We all know the secret to huge success. We read about it in books, and see it in movies. Malcolm Gladwell sums it up in his new book, Outliers, "our hero is born in modest circumstances and by virtue of his own grit and talent fights his way to greatness." It's the story of pop and sports stars, wealthy entrepreneurs and CEOs.
There's just one problem with seeing success this way--it's not true. It's not that talent and hard work won't help you get ahead, but rather success is a result of the product of many factors--a system if you like. Our culture, our parents, our friends, our environment, our attitudes, our values, the lessons in life, all contribute to success.
Gladwell argues that success in the 21st century is less about sheer intelligence and more about collaboration and hard work to get to a level of success mastery. He argues that a level of success mastery requires 10,000 hours of the right actions, effort and attitude.
There's an interesting parallel work to Gladwell's by economist David Galenson in his intriguing book, Old Masters and Young Geniuses. He argues that many so called geniuses are not born great but have the capacity to learn from others and learn from failures along the way. He says that no-one--not rock stars, professional athletes, software billionaires or scientific geniuses--ever makes it alone.
Mark Thomson, Stewart Emery and Jerry Porras, co-wrote Success Built To Last: Creating a Life That Matters. They observe that life expectancies have gone up, and people on average will far outlive the average life of a corporation. They pose the question, "how do you create a life built to last?" If you consider that most people now will have multiple careers, what are the attributes that are essential to the individual to continually reinvent themselves for sustained success? Their book is a result of 10 years of research with 750 CEOs widely regarded as the most visionary and successful. Among their conclusions, which provide us with insight into the common characteristics of successful people, are the following:
* Successful people don't rely on the approval of others to pursue goals, causes or callings;
* Successful people don't define success as the significant achievement of wealth, fame or power; rather, they define it as the ability to do something that is meaningful; to make a difference and create lasting impact for the good of others; being engaged in a life of personal fulfillment; being happy and creating positive strong relationships;
* Successful people take action despite social pressures, rather than because of them;
* Successful people are more committed to doing what they love than being loved by others;
* Successful people don't blame others or scapegoat over mistakes or failures, and they don't dwell on setbacks;
* Successful people learn more from failures than from successes;
* Successful people achieve balance in life more than the average person;
* Successful people gather strong people around them who have diverse perspectives;
* Successful people don't plan their career, but rather focus on what matters in the present in each step of the journey.
Finally, it's clear from the research and experience of Success IQ University, which has worked with thousands of people to help them achieve more success in life that success is a system, and it can be learned and it can be taught.
Ray Williams is Co-Founder of Success IQ University and President of Ray Williams Associates, companies located in Phoenix and Vancouver, providing leadership training, personal growth and executive coaching services.