What does success mean to you? Is it having a handsome income and a good family? or is it something concerned with your stature in society? or is it achieving your long-term goal? What gives you the feeling that you have achieved something? For most of us, success means earning a lot of money, having a caring family and adorable friends, having good respect among our peers and relatives, having sound health, etc. While there’s nothing wrong with seeing success in these things, there is a larger context that is being missed. In this post and the series of posts that follow, we’ll explore what success really means.
A Successful life = A Happy life
I want to share with you a person who was a child prodigy in Korea. He amused people around the world through his excellent problem-solving ability when he was 3 years old and was able to read 4 languages a year later. His name is Kim Ung-Yong.
Seeing his splendid abilities, NASA invited him to work for them when he was 8 years old. Having worked at NASA for around 10 years, he later quit his job and returned to Korea stating that he led a machine life at NASA. His daily routine at NASA was to get up, solve the equations, eat, and sleep. He had no friends and also terribly missed his mom while he was in the USA.
All he wanted was to live a normal life with his mom and friends without media intervention. He pursued his education from elementary and went on to secure his Ph.D. after returning to Korea. He then worked as a Professor at Shinhan University.
While people called him “failed genius” as they expected him to be a high-ranking employee in a big company, Kim says that no one deserves the right to call anyone’s life a failure.
I consider my life a success ― there aren’t many people who do what they really want to do, but I do. That is what you call success, what else do you call a happy life?
People are good at labeling someone as a failure or a success. If you fail to comply with their standards for a successful person, then you’ll be called a failure. People decide whether you’re successful or not based on the amount of money you earn, your social stature, and your relationship with your family. What they don’t consider is your happiness, which is actually a true determinant of success.
There are three key takeaways from Kim’s life regarding success
- Success in work alone is not true success. You need a work-life balance. You need to spend time with your family and friends. This gives true meaning to success in your work.
- What you consider as a success may not always hold good for others. But that’s okay. There’s no need to impress anyone here.
- A Successful life = A Happy life. Are you happy with your current job, and relationship? Ask this question to yourself quite often.
Passion + Talent + Hard work = Success
Take for example any ultra-successful individual or people who’re unbeatable in their niche. You can observe that these people pursued a career they were talented in, developed their skills through hard work, and had a passion for their career. When these three are present, success comes naturally.
Talent is something that you’re born with. Your genes play a major role in your life. Let’s take Michael Phelps for example. He has won 28 Olympic Gold medals for his country in swimming. It has been found that Phelps has a long torso (upper body excluding head and neck) and short legs which assists him in swimming faster than most people. Apart from this, he has several genetic advantages that work in his favor.
Not only physically, but also talent can help you mentally. Maths expert Srinivasa Ramanujan serves as an example here. When he was just 13 years old, he was able to solve complex trigonometric equations and he even devised his own theorems. There’s no need to explain how talented he was when it comes to solving equations. It must have been very natural for him. Certainly, there’s no denying the fact that talent plays a major role in your success.
When it comes to success, the most important factor that decides how successful you’re is how much you practice mindfully. That is. how much mindful repetitions you put in. There’s a reason behind why I stress the word mindful here. You can practice the same thing a thousand times, and still not get good at it if your concentration and attention are on something else.
A mindful practice involves, taking note of the errors you make and practicing carefully to avoid them. Without recording your performance, there’s no scope for improvement.
One of the biggest questions that we dread to face is “What is your passion?”.
Some of you will be so spontaneous to answer this question. You have something in life that you want to go after. There’s something that inspires you and keeps you riveted to it.
For some of you, passion maybe like collecting stamps, or spending time with nature, or talking with your loved ones, or helping the poor, etc. These things will not contribute to you financially. But they’ll give you happiness. If you’re not thinking about making money out of your passion, then it’s great to do them. You should remember that not all passion can be taken as a career. Your passion may not pay your bills.
But the truth is that most of us haven’t figured out our passion yet. If you ask me, I would say that I haven’t figured it out myself. But there’s nothing wrong if you haven’t figured it out either.
The reason is that passion evolves with time, based on our perception of life. Believe me or not. When I was a kid, my passion was to become the Prime Minister of India (or at least a Chief Minister of the state). When I was in school, my passion was to become a Civil Engineer (I went on to pursue my degree in this). That changed when I came to college, where my passion was simply to do well in my studies.
According to the famous author and the creator of “The Dilbert” (a comic strip) Scott Adams, “Passion doesn’t fuel success. It’s the success which fuels passion”. When you attain initial success in any field, passion automatically shows up.
In a TEDx talk by Terri Trespicio on “Stop searching for your passion“, she says
“Passion is not a job, a sport, or a hobby. It’s the full force of your attention and energy that you give to whatever is right in front of you.”
A simple guide for Awe-inspiring Success
I am suggesting you to try the following to find your area of niche and become unbeatable in it.
1. Find your talent
Some people are lucky enough that they were exposed to their talents right from their younger age like Ramanujan and Kim. But for most of us, we need to explore to find them. Without trying different things, how can you find your talents?
First of all, come out of your comfort zone. it’s bit difficult in the beginning. But it’s worth the effort.
Use the explore/exploit trade-off method to find your talent. When you have a natural talent in something, you’re bound to see initial success in it. People appreciate and encourage your work. Keep exploring things until you find initial success in any one of them. If you’ve found it, exploit it.
Start with exploring your passion (if you have any). See if you’re talented in your passion. If not, then try the next thing. Keep exploring until you find it. You can also take a personality test to reveal your talents. You can take such a test here.
Ask yourself “What comes easy and natural to me while others find it difficult?”, “On doing which task do I feel like time passes rapidly?”. You can even ask your parents what you loved doing when you were a kid. These kinds of questions reveal your talents to yourself. To know more about finding your talent, read this lifehack.org article on “10 ways to identify your talents and utilize them“
2. Develop your skills
The next thing to do after finding your talent is developing your skills. Here’s where the hard work comes into play. Even if you’re extremely talented for a task, if you don’t practice enough, there’s no doubt that you’re gonna lose.
You can develop your skills in the area of your expertise by going for courses, or having mentors or coaches, and reading a lot related to your area. This hones your talent.
One of the things you need to consider here is habits. Habits are your daily routine. You should make practicing your skill as a habit. You need to put in the reps. As Malcolm Gladwell highlights in his famous book “The Outliers”, “To master any skill or a job, you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice”. It’s not about the time, it’s how many reps you put in and how you record and correct your mistakes.
And of course, you need to sacrifice your temporary pleasures if you want to achieve success. It’s easy to skip practicing and go for a movie or binge watch Netflix. To achieve long-term rewards, you’ve to sacrifice your short-term pleasures. In other words, you should delay gratification. It has been found that children who delayed instant gratifications, went on to become more successful individuals in the future than those who didn’t do so.
3. Fall in love with boredom
When you’ve found your talent and put in the necessary hard work, passion automatically shows up. You feel enthusiastic and pumped up. This is a great place because this where your talent, skill, and passion are aligned. The quality of your output at this stage will be the best of the best.
But the sad thing is, once you’ve mastered any skill, you’ll start to lose interest and things start to feel boring. Once you feel bored, you’ll stop putting in the reps, and the time you spend practicing also lessens.
The difference between true master-class performers and others is this. Even if they don’t feel like practicing their skill, they still do it. Even if they’re bored with their stuff, they still practice it. They know that if they stop performing because of boredom, that’s when they’ll start to lose.
In the very popular Steve Jobs’ commencement address at the Stanford University in the year 2005, he states the following,
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
No matter how much money you earn, being happy is the basic requirement for success. If you feel like living a machine life every day without a hint of happiness, it’s time to rethink the choices that you’ve made. It’s always never too late to shift your career. You’re the only one who’s in control of your life. No one is coming to save you. Your destiny is in your hands. Make sure you’re living a life full of fulfillment and happiness. The next part of this series of redefining success is about humanity. See you soon in the next article.
The kind of influence James Clear has in my article is immense. Whenever I express any idea, I automatically slip on to some of the philosophies that I read in his book or his article in his website jamesclear.com. Some of his ideas included in this article are about finding your talent and falling in love with the boredom.