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.

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.

"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.

"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


Bx Book 12

Bulletproof Problem Solving

Charles Conn and Robert McLean

Bx Book 13

Blue Ocean Strategy

W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Bx Book 14

The Design Thinking Playbook

Michael Lewrick et al

Bx Book 15
Bx Book 16

The Pyramid Principle

Barbara Minto

Bx Book 17

Into The Woods

John Yorke

Bx Book 18
Bx Book 19

On Writing

Steven King

Bx Book 20

Crucial Conversations

Kerry Patterson et al

Bx Book 21
Bx Book 22

Just Listen

Mark Goulston

Bx Book 23

Talk Like TED

Carmine Gallo

Bx Book 24

The Best Team Wins

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

Bx Book 25

Unstoppable Teams

Aiden Mills

Bx Book 26

Culture Code

Daniel Coyle

Bx Book 27


James Kerr

Bx Book 28

Start With Why

Simon Sinek

Bx Book 29

Leaders Eat Last

Simon Sinek

Bx Book 30

Dare to Lead

Brene Brown


Bx Book 6
Bx Book 7

The Talent Lab

Owen Slot

Bx Book 8

The Rise of Superman

Steven Kotler

Bx Book 9

Tools of Titans

Tim Ferris

Bx Book 10

Tribe of Mentors

Tim Ferris

Bx Book 11

Good to Great

Jim Collins

Bx Book 1
Bx Book 2


Matthew Syed

Bx Book 3


Malcolm Gladwell

Bx Book 4

High performance habits

Brendan Burchard

Bx Book 5


Alastair Campbell


Bx Book 36

The Doctor's Kitchen

Dr Rupy Aujla

Bx Book 37


Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

Bx Book 38

Black Box Thinking

Matthew Syed

Bx Book 39

Thinking Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

Bx Book 40

The Chimp Paradox

Steve Peters

Bx Book 41
Bx Book 31

Deep Work

Cal Newport

Bx Book 32

Make it Stick

Peter C Brown et al

Bx Book 33

Why we sleep

Matthew Walker

Bx Book 34
Bx Book 35


Mark Williams and Danny Penman


Bx Book 42


Carol Dweck

Bx Book 43

The Talent Code

Daniel Coyle

Bx Book 44

The One Thing

Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Bx Book 45

Atomic Habits

James Clear

Bx Book 46


Daniel Pink

Bx Book 47


Angela Duckworth

Bx Book 48

The Art of Resilience

Ross Edgley


Bx Book 49

Survival of the Friendliest

Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods

Bx Book 50


Rutger Bregman

Bx Book 51

Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman

Bx Book 52
Bx Book 53

Never Eat Alone

Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

Bx Book 54
Bx Book 55

To Sell is Human

Daniel H. Pink

Bx Book 56

Getting to Yes

Roger Fisher and William Ury

Bx Book 57

The Negotiation Book

Steve Gates

Sign up for our newsletter