Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Secrets of Success: The Other 8 Words

Over on the always fascinating web site TED (Ideas Worth Spreading), Richard St. John gives a three-minute talk on the "Secrets of Success in 8 Words." He's done his homework - compiling the top factors after 7 years of research and 500 interviews. The 8 words are: Passion, Work, Good, Focus, Push, Serve, Ideas, Persist. Watch the highly entertaining video for the succinct explanation behind each word:

It seems he's preaching to the choir - TED costs a bit to attend, so it's most likely filled with successful people. And the quotes he cites are from a rarified percentage of super-successful people: Rupert Murdoch, Goldie Hahn, Norman Jewison, Norman Lear, Frank Gehry, Bill Gates. He tosses in a couple of non-names too, but it's clear they're in the upper stratosphere as well.

I'm left wondering: what if you asked 500 less-than-successful people (identifiable through poverty level, how they view themselves, the newly bankrupt, etc.) what eight words they would come up with that describe the secrets to success? People who feel they're on the outside, looking in at the affluent and/or achievers might come up with the following, totally un-scientifically-developed list:

Direct access to lots of money (through family or social sphere) makes it easier to be a success because you have a good fall back position.

While we've made enormous strides in reducing prejudice based on race, sex, sexuality, age and looks, I'm sure there are people who feel they've been held back due to factors beyond their control, unfairly judged, and viewed as against prevailing social norms (whether or not they really still exist.)

New York and Los Angeles are the Emerald Cities in many minds - and locations within those cities may even bump up perceptions of success even more. It's probably harder to be a success in the wilds of Wyoming than in Silicon Valley.

Chronic illness and lack of good health care can not only deplete any money you have, it can seriously damage your ability to get ahead.

The Ivy League might still hold sway - Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stamford, MIT. Anywhere else, you're on your own, because...

Attending those schools puts you in contact with people who can be of huge help to you in your career.

I'll use an example from my own life, to keep totally clear on what I mean and keep from getting in trouble on this one. I have zero aptitude for math, which has been a problem for me, especially growing up as a "boomer" who hasn't yet been able to take advantage of the new mind thinking exemplified by A Whole New Mind. And I think it has a great deal to do with genetics, just as genetics has kept me from looking like John Cena.

The number-one determinant of whether or not you are a success in life. Many people court it on a daily basis - just look at how many lottery tickets are sold each day.

Of course, it all really depends on what you yourself consider "achieving success" really means. To some it's money, no doubt, especially those who are struggling financially. To paraphrase something a psychologist once told me, "Money becomes the most important thing in life when you aren't getting any."

One thing I feel above all else, however: Web sites like TED, which allow those of us without the current financial means to take advantage of today's top thinkers and doers, are a vast improvement over the past, when this type of information was harder to distribute and access.

Still, you do need a computer and Internet hookup...
Awesome Everest photo from djwphoto's photostream on Flickr.

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