Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What Causes Success?

Listen up, my young friends. And maybe some parents may find what follows somewhat helpful as well.

We're going to take a quick look at which is more likely to result in success --- innate ability or sustained effort?

"Raw" intelligence or "emotional" intelligence?

In my view, it pretty much comes down to setting goals and then working hard to achieve them, aka sustained effort. Although admittedly trite, it's also true that the harder we work, the luckier we get.

And one more thing is the most important of all -- recognizing that life is a 99 rounder and that developing the 'habit of improvement' through perseverance are the keys to accomplishing whatever goals we establish for ourselves, aka emotional intelligence.

But don't just take my word for it. Let's listen to an "expert" on the subject of success.

The Success Myth says this about success:

"Quick: Think of a successful person. Someone who is really good at what they do.

Now, in a word or phrase, tell me why that person has been so successful. What makes them so good?

Obviously, I can’t hear your answer. But I’d be willing to wager that it had something to do with innate ability.

“He’s so brilliant.”

“She’s a genius.”

“He’s a natural leader.”

These are the kinds of answers people — particularly Americans — tend to give when you ask them why certain individuals have enjoyed so much success.

Pro athletes, tech whizzes, bold entrepreneurs, accomplished musicians, gifted writers: We marvel at their extraordinary aptitude, assuming they must have won the DNA lottery to be so good at what they do.

Deep down, many of us believe that the key ingredient to success is innate ability. So, naturally, we try to stick to doing the things that come easily to us, while avoiding wasting time and energy on the things that don’t. (How many times have you heard someone say “I’m just not a math person”? How many times have you said it?)

This would all be fine, if success really were all about innate ability.
But it isn’t. It isn’t even mostly about innate ability.

When you study achievement for a living, as I do, one of the first things you learn is that measures of “ability” (like IQ) do a shockingly poor job of predicting future success. Intelligence, creativity, willpower, social skill aptitudes like these are not only profoundly malleable (i.e., they grow with experience and effort), but they are just one small piece of the achievement puzzle.

So, what does predict success? Research tells us it’s using the right strategies that leads to accomplishment and achievement. Sounds simple, but strategies like being committed, recognizing temptations, planning ahead, monitoring your progress, persisting when the going gets tough, making an effort, and perhaps most important believing you can improve, can make all the difference between success and failure.

The problem with thinking that success is all about ability, is that it can lead to crippling self-doubt. When something doesn’t come easily, we assume that we “just don’t have what it takes,” and we stop trying. We close doors, robbing ourselves of opportunities to realize our full potential.

By contrast, studies show that people who believe that their skills and abilities can grow not only succeed more, but they also enjoy their work more, cope more effectively with challenges, and experience less anxiety and depression.
So the next time you find yourself thinking, “I’m just not good at this,” remember, you’re just not good at it yet.

Heidi Grant Halvorson is Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia Business School. She is the author of Succeed and Nine Things Successful People Do Differently."

Summing Up

Makes sense to me.

Rings true to me as well.

We're all capable of developing our talents and achievements to accomplish extraordinary feats.

As 5'7" NBA dunk champion Spud Webb put it, "If you can dream it, you can do it."

But doing "it" requires lots of time on task, perseverance in the face of adversity and defeat, and developing and maintaining the habit of continuous and rapid improvement.

In other words, to my young friends out there, what we do with our lives is largely, albeit not entirely, up to us.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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