Grades, test scores, and pedigree can't predict success as well as the simple ability to confidently choose one course of action while abandoning others, suggests a two-decade study led by Timothy Judge of Notre Dame. In the face of complexity and uncertainty, most people lack the mental acuity to kill pet projects or close doors on distracting opportunities. The rare few who can may boost their earnings by 50 to 150 percent—and sometimes create history.
Steve Jobs excused himself from the steady march toward a college degree and focused all his brainpower on his real passion instead, eventually partnering with pal Steve Wozniak to create the first Apple computer. Later, Jobs's decision to cut 70 percent of Apple's product line paved the way for the company's current success.
In 1981, Howard Schultz left Starbucks—then a roasting company—when employers rejected his idea to build coffeehouses. In 2008, Schultz (by then the owner) saved the company by refocusing its resources on coffee and eliminating off-the-mark products like breakfast sandwiches, teddy bears, and calendars.