I have this theory that I want to run by you. I believe it’s not the smartest and most creative people who get the most success in life. Instead though, maybe they all have three things in common… If so, please take a moment and hear me out.
Have you ever wondered what makes a person successful?
Success sometimes is defined many ways, but for the sake of this conversation, let’s define success in the most basic sense:
Achieving desired results in career, finances, family, and marriage.
Have you ever looked around you and seen people you don’t consider to be the most intelligent or creative people you know, but who have experienced incredible success?
They’ve gotten that coveted promotion, received that award, or seem to have the marriage and family you’ve always dreamed of.
Maybe you’ve also looked around you at people who you think should be achieving all the success this world has to offer — who are as talented and creative and intelligent as anyone you know — and yet they’re struggling.
They’re not getting recognition. Their romantic life doesn’t seem particularly peaceful or happy. They can’t seem to catch a break.
Maybe you’re even one of those people…
So what it is that makes a person successful?
The most obvious answer is: opportunity
You might say something like,
Oh, you have to have money to make money, so if you don’t come from money, you start out with an unfair advantage.
Or you might say,
It’s all about who you know. If you know someone at the top, you’re much more likely to get that promotion.
The problem with these explanations is they don’t account for the person who starts with nothing — no money, no family connections, no particular advantage — and still finds incredible success. It doesn’t account for what is known as Malcom Gladwell’s “David and Goliath” principle.
Gladwell says, “The act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.”
We’ve all seen that happen too.
So what is the answer?
You’ll get different responses depending on who you ask, but from what I can tell, it basically boils down to three key principles.
- Successful people have the delusion to think anything is possible.
Those who achieve great success appear to have this strange delusion that anything is possible. If we look objectively at the world, we can admit not everything is possible. I, for example, will never be good at organized sports. We’ve learned that from experience. But those who achieve great success seem to get their mind set on something and never let up from the feeling that they can achieve it.
- Successful people have the nerve to not quit.
Successful people I’ve studied have failed dozens of times, if not hundreds. Even if they aren’t particularly smart or creative, even if they don’t have all of life’s chips stacked in their favor, they continue to get up until they get where they’re trying to go. The “success” we see from the outside might not feel like we would imagine it to feel from the inside.
- Successful people have the audacity to stop passing the buck.
We live in a world where it is normal and even expected to pass the blame for our circumstances to someone else. “It wasn’t my fault.” “If only I’d had more money.” “If I had known someone at the top.”
Yet the most successful people have the audacity to take personal responsibility and accountability for everything they achieve and don’t achieve — even if it isn’t totally their fault. Until we do this, we leave the fate of our lives in the hands of someone else.
What’s stopping incredibly smart, creative people from becoming as successful as they hope to be — and can be — is their own mindset. Self-doubt or a “woe is me” mentality can be even more powerful than our creativity and talent.
- Why Smart, Creative People Underperform And What to Do About It
- Six Reasons The Smartest People Are Not the Most Successful
- Why People Don’t Reach Their Full Potential And How You Can
I don’t know about you, but for me, this is a wake-up call, a reminder to stop getting in my way and to keep pushing toward success.
Now, it’s your turn!