Science of success

To be successful is to accomplish something you set out to achieve - whatever that may be. For some people, that's climbing Everest or winning an Olympic gold medal. For most people in the world it's about getting a job you enjoy and supporting your family. Both are equally noble goals. By definition, very few people will reach the top of their chosen pursuit or career. But we can all improve. The truth is that there really is no limit on human potential - everyone has the capacity to learn and grow, and when taken to the extremes, to achieve truly extraordinary things.

But what does it really take to succeed? Why do some people and teams become world-leading time and time again where others fail? Is it simply motivation? Tennis legend Roger Federer doesn’t think so. Is it just hard work and dedication? Oscar winner Julia Roberts says this is far too simple. Is it just resilience or ’grit’? Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes thinks not. Self-confidence then? Bear Grylls says ‘no’ to that as well.

What it takes to succeed at the highest levels is rarely understood, but as we have demonstrated, it is identifiable, codifiable and learnable.

A screenshot of the X model of Success, labelled with Skills, Attitudes, Knowledge and Relationships A screenshot of the X model of Success, labelled with Skills, Attitudes, Knowledge and Relationships

The X Model

X. The secret sauce. The transcendent quality. The defining mystical success factor that differentiates the best of the best. It's too easy to believe that some people are just born with some genetic disposition to high performance. To the contrary, evidence has shown that outside of genetic factors impacting physical size and strength, this simply isn't true. In the right environment, we can all become high performers with the right skills, knowledge, attitudes and relationships.

To help us understand what it really takes to succeed, we interview the world's most inspiring and iconic people. With almost one million words of interviews transcribed and analysed to date, combined with years of in-depth research and input from academics and educators, we have developed the 'X model' to show the success factors and personal attributes we typically see in high performers. This model forms the foundation of all of our education and leadership development programmes to help people become more proficient in each.

Dame Kelly Holmes Dame Kelly Holmes

"Life is always going to have a brick wall. The ones that give up will never ever succeed. The ones that keep going, might just break through it."

Dame Kelly Holmes, Became a double Olympic gold medallist

Our interviewees

To inspire and equip a generation, you need to share the real stories of those who have succeeded. We interview the world’s most inspirational and iconic people to demystify what it takes to succeed and to help people build the skills and confidence to excel. We've interviewed Presidents, Nobel Peace Prize winners, Olympic gold medallists, CEOs, Oscar winners, astronauts, humanitarians, sports icons and adventurers, creating films with some of the most well-known people in history. But that's not enough.

Our aim is to understand what it takes to succeed and to provide actionable insights to others. We also interview many people that are not well known. People who have achieved truly extraordinary things, despite having a tough start to life. People who were homeless. Sexually abused. Grew up in care. Were in jail. It is often these stories where we can learn the greatest lessons.

Our aim is to tell real stories. Not the curated fiction we see on social media, but the authentic stories that change the way people think about their own potential.

Our interviewees are not perfect. None of us are. But where measurable, they are amongst the very best in the world at what they do and we believe they have valuable lessons to pass on to others.

Channing Tatum Channing Tatum

"After school, I really realised how much I actually liked to learn, I just didn't like what people were teaching me... Acting was the first thing that I got to learn, that wasn't 'learning'. It was pure indulgence and fun, and I just couldn't get enough of it."

Channing Tatum, Became one of Hollywood's most recognised actors

Our research

What it takes to succeed is far from simple. It's not solely down to individual performance and the relative importance of success factors varies by country and context. The external environment also plays a major role - living in a safe environment, the provision of education, having clear role models, the access to opportunities and jobs all play a part.

We aim to create a library of inspiring films and insights for the next generation and to deepen our understanding of what it takes to succeed. We plan to interview people all over the world from a variety of fields. So no matter what background you are from, you will have the opportunity to find someone you can relate to and learn from.

Recommended Reading


Bulletproof Problem Solving

Charles Conn and Robert McLean

Blue Ocean Strategy

W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

The Design Thinking Playbook

Michael Lewrick et al

The Pyramid Principle

Barbara Minto

Into The Woods

John Yorke

On Writing

Steven King

Crucial Conversations

Kerry Patterson et al

Just Listen

Mark Goulston

Talk Like TED

Carmine Gallo

The Best Team Wins

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

Unstoppable Teams

Aiden Mills

Culture Code

Daniel Coyle


James Kerr

Start With Why

Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last

Simon Sinek

Dare to Lead

Brene Brown


The Talent Lab

Owen Slot

The Rise of Superman

Steven Kotler

Tools of Titans

Tim Ferris

Tribe of Mentors

Tim Ferris

Good to Great

Jim Collins


Matthew Syed


Malcolm Gladwell

High performance habits

Brendan Burchard


Alastair Campbell


Deep Work

Cal Newport

Make it Stick

Peter C Brown et al

Why we sleep

Matthew Walker


Mark Williams and Danny Penman

The Doctor's Kitchen

Dr Rupy Aujla


Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

Black Box Thinking

Matthew Syed

Thinking Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

The Chimp Paradox

Steve Peters



Carol Dweck

The Talent Code

Daniel Coyle

The One Thing

Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Atomic Habits

James Clear


Daniel Pink


Angela Duckworth

The Art of Resilience

Ross Edgley


Survival of the Friendliest

Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods


Rutger Bregman

Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman

Never Eat Alone

Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

To Sell is Human

Daniel H. Pink

Getting to Yes

Roger Fisher and William Ury

The Negotiation Book

Steve Gates