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.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Conversation About Passion, Dreams, and Waking Up

A compelling article in Sunday's New York Times, titled Often a Swan, Rarely a Queen, concerns a little-discussed problem with chasing our passions and our dreams. What happens when we get close to our dreams, but they're never fully realized? The article focuses on life in the rarified and hyper-specialized atmosphere of a world-class ballet company, but it describes an issue that can be universal:

"For the few who survive the grueling competition, relentless discipline and mental pressure to make it into one of the world’s first-rank companies, this tale of recognized talent and continuing achievement frequently ends soon thereafter. The new company member is now just one of a hundred or so other brilliant talents. When the level is that high, the exceptional becomes ordinary, and the dancer discovers that perhaps she will not be on a poster on bedroom walls."

It's a realization I've come to in my own life, as I have come to understand (perhaps too well) that I'll never win the Pulitzer for playwrighting, receive an oscar for best screenplay nomination, or take the stage as a competitive bodybuilder.

Hugh McLeod, in Post Dreaming Reality on Gaping Void, mirrored my thoughts a couple of days ago with this cartoon:

I especially like his words "kill slowly," as well as his succinct appraisal, in the accompanying text, of the stage we all probably get to:

"Then you get to a certain age and you realize that the time for "One Day" is over. You're either doing it, or you're not. And if you're not, a feeling of bitter disappointment starts hitting you deep into the marrow. Which explains why we all know so many people in their 30s and 40s having mid-life crisis'."

This reality could be a function of age - I am 50, after all, and I can feel my life adapting to all kinds of realities these days. Unfortunately, there no manual readily available to help us through this time. Something on the order of "How to understand your adolescent," but for the newly-middle-aged, would be beneficial.

It could be a fault in the way our society works. Too many dream careers require huge sacrifices and still leave many without the big fulfillment, perhaps because our vision of success requires huge, powerful, and largely financial outcomes.

I've posted about this before, and I've come to believe this passion thing is way overrated. But if you don't feel the way I do, you can still find plenty of information out there that will tell you how to Take your first step and Achieve Your Dream.

Some are disappointed, though, when their energy wanes in the pursuit. I've been battling the conflict between what I've always thought I've wanted to do, and what I really want to do now (which are two very different things.) Thom Singer may be feeling the conflict too, as McLeod's Post Dreaming Reality "flies in the face of my current quest."

But Brazen Careerist's Penelope Trunk offers us a solution. In Bad career advice: Do what you love, she counsels:

"If you tell yourself that your job has to be something you’d do even if you didn’t get paid, you’ll be looking for a long time. Maybe forever. So why set that standard? The reward for doing a job is contributing to something larger than you are, participating in society, and being valued in the form of money."

According to Penelope, "We are each multifaceted, multilayered, complicated people..." and "None us loves just one thing." According to me, getting rid of an old dream makes room for a new one. The trick is to recognize the new dream as one of many that may not bear any resemblance to the original.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Top Exercise Tips and Tricks - Super Leftovers

When I downloaded all the exercise tips and tricks for my previous post, I did come up with a category of tactics that had more than 17 ideas. There was a slight problem, though - these tactics all specified a specific method of working out, and I found it difficult to include them in a list consisting of ways to start an exercise program and how to keep yourself motivated. There were 29 of these in all:
  • Slow lifting.
  • One set, to failure.
  • Good form.
  • Hills.
  • Circuits.
  • Always Do Weights Before Cardio
  • Clench Your Muscles
  • Do Two Sessions
  • Always Do Weights In front of a Mirror
  • Hard, then easy.
  • Workout first, diet later.
  • Warm up.
  • Close your eyes while exercising.
  • Do a cardio circuit.
  • Start with your hamstrings.
  • Stretch between sets.
  • Lower the weight with one leg.
  • Run the rack.
I wanted to run them anyway, since they're all great advice. The posts I selected these from are listed at the end of my first post on this subject: Top 19 Exercise Tips and Tricks from the Blogosphere.

Now I need to go work out.