How to be successful

If there is a million dollars question and you do not hold a fat check you are not likely to love the answer you get. A short answer: patience, hard work, and luck or maybe creativity and clarity.  There is a much longer answer if you dare to read it. More ideas here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The seven C’s of success

This whole idea of an article cam from reading Tom Morris‘s content. I quote:

(1) A clear CONCEPTION of what we want, a vivid vision, a goal clearly imagined.
(2) A strong CONFIDENCE that we can attain that goal.
(3) A focused CONCENTRATION on what it takes to reach our goal.
(4) A stubborn CONSISTENCY in pursuing our vision.
(5) An emotional COMMITMENT to the importance of what we’re doing.
(6) A good CHARACTER to guide us and keep us on a proper course.
(7) A CAPACITY TO ENJOY the process along the way

That’s a cool formula, only is it true? Maybe the answer is just two C words CREATIVITY and CLARITY? What can science tell about it?

TLDR: yes, and yes, and nobody really knows. As always, please do not trust coaches and their hypnotic wordplay. Check all the facts.

The definition of success

What is the meaning of the word success? The dictionary says “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” or maybe “the attainment of popularity or profit” from latin succedere which means come close after.  There is also a third obsolete meaning: the outcome, the end result. The word has been very popular in 1800 but since has been slowly losing its trendiness.

Basically this means that if you have a hunter mentality, and focus on one single goal no matter the price, you are likely to succeed. This outcome was very important when people felt riskier, but now coming close after something sounds more like an obsession.

The price successful people pay

I am definitely not a successful example of a successful person so if you are after success, I am definitely not a role model. I tried to be successful in the past and it almost killed me. Successful people tend to be depressed quite often, take all sorts of drugs, and be likely to commit suicide.

Why is the price of the hunt so high? I would say it has to do with priorities. Let us use Tom Morris’s model:

  • Focusing on the goal makes us miss things that have nothing to do with the goal: watching the children play and flowers grow, so to speak.
  • Strong confidence may result in risktaking. All the successful people take risks, but so do the majority of losers.
  • Focused concentration is definitely not for everyone. What if you have ADHD and your attention switches? Or alternatively, when you are obsessed about something that is obsolete or plain evil?
  • Stubborn consistency means that you will be warned by people to stay off the dangerous path, but will trust your own judgment instead.
  • An emotional commitment to the importance of what you are doing allows all sorts of dirty tricks. This is what the spies use to justify just about everything.
  • A good character… We are so terrible judging it. I think even Hitler believed he had a good character.
  • A capacity to enjoy the process… Maybe an addiction? That is very important for doing something but makes stopping it painful.

People who are highly successful often have a very strict ethical code, because they know they cannot really trust their instincts.

The dark triad

People who are psychopathic, manipulative, and narcissistic are very likely to get top positions in any organization.  A narcissistic person will be very confident in his character and position. He will use manipulations to make others help him. And being somewhat less sensitive to the pain of others allows a very clear focus on their target.

Does that mean that people who score high on dark triad have an advantage? Not necessarily. They are quite likely to get into jail and all sorts of other troubles. They take risks others will not take due to the human cost, and sometimes the risks pay off.

The creative genius

So, who else is likely to get the top chair in a company? Steve Jobs got his fame not because he was a terrible person (which he probably was) but because he was a true visionary. What does it mean? I would use a formula as simple as clarity plus creativity.

A true genius sees very clearly something that will be great, and then he uses almost endless creativity to remove all obstacles. Creative people often work very hard, but they do not have to. The solution for each problem tends to be very simple, only others do not see that solution, including other very smart and creative people.

What does it take to become genius? Nobody knows. This is one step beyond what any normal person can do.  I am not a genius, but I have seen genius in action. I had all the facts, all the tools, and could have come up with the solution, but I failed and somebody else was successful. More than once. And I still do not know why.

Fame and money

If you are not after what coaches call success, but simply want fame and money, or a meaningful career you do not have to pay with your soul or have supernatural skills.

Some jobs are scalable. There is a limit to how many patients can a doctor see, but almost no limit to how many people can read a good book. So many books are total failures, and very few books are extremely successful. Not doctors.

Medicine is less scalable. Most doctors are OK,  with expertise paying off. The doctors that are superstars learn how to scale as TV hosts or authors. Expert doctors have to pass many rounds of selection. Each school class, university class, internship, and expertise training is a selection phase. All phases are very stressful and time-consuming.

The superstar doctors are typically experts who after completing all rounds of medical selection, still have enough energy to undergo the training as authors and promoters. This is a massive challenge.

Similar challenges apply to successful lawyers, accountants that manage companies, politicians… In highly demanding jobs failure and recovery is a part of learning. People often fail and have enough resilience to learn and try again.

Learning as a recipe for success

Nobody except a freak of nature is born with enough skills and luck to pass with flying colors all rounds of selection. Regular human beings can achieve a lot if only they are willing to learn.

The people who consistently score highly have multiple kinds of intelligence:

  1. Book smarts. Reading very fast, a lot, and remember most of it is an advantage.
  2. People smarts. Teamwork and networking guarantee effective information flow much better than books. Books cannot diagnose us and provide feedback.
  3. Street smarts. Making the right decision in situations with not enough information requires some good instincts and common sense.
  4. Ancient souls. Exceptional self-regulation is a must, to deal with an extremely high amount of stress.
  5. Able-bodied. Physical stamina is required for most of the highly demanding activities, including learning, networking, and so on.

All of these skills can be acquired given some clarity, at least average capabilities, and a lot of hard work.  It is also important to see the core activities as meaningful and joyful. No reasonable person can force himself to learn so hard unless there is some purpose and pleasure both in the learning and in the goal.

The element of luck

Luck is very important in any activity. Not so much the good luck of extremely rare positive events happening, but enough luck for extremely negative events not to happen. Yet, even bad events can be a blessing in disguise.

Successful entrepreneurs often have a supernatural ability to reframe bad things. If the market goes down, there are some talents for hire. When a huge company stole everything you developed, you can raise money for a David vs Goliath trial. The “silicon valley” series captures this spirit very well. Constant ups and downs change the way people think: there are just threats and opportunities.

A great mentor is the most consistent generator of luck. My grandmother was my mentor, and she died when I had to make the most important decisions in my life. I had many mentors since, but none was as wise and helpful as my grandmother.

Skills that boost earning

One way or another, most of us are not in the critical junctions to make life-changing decisions. We can still improve our fate. The tools are very simple for anyone to acquire:

  1. Change your limiting beliefs, until you have some surplus income.
  2. Learn to invest your surplus income wisely.
  3. Find meaning in your current career or find a meaningful career.
  4. Position yourself for promotion.
  5. Try to generate a secondary income source.

These steps are so easy, that we even provide courses to teach them on Thinkific.

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