Originally it was thought that the predictor of a person being successful was IQ. Traditional intelligence is a critical factor to being successful, however there are some attributes to intelligence that can lead to ones downfall. One is ego. Ego is the enemy. Also Tetlock in Superforecasting determined that the most intelligent forecasters were not necessarily the most accurate. IQ is definitely a contributing factor but by itself insufficient to success.
Next EQ, emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people. https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/emotional-intelligence
EQ was thought to be the secret to success, a critical requirement for leadership. Imagine how helpful it is for leaders in general and successful people specifically to achieve success through the help of others. The best way to elicit others help and motivate them is via EQ. While EQ is definitely a strength that facilitates success, it alone is also insufficient.
Hard work was also considered the key to success. It is true that hard work is a requirement. Consider it the gas in your tank. Nothing gets accomplished by just thinking about it. Action must be taken. A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, and many thousands of steps after the first one are required to complete the journey. The world is full of smart, hard working people who have failed to achieve their success.
Grit as a secret formula to success.
Courage and resolve; strength of character – Google dictionary.
Grit is that force which helps one persevere through adversity, it gets one back on the horse after falling off. It is true that grit is essential to success. There are many failures in the path to success. Silicon valley has a famous quote of Fail Fast and Fail Often. While grit is essential to success it is also insufficient by itself.
The Dunedin study made clear that the single greatest indicator of future success for study participants was self control (aka Will Power). Grit can be considered another word for self control. A word of caution about self control: This is an exhaustible and renewable resource that has significant limitations. If it were so easy, we could will ourselves to become what we wish we were. The reality is that you revert to what you are. By that I mean we have a homeostasis where our thoughts and feelings invariably guide us to. Will power can force a temporary deviation but we always revert back to the mean (our mean – homeostasis). Example – the typical diet, new years resolution, or exercise program. The vast majority of people revert back to their “usual ways”. Habit modification can bring about permanent change, this is a slow and tricky process, but one that is effective.
Creativity is considered the key in many circles. There are many books and podcasts with the word “creative” in it. Although creativity is an amazingly impactful component to solving problems and generating content, it alone is also not the single key to success. Applying creativity is challenging because even incredibly talented people can die broke. A good example of this are all the world class artists who only became successful after their deaths. The world needed time to learn to appreciate their great works. I discussed this in Super Smart Guy Podcast episode 106, Hit Makers.
The concept of a growth mindset also caught on as a key to success. How can someone become better if they have a fixed mindset? Fixed mindset is the idea that we must be born with a talent in order to become great at something. The growth mindset is the philosophy that anyone can achieve any goal if they set their mind to it. I wholeheartedly agree that the growth mindset is essential to success. However, that alone is also insufficient for success.
10,000 hours became popular with Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. K. Anders Ericsson pioneered research in the field of excellence that 10K hours along with deliberate practice and masterful coaching were required to become great at something – such as playing a musical instrument or practicing a sport. Actually this philosophy can be applied to pretty much anything that one can learn to do or be. Think cerebral and physical (doctor, engineer, musician, athlete). Again I feel this is essential to success but insufficient by itself. For example there are many very talented and creative artists and musicians in the world who will die poor because their talents are not recognized in their lifetime.
I have researched a lot of people’s success and what is present in every story is some element of luck. I challenge any successful person to look you in the eye and honestly say that luck had absolutely nothing to do with their success. The problem is if you sit at home hoping luck will make you successful, without your exerting effort then you miss the point. Luck is a necessary ingredient but definitely insufficient for success. How can one win the lottery if they don’t buy the ticket? I had outright arguments with coaches and other idealistic people who think luck has nothing to do with it, and that it’s all about hard work and determination. I know of many hard working and determined people who haven’t achieved success.
Some people think Darwin is quoted as saying “It Is Not the Strongest of the Species that Survives But the Most Adaptable.” There is a theory that it was someone else discussing Darwin who said it. Either way everyone can agree that evolution and adaptation is essential of the success of a species. Life is the best test of success. Who survives? Everything stems from evolution. Biological evolution has been studied for many decades and is well understood now, but how does adaptability apply to success in the modern world? We have so many technological advantages today that almost everyone can survive, and even thrive. The strongest by far are not the advantaged anymore. Evolution applied to a product means that the company who manufactures it is constantly improving it based on its’ success and customer feedback. Evolution applied to personal development is constant improvement. Go with what works, and drop or fix what doesn’t. Adaptability is a powerful skill to improve oneself and be successful. But alone it is not the sole key to success.
Gratitude helps one cope with the stress of life. They say one can’t feel gratitude and be depressed or sad. Feeling gratitude eliminates the negative feelings that produce stress hormones. Also negative thinking wires the brain for failure.
To summarize, we looked at several factors that are required but by themselves insufficient to bring about success:
Self Control/Will Power
It is likely that some combination of these characteristics are necessary for success. Like making a master recipe, a combination of ingredients in just the right portions and added at just the right time are required for success. And there is one more factor I want to add that is often overlooked: Drive.
If you are to ask me what is the single most important factor to success, I will tell you that it is drive. Because with drive you are able to achieve all the other factors in order to become successful. It can be argued that there is no guarantee luck will favor you in your pursuits. This is true, however for as long as you are driven to try, you will get another chance at luck.