What is THE single biggest secret of success?

Posted on May 16th, by Dr Rob Yeung . 1 Comment

I occasionally read (British) GQ magazine mostly when I’m on holiday for its diverting, entertaining stories.

However, one well-researched, well-written article in the May 2013 issue (on page 89) written by Tony Parsons caught my attention. It tackled the age-old question: What is it that makes people successful?

If you’re interested in the topic of high achievement – for example you might have read my E is for Exceptional book – then you’ll want to take his message on board.

I wish I could link to the article but it doesn’t appear to be online. Instead, I’ll summarise and quote some of Parsons’ arguments:

“Success – real, life-transforming, top-of-the-world-Ma success – is not determined by innate talent or God-given skill, but by years and years of practice. If you want to make it in any career where the competition is fierce, then you have to put in the hours.”

“Forget about innate talent and God-given genius. Experts are made – never born. Even a genius has to prepare, train, make mistakes, sweat, graft, stick with it.”

Parsons isn’t the first writer to say that hard work matters. He cites research done by Swedish psychologist Dr K. Anders showing that experts in many fields – musicians, artists, athletes, entrepreneurs – tend to put in 10,000 hours of practice to get truly great at anything.

I liked the article because Parsons succinctly summarised in a couple of thousand words what Malcolm Gladwell took an entire book to write about in his bestseller Outliers!

Of course there’s still an element of luck and timing involved in achieving success. And in disciplines such as competitive sports, it helps to have the right genetic gifts. But hard work really, really matters. Parsons also goes on to say:

“It is a curiously old-fashioned and comforting notion that if you work at something for long enough and hard enough then, in the end, the gods will smile.”

In summary, it means that no one can rest on their laurels. No one – no matter how gifted they think they are – can achieve lasting success without hard, hard work.

Or, in Parsons’ words:

“Experts are made, not born. Even the world’s most gifted athletes, musicians and artists need to practise, and practise like stink.”

So get out there. And put your heart and soul – and many, many hours – into honing your skills and achieving your goals.

One Response to “What is THE single biggest secret of success?”

  1. Glyn says:

    I believe its referred to as unconscious competence when you attain the seemingly natural ability to engage an activity perfectly in an elite manner. You see it all the time in pro sports people, and musicians playing and I’ve heard them quoted as saying it feels like the music or game is flowing out through them without conscious thought as such. Must apply to all activity and is a wonderful level to attain.

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