists even teach us that a new mental focus generates new perceptual abilities. Concentrating your thought and energy in a new direction, toward a clear goal, you begin to see things around you that you might have missed before—things that relate to the goal you’ve set and can help you attain it. This focus can allow you to set intermediate goals and then more immediate ones to get your plan going, and then act, and adjust as you go. Even a flawed plan can start you off and help lead you to where you can discover a better one. A continually focused concentration of thought and action is key.

(4) A stubborn CONSISTENCY in pursuing our vision.

The word ‘consistency’ comes from two Greek roots, a verb meaning “to stand” and a particle meaning “together.” Consistency is all about standing together. Do my actions stand together with my words? Do my reactions and emotions stand together with my deepest beliefs and values? Do the people I work with stand together? This is what consistency is all about. It’s a matter of unifying your energy and efforts in a single direction. 

Chinese philosophers call it harmony and use the image of moving water, which can flow around any obstacle or push it out of the way. They say, “Be like water.” Flow forward to your goals, adapting to your circumstances and, at the same time, staying true to the essence of who you are, and making sure that your actions are harmonious with what you most deeply want. Inconsistency defuses power. Consistency moves us toward our goals.

(5) An emotional COMMITMENT to the importance of what we're doing.

Passion is the core of extraordinary success. It’s a key to overcoming difficulties, seizing opportunities, and getting other people excited about your projects. Too much goal setting in the modern world has been just about rational thoughts, and has ignored the feelings and passions. Philosophers appreciate the role of rationality in human life. But we know that it’s not just the head, but also the heart, that can guide us on to the tasks right for us, and keep us functioning at the peak of our abilities.

Find a way to be passionate in what you do, then communicate that enthusiasm and commitment to the people you work with, showing that you are also committed to them as your partners for the goals you have together. People are attracted to people who care. You’ll go far as a result.

(6) A good CHARACTER to guide us and keep us on a proper course.

Character inspires trust. And trust is necessary for people to work together well. Good character is required for great collaboration. In a world in which innovative partnerships and collaborative strategies are increasingly important, the moral foundation for working well together matters more than ever before. And good character does a lot more than just provide for trust. It has an effect on each individual’s own freedom and insight. Bad character not only corrupts, it blinds. A person whose perspective has been deeply twisted by selfishness or dishonesty or cowardice cannot understand the world in as perceptive a way as someone whose sensibilities are ethically well formed. Good character makes sustainable success more likely.

And good character makes you a persuasive person when working with others. Aristotle said that to be a great persuader, a masterful salesperson, to be convincing with others, you need to master of thee things: Logos, Pathos, and Ethos—Logic and information; Passion and emotion; Character and integrity. This is the foundation for long lasting success.

(7) A CAPACITY TO ENJOY the process along the way.

The more you can enjoy the process of what you’re doing, the better the results tend to be. It’s easier to set creative goals. Confidence will come more naturally. Your concentration can seem effortless. Consistency will not be a battle.  The emotional commitment will flow. And issues of character will not be as difficult to manage. A capacity to enjoy the process is entwined with every other facilitator of success in a great many ways. When you can relish the journey, you’ll be surprised by the results.        


These conditions of success are all deeply connected.  They constitute a unified framework of tools with which we can work our way toward the most fulfilling forms of achievement in our world.  When you’re considering a new goal, use all seven conditions as a test. Can I form a clear conception of this as a goal? Can I pursue this with confidence? Ask yourself questions like this for each condition. If the potential new goal passes the test, then full speed ahead! If it doesn’t, you need to find a new goal! And once you have a proper new target to shoot at, use these conditions as tools to get you there.

The 7 Cs aren’t magic, but they’re magnificent inner resources for outer success in the world. They will help us to make our proper mark in everything we do. They will move us in the direction of true success, deeply satisfying and sustainable achievement. Why should we ever settle for anything less?


For Further Reading and Reflection

First of all, I have a new book just out, which in many ways is the best follow up you can imagine to this simple framework of ideas. If you don't already have copy, go get one and tell me what you think!  It's a short novel and you'll find in it many ideas you can use. There are two chapters directly relevant to The 7 Cs, and everything else will reinforce your use of these ideas.

To learn more about the new book and the series it launches, click on the Books page here, or go to for even more. The new book is already on Amazon in paperback, Kindle and hardcover, with the hardback and ebook also on every other book site! For a copy now, click here:

The Oasis Within

And following are links to the books where I first developed the framework of The 7 Cs. Start with True Success, for a full treatment of these ideas and then go on to the book The Art of Achievement, which has in it all the stuff about Hill A and Hill B, and explores the skills or arts associated with each of the 7 Cs. 

True Success: A New Philosophy of Excellence

If you're interested in the Roman stoic philosophers that I mentioned in the talk, like Seneca and Marcus Aurelius and their take on The 7 Cs, you'd really like:

The Stoic Art of Living: Inner Resilience and Outer Results.

While I was writing The Art of Achievement, I also created a related audio series released by Nightingale Conant as a 6 CD set or audio download entitled The Seven Greatest Success Ideas.  If you like to listen to ideas while you drive or jog, you can find this series at their online store: 

The Seven Greatest Success Ideas


The Self Diagnostic Test - A Chance for Self-Knowledge

In the accompanying short set of questions below, I’d like to help you go through an exercise in self-knowledge relevant to The 7 Cs.  If you don't have 3 or 4 minutes now to go through it, save it for later.  But don't forget it! It can lead to a few "Know Thyself" moments! I recommend that you do something like this periodically to remind yourself where you are in life’s great adventure.

The Periodic Personal 7Cs Checkup

Print this out, or copy it onto your own computer document, and answer each question as honestly as you can.  Mark the number that applies to you, "0" representing the lowest possible self score, and "10" the highest.

"The lure of the distant and difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are." John Burroughs


I have a clear conception of what I am pursuing in my activities.


I have a vivid vision for what I am doing that appeals to my imagination.



I am confident in my ability to attain my current goals successfully.


I display a confident attitude, and help to bolster the confidence of the people around me.



 I am well focused on the next steps I need to take to reach my goals.


I regularly take action in small ways as well as larger ways to implement my plans.



I monitor my daily behavior well for consistency with my goals and deepest values.


I seek to help everyone working toward goals with me to be as consistent as possible.



 I am emotionally committed to the importance of what I do.  I passionately pursue my goals.


I am emotionally committed to the people I work with and depend on in pursuit of my goals.


"Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion." G.W.F. Hegel 


I am sure that my action in pursuit of my goals satisfies high standards of character.


I seek to surround myself with people of strong character.



I have been enjoying the pursuit of my goals lately.


I work toward my goals in such a way that I can enjoy my life more broadly.


Grading Yourself on the Checkup

Add up all your self-scores on this checklist and write down your current total.  If it is over "120", then you're in pretty good shape in the recent stages of your journey of success.  Keep up the good work and build on your accomplishments.

 If your score is under "120", you should very seriously rethink the goals you are pursuing and how you are working toward them. 

If your total is over "120" but under "140", pay attention to what could use a little more work.  You are fine-tuning an already viable enterprise, for greater levels of satisfying accomplishment.

A Second Opinion

You might want another person's feedback in this process too.  Give a copy of the unmarked questions to a co-worker, spouse, friend, or child and ask them to mark the questions independently in the way that they think you should.  Comparing their assessments with your own can be interesting on many levels, advancing your quest for self-understanding and providing new and useful information concerning the relationship the two of you have.

Life should always involve a process of self-evaluation and self-correction, self-knowledge and self-mastery.  Repeat this check up at regular intervals, act on the information you generate, and you will move progressively more in the direction of achieving all that you are here on this earth to do!

"Self-conquest is the greatest of all victories." Plato

Now: Get in Touch!

I’d love to hear from you as you apply the 7 Cs explicitly in your life and use them to make the world a better place. I appreciate any chance to be your partner in practical wisdom!

Your Personal Philosopher for Life,

Tom Morris