Secrets of success in 8 words, 3 minutes | Richard St. John | Summary and Q&A

January 6, 2007
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Secrets of success in 8 words, 3 minutes | Richard St. John


This presentation reveals the key factors that lead to success, including passion, hard work, focus, pushing oneself, serving others, having valuable ideas, persisting through failure, and seeking inspiration from successful individuals.

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Key Insights

  • 😍 Passion: Success comes from doing what you love. TEDsters are driven by their passion and find fulfillment in their work, which ultimately leads to success.
  • 💪 Work: Hard work is the key to success. Rupert Murdoch emphasizes that nothing comes easily, but he still has fun while working. TEDsters are not workaholics, but they are workafrolics.
  • 🎯 Focus: Success requires focusing on one thing. Norman Jewison believes that focusing oneself on a specific goal or task is crucial for success. TEDsters understand the importance of remaining focused.
  • 👊 Push: Pushing oneself physically and mentally is crucial for success. Push through shyness, self-doubt, and any obstacles that come your way. Goldie Hawn overcame self-doubts and pushed herself to succeed.
  • 🙏 Serve: Success comes from serving others with something of value. Sherwin Nuland believes that it is a privilege to serve, and that's how people truly become rich. Serving others is a key component of success.
  • 💡 Ideas: Bill Gates founded the first micro-computer software company based on an idea. Creativity and coming up with ideas is not a magical process, but rather a result of simple actions and thinking.
  • 🚀 Persist: Persistence is the number one reason for success. Joe Kraus emphasizes the need to persevere through failure, criticism, rejection, and pressure. Success requires persistence in the face of challenges.
  • 💰 Action: Attending TED might be valuable, but the real key to success lies in the eight things mentioned above. By following these principles, anyone can increase their chances of achieving success.


This is really a two-hour presentation I give to high school students, cut down to three minutes. And it all started one day on a plane, on my way to TED, seven years ago. And in the seat next to me was a high school student, a teenager, and she came from a really poor family. And she wanted to make something of her life, and she asked me a simple ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How does passion contribute to success?

Passion is a driving force that keeps individuals motivated and dedicated to their goals. When someone is truly passionate about what they do, they are more likely to put in the time and effort, leading to greater success. Successful individuals like Freeman Thomas and Carol Coletta emphasize that they do what they do out of love, not merely for financial gain.

Q: Why is hard work important for success?

Hard work is a crucial component of success. Rupert Murdoch highlights the importance of putting in effort and working diligently. Successful individuals understand that nothing comes easily and that hard work is necessary to achieve their goals. By working hard, they also find enjoyment and have fun in the process.

Q: How does persistence contribute to success?

Persistence is a key factor in achieving success. Joe Kraus emphasizes that persistence is the number one reason for their success. Successful individuals understand the importance of persevering through failure, criticism, rejection, and pressure. They do not let setbacks discourage them, but rather use them as stepping stones to grow and improve.

Q: What role does serving others play in success?

Serving others is a path to success, as highlighted by Sherwin Nuland. By providing value to others, whether through products, services, or any form of contribution, individuals have the opportunity to create impact and build wealth. It emphasizes the importance of not solely focusing on personal gain but rather on making a positive difference in the lives of others.


This presentation is a condensed version of a two-hour talk given to high school students. The speaker shares insights on what leads to success, based on their interviews with successful individuals. They discuss the importance of passion, hard work, focus, pushing oneself, serving others, generating ideas, and persistence.

Questions & Answers

Q: What was the inspiration behind the speaker's quest to find the answer to what leads to success?

The speaker was inspired by a conversation with a high school student who came from a disadvantaged background and asked what leads to success. Unable to provide a satisfactory answer at the time, the speaker decided to seek insights from successful people and share them with young individuals.

Q: What did the speaker learn about the role of passion in success?

Passion is a key factor in achieving success. Successful individuals, referred to as TEDsters in the presentation, pursue their endeavors out of love and genuine interest rather than for monetary gain. They find joy in their work and are driven by their passions.

Q: How do TEDsters perceive hard work?

TEDsters view hard work as essential for success. They acknowledge that nothing comes easily and that success requires perseverance. While they work diligently, they also find ways to enjoy the process, making it more fulfilling.

Q: What is the importance of practice and focus according to the TEDsters?

TEDsters emphasize the significance of practice and focus in becoming successful. They believe that consistent practice is key to improving and becoming proficient in a specific area. Additionally, focusing one's efforts on a singular goal and avoiding distractions is crucial for achieving success.

Q: How do successful individuals overcome self-doubt and shyness?

Successful individuals, like Goldie Hawn, discuss their experiences with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. However, they push through these challenges and persevere. They rely on determination and often seek support from loved ones, such as mothers, who encourage and motivate them.

Q: What did the speaker learn about serving others and acquiring wealth?

The speaker discovered that true wealth and success come from serving others. Merely seeking personal gain or wealth for oneself is unlikely to lead to long-term success. It is essential to provide something valuable to others, as that is how people truly enrich their lives.

Q: How did Bill Gates demonstrate the importance of ideas in achieving success?

Bill Gates, a prominent TEDster, founded the first micro-computer software company, which became highly successful. This demonstrates the importance of having innovative ideas. Success is not solely reliant on coming up with groundbreaking or complex ideas but rather on implementing simple yet creative concepts.

Q: How does persistence factor into success, according to the speaker?

Persistence is a crucial element in achieving success, as demonstrated by Joe Kraus and numerous other TEDsters. It involves persevering through failures and overcoming challenges such as criticism, rejection, dealing with difficult individuals, and immense pressure. The ability to persist in the face of adversity is essential for ultimate success.

Q: What does the speaker suggest as a means of gaining access to the comprehensive insights shared in the presentation?

The speaker humorously suggests attending the TED conference by paying a significant sum of money. Alternatively, they recommend following the eight key factors mentioned throughout the talk, as these are the essential elements that lead to success.


In summary, the speaker's interviews with successful individuals highlight the importance of passion, hard work, focus, perseverance, serving others, generating ideas, and persistence. The path to success involves finding genuine passion, putting in the necessary effort, honing skills through practice and focus, pushing through self-doubt, dedicating oneself to serving others, being creative in generating ideas, and never giving up, even in the face of failure and criticism. These insights can serve as valuable guidance for anyone striving for success.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker shares his journey of helping a high school student and curating interviews with successful individuals to uncover the secrets to success.

  • Passion, doing it for love rather than money, is a common trait among successful people.

  • Hard work, practice, focus, pushing oneself, serving others, having valuable ideas, and persisting through failure are the key elements that lead to success.

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