We Can All Be Successful…

…as long as WE are the ones who define success for ourselves. Otherwise 99.9% of the world’s population would fall well short.

Seems obvious, right? For example, if you take money as a measure of success, for every billionaire (~2,600 as of 2019) there are nearly 3,000,000 people who are just ‘getting by’. So for the vast majority of us, the chances of being a big success [in monetary terms] are very slim.

The same applies for any other success factor where you are comparing yourself to the world’s best, there is very little room at the top.

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What We Could Learn From the 11 Plus

The title alone will severely limit the interested audience, as the 11 Plus is a concept that even at its ‘height’ was restricted to England and Wales.

The premise was that children in their last year of primary education (aged 11 – 12) took a test to narrow down their options for their secondary education. The better they did on the 11+ the more choices they had. I wish I had ‘failed’ mine way back in 1978, going to an all boys school absolutely sucked.

A friend of mine’s daughter had recently gone through the process, and like me he was amazed at the questions being asked. This was not a straightforward maths/english/reasoning test, this was a test of character that put to shame my interview techniques as a Senior Manager in charge of adult security consultants. Should I be unfortunate enough to ever be the manager of people again, I will be using these questions:

Why should you get priority over other children for a place in this school? – How would YOU answer that question, or what answer would you be looking for?! Say the wrong thing and you’ll come across as arrogant, insecure, indecisive, desperate, disinterested or a combination of several of these.

List 3 things you are good at or like doing. – Generally speaking, people like doing the things they’re good at and dislike things they aren’t. Sadly most people don’t KNOW they’re bad at something, so a question like this can help weed out the humble from the potentially deluded.

What is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you? – Personally I would dismiss anyone saying anything about work. Passion for your chosen career is one thing, but someone without other interests is to me rather suspect.

Is there anything that I haven’t asked you about that you would like to tell me? – This one’s a doozy! Do I say no and let the person think there’s nothing more to me, do I say something and perhaps come across as trying too hard or do I ramble on because I’m nervous and end up boring the hell out the interviewer?

The above were good, but the next one was to me astounding;

Is life fair?

Bear in mind this is being asked of an ELEVEN year old, but now think about the answer you would give. No it’s not fair is whiney, yes it is fair is delusional, which leaves the only real answer; life is neither fair nor unfair, it just is. It is surprising just how many people cannot accept this.

Life is what YOU make of it, so any answer outside of that speaks volumes to the person you’re interviewing. If they consider life unfair then they are clearly not taking full responsibility for their own actions, anyone who thinks life is fair has likely never been truly tested and makes the following quote rather appropriate;

“I’ve never met a strong person with an easy past.”

Experience is one thing, you can read that on a person’s LinkedIn page, character is something else and rarely glimpsed during the interview process. Perhaps by asking questions we would ask our own children we can change that.

Personal Accountability

You’re Not the Best at Anything, Except…

Unless by some ridiculous twist of fate you’re Novak Djokovic, Lionel Messi, or Steven Hawking (and their like) reading this, you are not the best at anything. Perhaps like me, even if you had spent your entire life practicing one thing you still would not have been the best.

Nor do you have to be.

World-class talent is exceptionally rare, but we humans have the unfortunate habit of holding ourselves up for comparison to these unique few. How could we possibly come up anything other than short?

A single skill or talent (see Choice: Love What You Do, Or Love Doing What You’re Good At?), properly developed, can take you far …IF you’re very good. But it’s the combination of your skills and talents that will enable you to excel at a far greater array of your life choices.

No-one, I mean NO-ONE can be you better than you can.

The challenge is; Who ARE you? What are your skills, your talents, your likes, dislikes, even aspirations? A disturbingly large portion of us spend our whole lives without answers to these questions, and we die never having achieved a fraction of our potential. Not someone else’s opinion of our potential, but our own sense of happiness and self-worth. Our feeling of achievement for a life that made a positive difference. At least to someone.

We have all come across people we simply can’t believe haven’t been fired yet, and we have all met people we are amazed are not doing significantly better. In my mind they have both committed the same ‘crime’; they have failed to understand themselves. These examples came from different angles, but the results are the same; neither is doing what they should or could be doing with their lives.

While I absolutely believe you must leave this life with regrets (A Life Without Regrets is a Life Without Mistakes) doing a poor job or never doing a great job should not be among them. Others can help – and usually love to do so – but only you can choose the right path.

There is a good chance I can beat Djokovic at darts (and perhaps several other non-athletic endeavours), and I likely know a lot more about payments security than Hawking. We all make our OWN choices in life, I am where I am because of mine, so why should I ever compare myself to them? Or to anyone else for that matter.

No, I have no-where near their money or their fame, but if I was to measure my life by those standards I have a lot more issues to address first. I am very good at what I do, but equally important, I know when I’m out of my depth. Like most people, I will never know EVERYTHING I’m good at, but I am self-aware enough to know when I should keep something going, or let it go entirely.

I have no problem being fired for being too opinionated, I would very much object to being fired for incompetence, but they are both very much my responsibility.

With self-awareness comes true personal accountability, only then can the regrets you have be the kind you want.

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