The Harsh Realities About Success
We live in a world where we’re constantly being “sized up” to determine whether we’re smart enough, good enough, and strong enough. Do we have what it takes for this task, this role, or this job? From the moment we start school and throughout our careers, we’re being sorted to determine if we belong in the advanced group. At work, we identify the “high potentials” as opposed to the “rank and file,” and organizations spend energy trying to locate the “top talent” while everyone else feels defeated because they weren’t picked due to test scores or mediocre performance on an assignment. Unfortunately, these selection processes determine the trajectory of many careers and are a waste of human resources. Just because someone ranks in the middle should not be a statement of who they are (it’s where they are); and just because other companies do it doesn’t mean it’s right or efficient. Do we believe that only some are capable of success—or do we believe everyone has high potential?
The Relevant Research on Success
Unfortunately, many of us have bought in to a long-standing idea that some have it (and some don’t), even though current research tells us this is untrue. In reality, some are chosen because they may be farther along at a point in time—and some are not. Therefore, some have opportunities and some don’t, but occasionally a so-called “exception” slips through, which reveals something important. We tend to think people like Einstein or Michael Jordan were born “gifted,” so we look for “gifted” people and wonder if we are among them. In fact, Einstein’s parents thought he had a learning disability because he was slow to talk. He did average in most subjects, and even flunked his university entrance exam. Jordan was infamously cut from his varsity basketball team because he wasn’t good enough. What’s the deal? Studies show that it’s not about natural-born talent, it’s about what you do with what you’ve been given.
The Actual Road to Success
We may start at different places, but where we end up boils down to two things: motivation and diligence—which means almost anyone can do almost anything if they want it bad enough and are willing to work hard when given the opportunity. This means opportunity and encouragement are also essential, since we’re more motivated when we’re recognized and more inclined to work harder, too. But don’t let your success depend on others. Try to stay motivated and work hard at what you want. There are no instant Olympians or virtuosos—everyone who has ever “made it” had to keep trying and never give up. In our class called Achieving Exceptional Results, we tell people don’t focus on your abilities (what you can do now), focus on your capabilities (what you can do over time). Becoming successful is possible for everyone, regardless of background, and we need to start seeing ourselves and others in that light.