Success Leaves Tracks

Think of a success story you've heard or read or viewed recently. The story has a moral. We can learn from that moral. Success leaves tracks, clues that we can apply to our own lives.

Follow the Tracks

You can follow the tracks of a success story. The tracks reveal the structure of success:

  • Introduce the protagonist, the hero of the story.
  • The hero is leading a good life.
  • The villain shows up and wrecks everything.
  • The hero must figure out how to make things right.
  • The hero receives help from a mentor. The mentor might be a person, or a product.
  • The hero succeeds against the odds.
  • There is a party, a celebration.
  • Lessons learned: the moral of the story.

Eli's Story of Success, and the Tracks He Left

  • Introduce the hero: The year is 1853. Eli is a handyman at a bedstead factory in Yonkers, New York.
  • The hero is leading a good life: Eli is an expert at keeping the factory's machines running smoothly. He is well-liked. He enjoys his work.
  • The villain shows up: The factory's platform lift is pulled up by a rope. When the rope breaks, the lift falls to the basement, damaging materials and injuring employees. Eli's boss is furious. He tells Eli to fix the problem by Friday, or he'll be fired.
  • The hero must figure out how to make things right: Eli tries every invention he can dream up, to keep the lift from falling when the rope breaks. Nothing worked on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
  • The hero receives help from a mentor: On his way home Thursday evening, Eli watched a horse-drawn carriage go by. He noticed the operation of the leaf springs that helped support the platform of the carriage. As the center of the leaf spring flexed up and out, the ends of the spring were pulled inward. As the center of the leaf spring relaxed back down, the ends of the spring were pushed outward. Eli had the solution!
  • The hero succeeds against the odds: On Friday, Eli attached a leaf spring to the top of the lift frame. He welded grippers to the ends of the spring. He attached the rope to the center of the spring. In normal operation, the center of the leaf spring was pulled up, retracting the grippers. If the rope broke, the leaf spring would relax, pushing the grippers outward to the guide rails...stopping the lift.
Eli's Leaf Spring

Eli's Leaf Spring


  • There is a party, a celebration: Eli saved his job. The factory owner saved the cost of damaged material and injured employees. He formed the Otis Elevator Company, the world's largest elevator manufacturer. But wait! There's more! The first world's fair, the Crystal Palace Exhibition, was held in 1853 in New York. Promoters were looking for an exciting demonstration that would help drive up ticket sales. The best showman in the world, P.T. Barnum, whipped crowds into a frenzy as Eli Otis rode up in an elevator and cut the rope with a sword. The crowd screamed as the elevator dropped...less than one foot. Eli's invention changed the face of civilization. Until then, five floors was the maximum height of buildings. People were afraid to ride the elevator, so they took the stairs. They would not walk up higher than the fifth floor. Eli's invention allowed builders to construct skyscrapers. People knew they were safe in the new high-rise elevators.
  • Lessons learned: the moral of the story: When Eli was faced with a challenge that could wreck his career, he courageously moved forward. He left a legacy that changed the world forever.

Make Your Own Tracks

To succeed, study someone you admire. Look for the tracks they left for you. Then, make your own tracks for us to follow.