The Common Path to Uncommon Success Begins With an Idea

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Article by John Lee Dumas

You’ve been lied to.

In fact, we’ve all been lied to. The reason? Most people don’t want you to know one simple fact: Uncommon success is achievable, and the path there is a common one.

I thought success meant mone y, respect, and maybe even fame. That warped definition led me to law school, where after one miserable semester, I dropped out. Then I dove into corporate finance, where I suffered in a cubicle for over a year before I simply couldn’t take it anymore and handed in my resignation. I then tried real estate, thinking that would give me the freedom and fulfillment I desired. Nope.

One day, I was listening to a business podcast. The host shared a quote that virtually reached out of my earbuds and slapped me in the face:

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value.” — Albert Einstein

It changed my life. Becoming a person of value allowed me to achieve my goal of financial freedom and fulfillment. It allowed me to finally honor a pledge I made in 2003. It has provided me the opportunity to share how the common path will lead you to uncommon success. The common path works.

It works because it’s simple. It works because it’s timeless. It works because of one truth you must never forget: If you provide the best solution to a real problem, you will find uncommon success.

Your Common Path to Uncommon Success Begins With an Idea — a Big Idea

There are two mistakes people make when trying to identify their big idea. First, they believe their big idea can be something they are just passionate about. I love muffins! I’ll open a bakery! Second, they believe their big idea is something they just have expertise in. I know how to code; I’ll build websites!

Your big idea is not either/or. It’s not something you are passionate about or something you have expertise in. It’s both. Your big idea needs to be a combination of your passions and your expertise.

Let’s look at scenario one: Having passion for your big idea is important. You need to be excited to work on your big idea every single day. However, if you just have passion and you’re not providing a needed solution to the world, your idea will not gain traction.

Every human is tuned in to the same radio station: WIIFM, or “What’s in It for Me?” Sure, people will be happy you’re pursuing a passion, but unless they are going to benefit directly from your passion, they’ll never become a customer, you’ll never generate revenue, and your big idea will become nothing more than a hobby.

Now let’s look at scenario two: just expertise. It’s great to be great at something. It’s wonderful to share your knowledge with the world. However, if you lack passion, excitement, and curiosity for your area of expertise, you will never achieve fulfillment.

The common path to uncommon success is a simple one, but it does take time. If you lack passion for your big idea, you’ll wake up one day and realize you’re no longer enjoying what you’re doing. You’ll quit. You’ll also have competitors who are passionate about the area of expertise you’ve chosen, and they’ll win every time.

Now that you can see the flaws in the above two scenarios, let’s talk about the final scenario. This is where you have both passion and expertise for your big idea. Your idea truly excites you and provides real value to the world. That is your big idea. That is your zone of fire!

Now it’s time to take you through the exercise that will get you to your big idea so you can live every day in your zone of fire.

Your Zone of Fire

For this exercise, you’re going to need a piece of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On the left-hand side, write the word “passion.” On the right-hand side, write “expertise.”

Set a timer for five minutes, then start it.

Spend the entire five minutes writing down everything you are passionate about. What excites you? What fires you up? What were you passionate about as a kid, young adult, adult? What would you do tomorrow if you had a completely empty schedule and zero responsibility?

Write down everything that comes to mind.


Okay, now it’s time to move to the right side of the paper: your areas of expertise. Once again, set a timer for five minutes and press “start.” Spend the entire five minutes writing down everything you are an expert in.

What skills have you acquired? What are you good at? What experience have you gained over the years? Ask your family and friends how they would respond to the question: What do I do well? You might be shocked by what others consider you an expert in — things you thought everyone knew about.


Now it’s time to identify where your passions merge with your skills — where your curiosity commingles with your expertise. Start drawing arrows that connect your passions with your expertise. These connections are your zones of fire. This is where you will choose your big idea.

For example, on my passion side, I had written down, “Having conversations with successful entrepreneurs.” On my expertise side, I had written down, “Facilitating conversations and public speaking from my days in the US Army and corporate finance.” I realized this was a potential zone of fire and drew an arrow connecting the two. I asked myself what opportunities existed that would allow me to combine this passion and skill set. That’s when the aha moment came: a podcast!

I loved listening to podcasts that interviewed successful men and women. I had experience conducting interviews in my previous careers. Why not launch my own podcast where I interview successful entrepreneurs and share their stories with the world?

We live in a world that provides limitless opportunity and information at our fingertips. With opportunity comes excitement, and with information comes power. Today is the day we take a stand. The common path to uncommon success does not unlock overnight success. It is the north star on your journey toward financial freedom and fulfillment. And it starts with a big idea. Are you ready?

A version of this article originally appeared on Taken fromThe Common Path to Uncommon Success by John Lee Dumas Copyright © 2021 by John Lee Dumas. Used by permission of HarperCollins Leadership.

John Lee Dumas is the host ofEntrepreneurs on Fire, an award-winning podcast where he interviews inspiring entrepreneurs who are truly on fire. With over 2500 episodes, more than 1 million listens a month, and seven figures of annual revenue, JLD is just getting started. Visit for more information.

By SUCCESS Magazine