What Predicts Success?

Updated: Feb 28

I’ve noticed there’s this thing that seems to predict who will be successful in my restaurants. Historically, I’ve looked for the usual stuff – resilience, grit, talent, work ethic, soft skills. Indeed, these high-value attributes are part of a winner’s recipe. Yet, I still see people with these abilities hit ceilings that seem to be of their own making, or crash into hurdles they can’t clear. He just can’t get out of his own way. She can’t quite seem to connect with her team. All the while, the people I see with perpetual growth – who can move through sometimes even the trickiest quicksand and keep going and growing – have a common capability. It seems to allow them to exemplify that their whole is something more than just the sum of their parts.


What’s the thing? The ability to love and to be loved.

LOVE, The Verb

To really be able to love and be loved means you are functional with love, whether this is due to your upbringing or despite it. Some have called this skill being able to be vulnerable or reflective, but I think it is more than that. I call it love. And I am talking about love as a verb.

In this context, love isn’t simply a thing, or the emotions that bounce around in my head and heart, but the action of doing love and of receiving love. And the two-way aspect is vital: to love and be able to be loved. I see folks who can love and care about others, but they can’t receive it. I see others who can absorb it but just can’t project it and share it. And others who can’t do either.


I sometimes like to think of it as two compound words and abilities: LoveOutbound and LoveInbound. For some, either can feel almost impossible; for others, one is possible but the other not; and for most of us, this skill needs to be honed. This is why I like considering it a verb and a skill – because that means we can learn it and perpetually get better at it, if we choose to.


I believe there should be greater motivation to build these capacities in everyone, in yourself and everyone around you. From what I see, the abilities to LoveOutbound and LoveInbound are some of the greatest determinants for winning at life.


Each of us is a whole, and none of us is an island. We can’t travel alone, even if no one is with us. We need each other. Inevitably, things get hard, and we need help. Inevitably, the inspiration to succeed is powered in part by the inspiration to celebrate with others.


In our restaurants, we have a team of over 1,000 employees, serving more than 50,000 diners per week. We work with hundreds of vendors, from the farmer to the coffee roaster repair technician, and everyone in between. I work with employees who are finishing law school and employees who’ve spent the last 15 years of their life incarcerated. I see the $15/hour dishwasher with little or no English skills who rises to be the $100,000/year Executive Chef. I see the intern fresh out of prison who commits to an entrepreneurship path and builds a management career en route to starting his own company. I also see the person who has a ton of advantages, socio-economic and otherwise, and yet, hits a wall over and over as their career and relationships never bloom.

A Person is an Indivisible Whole

I’ve always believed hard skills can be taught and soft skills can be developed. However, I realize that developing these pseudo-invisible love-as-a-verb attributes are complicated. While I do believe anybody can have or achieve them, I also respect and acknowledge that based on upbringing and experiences, each of our journeys to being able to do love both ways is unique. This is one more reason why I am so often talking about mental health, relationships, and personal development as key ingredients for winning.


A person is an indivisible whole. Ghandi taught me that. We can put skills, abilities, and attributes into categories, but in a person, they are part of the whole. If the abilities to absorb love and to give love are missing from that whole, limitations are created. Boundaries and restrictions will appear that a person simply won’t be able to push through.


This is important to recognize for all of us, especially those who have their guard up, or who play things close to the vest, the ones who say I’m not here to make friends, profess I don’t need to like you and I don’t need you to like me, and those who believe vulnerability is a weakness whether it is theirs or someone else’s. These are the folks that I see over and over again not winning over the long-term in their careers and in their lives.


I’m going to keep reflecting on this, looking for it myself and those around me. I’m going to keep talking about it with my teams, encouraging all of us to see that loving and being loved are critical verbs of action, abilities that can be seen, developed, unleashed, and leveraged. I think they can be the fuel to power our whole self to the highest levels of however each of us is defining success.


What do you think?