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Seven Success Myths

image loading... by Bo Bennett, PhD, Social Scientist, Business Consutlant
posted Saturday May 05, 2012 04:15 PM

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Bo Bennett, PhD

Social Scientist, Business Consutlant

About Bo Bennett, PhD

You can read my full bio at http://www.BoBennett.com.

This is a summary/outline of my live presentation on "Seven Success Myths" which I am planning to make public on YouTube after the live recording on May 5, 2012. UPDATE: I modified it greatly to the "Three Success Myths".  The video is posted below.

If there is any one group most guilty of making invalid causal connections, it is success gurus telling you what you need to do succeed.  These gurus usually found success in one aspect of their lives, inferred some causal connections where only correlation exists, then proceed to regurgitate what they think they know as success "laws", "rules", and/or "secrets".  Instead of being helpful, those who follow these "rules" and don't find success, end up blaming themselves and often give up in the pursuit of success.  The following list will help you better understand the nature of success and ultimately help you with its achievement.

Myth: There are "secrets" to success.

Fact:  There are aspects of success that are less known than others, but no magic "secrets".

The terminology "secrets" is often used in marketing to stimulate your curiosity and sell informational products.  It is a marketing ploy appealing to your emotional sense of wonder, and that pinch of hope that we all have where we think there is something we are missing, and if we just had that "something", all of our troubles would go away.  The truth, although less mysterious, is more powerful.  There are no secrets holding anyone back.  The information you need to succeed is out there, readily available, and comes in many forms.  In fact, it is hard to miss.

Myth: Anyone can succeed.

Fact: Anyone can increase his or her chances at succeeding.

I am a 40 year-old, 5' 11", 200lb man with zero skill in Basketball.  Can I succeed at becoming an all-star basketball player?  While it is not technically impossible, the probability is so low that is all practical terms it is a statistical impossibility.  Those one in a million stories we hear of people overcoming what seems to be impossible odds stick in our mind, and due to something called, the availability bias, make us think this is much more common than it really is.  We therefore spiral into a "what's wrong with me" state-of-mind when we cannot be one of those one in a million cases.  Our life goals should be multi-layered, separating the long shots with much more achievable goals, having both while understanding the probabilities involved, and focusing on techniques to increase those probabilities.

Myth: You can trust your intuition.

Fact: Your intuition can rarely be trusted.

Intuition is not a magical sixth-sense that many people would like to believe it is; it is simply our primitive brain's way of helping us make reactionary decisions without effort or use of our more advanced reasoning brain.  Thanks to millions of years of evolutionary development, what we call our intuition is great for telling us what to do when faced with a lion in the wild, but far from equipped to telling us whether to buy that new car or not.  Those "gut" feelings we get are based on our emotional reactions, not on reason.

Myth: You need to work on your weaknesses.

Fact: You should focus on your strengths.

There are countless things that each and every one of us are no good at, most of which are completely irrelevant to our success in life.  We can easily spend a lifetime trying to be good at everything, when in fact we should be spending our lifetimes doing what we do best, assuming this is how we want to spend our lives.  Our time is a limited resource, and we must choose how to spend it.  If you feel spending 30 minutes a day overcoming a weakness is really worth it in the long run, then great -- go for it.  However, if your time is spent working on your weaknesses while ignoring your strengths, you will find that you are spending your life just trying to catch up to mediocrity rather than capitalizing on your strengths which is much more likely where you will find success.

Myth: You gotta' have goals to succeed!

Fact: Goals can and often do get in the way of success.

You've heard all the gurus and their weak analogies, "how could expect to hit a target blindfolded?" or "how you ever going get there if you don't know where you are headed?"  Goals are necessary for accomplishing goals; not for success.  The truth is, one can get so caught up in the accomplishment of a goal, he or she will lose sight of the bigger picture -- success.  Sometimes the target you are so desperately trying to hit is the wrong target, and sometimes where you think you need to be is not really where you need to go.  Flexibility is a key factor in success.

Myth: Successful people know about success.

Fact: Successful people know what it is like to be successful, not necessarily about why they are successful or what it takes to become successful.

People who achieve success generally know why they've achieved it, as in "making a million dollars", "writing a best-seller", or "winning the Nobel Prize", but almost certainly cannot give universal causal reasons for their success.  The average successful person knows very little about causality, deterministic factors, and chance.  Being human, they create a narrative as to why they succeeded, which almost always consists of invalid causal connections between prior actions and current success.  The real success stories in life are much more complex, and much harder to duplicate by doing what someone else has done.  But when you understand the nature of success, you can do the things that increase the odds of succeeding -- which can be seen as universal techniques, or a "one-size-fits-all" approach to success.

Myth: You should never give up!

Fact: You should never say never.

There is a stigma that comes along with "giving up", but what is "giving up" exactly?  Is it not the same as "knowing when to move on"?  Is it not the same as recognizing when you have hit a dead end?  Is it not the same as knowing when you have hit that point where your efforts would be better spent elsewhere?  Yes.  We have been conditioned when we hear the phrase, "giving up", to associate those words with a negative act.  But it is this act, which is actually neutral, that very often allow those pursuing success the flexibility to win the war on success, while losing a battle or two.  The hardest part of "giving up" is sacrificing one's own pride.  Forget about what "they" say about you -- and focus on the big win.


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