The Secret of Success

by Tim on July 20, 2011

The real work takes place beneath the surface.

I heard a quote the other day that caused me to think about hard work in a new way.

“The secret of success is to be like a duck – smooth and unruffled on top, but paddling furiously underneath.”  – author unknown.

Do you ever feel like that?  How about those of you trying to hack away at debt?   As you are trying to keep things afloat while balancing life, work and family, your feet (beneath the surface) are paddling 100 MPH!

On the surface, a duck looks like he’s not really doing much more than just floating there!  However, that duck wouldn’t get anywhere without the work behind the scenes – or under the water in his case.

Some people make success look too easy.  When we notice that they have great paying jobs,  live in nice homes, drive good cars and have great families, we can get caught up with all the stuff we see on the surface.  The problem is that we often don’t get to see the work that it took to get them there.  I would also add that the unseen work is most likely ongoing and isn’t a ‘once and done’ thing.  There’s a reason behind the success of most people and looking to the duck is a good way to understand how they become successful.

Let things roll off your back

Ducks have an incredible layer of waterproof feathers that keep the interior feathers dry even when they dive completely underwater.  The water just beads off their back, which has led people to use this example as encouragement for others to let negative comments and situations ‘roll off your back.’  There’s nothing more discouraging than a person who constantly wears on your ideas and tries to tear you down because they’re jealous of your vision.  The best thing you can do is to let their destructive input roll right off of your back.  Don’t let someone’s jealousy keep you from being successful.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen to criticism – constructive criticism can be very helpful.  I’m saying that you should be cautious of those who are always tearing down your ideas and not offering any help – let their comments roll off your back and keep pushing towards your goals.

Keep paddling furiously

The thought of duck feet moving as fast as possible is a great visual for us working towards a goal.  Whether you’re trying to pay down debt, save for a home, or start a business, you understand the importance of paddling like no one else.  Success doesn’t  just happen without hard work.  Every step that you take builds on the previous one and leads you to a successful finish.  I’m sure there are ducks that have to paddle harder than other ducks to gain momentum, but the key is that each and every one of them paddles.

As you do likewise, you will be working your way toward success.

I want to be like a duck, don’t you?

Tim is a personal finance writer at Faith and Finance a Christian financial help blog that provides financial insights for individuals, businesses, and churches. Outside of finance, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife, playing the saxophone, reading economics books, and a good game of RISK or Catan. Find him on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to the Faith and Finance RSS feed.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Personal Finance July 20, 2011 at 8:08 am

Interesting analogy and how true the part on “all the stuff we see on the surface”. Many people just do not realize the hard and unglamorous hours that successful people put into their careers or businesses before they achieve successes. The successful people that I knew of personally, all put in 12 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week for at least 5 to 10 years before they can start to reap the rewards of their hard work. Even then, they will still continue to work these crazy hours because they love what they are doing.



j schwartz July 20, 2011 at 11:26 am

interesting and TRUE!


krantcents July 20, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Success is never easy! It takes a lot of work even when it looks like luck was involved. Most of us on the outside never see all the work.


retirebyforty July 21, 2011 at 12:23 am

Great advice Tim. It’s easy to be jealous of a successful person especially if it looks like she/he is not working hard. It took a lot of effort to get to that point and most of us never saw the duck feet paddling.


Squirrelers July 21, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Clever analogy and great advice. It’s true that there often a lot going on behind the scenes that isn’t visible, this applies to our own lives as well! Also, agreed that it’s good to deflect naysayers that concurrently offer no help.


Shikha @ Hire a VA July 22, 2011 at 3:27 am

You have a wonderful advice Tim! For you to be successfull in your work, firstly love what you are doing. you cannot be successful if you do not have dedications to your job. You must atleast have big effort for you to reach out your goal in life.


mojanakajan July 22, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Just read both this article and the 4 Way to free yourself from debt. I like the duck comparison. This definitely gave me inspiration to strive more on my finances.


Daisy@Marshal Firth July 22, 2011 at 2:43 pm

You can never achieve great things easily. You must begin from the very bottom. If you have the strength and the will-power to go on despite the many obstacles that come your way, then success is a sure thing. Most people give up easily when times are hard not knowing that great things will surely come to those who persevere. Go on, take a rest if you must but never give up.


Stanley @ travel wisconsin July 23, 2011 at 2:31 am

The advice that you have shared with us Tim is brilliant , it proves that we all feel jealous because of others who works hard to achieve their goals, some are rich and famous but we don’t know what’s their dedications and difficulty before they end up becoming rich.


sandraanovich July 25, 2011 at 7:13 am

Great post! True that! I may add a quote that “Good Intentions or plans without actions is pointless and useless!” Success comes with passion; on the contrary, work hard and have fun on what you’re doing. Focus, keep motivated and push yourself to do better, and serve with value. <3


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