What does volumes of research say you can learn from wildly successful people?
1. To build a better career, first build a better you
For most people studied, the first step toward improving their job performance had nothing to do with the job itself but instead with improving how they felt about themselves. In fact, for eight in ten people, self-image matters more in how they rate their job performance than does their actual job performance. — Gribble 2000 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
What frequently produces creative ideas? It's not clever tricks — it's being genuinely interested in your work.
Experiments offering money in exchange for creative solutions to problems find that monetary rewards are unrelated to the capacity of people to offer original ideas. Instead, creativity is most frequently the product of genuine interest in the problem and a belief that creativity will be personally appreciated by superiors. — Cooper, Clasen, Silva-Jalonen, and Butler 1999 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
We all know the stereotype of the successful workaholic who neglects everything but their job.
Truth is, studies show people with career momentum are 53 percent more likely to have healthy habits.
Comparing middle management employees, researchers have found that those whose careers continue to have momentum are 53 percent more likely to engage in healthy life habits than those whose careers are stalled. — Roberts and Friend, 1998 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
Research comparing students of similar ability finds that the distinguishing feature between those who maintain a strong work ethic in their studies and those who give up is a sense of control. Those who express a sense of control receive scores that are a full letter grade higher than those who do not. — Mendoza 1999 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
(Learn how to be more confident here.)
2. Quality, not quantity
In surveys, people say hard work is the best predictor of success. They're wrong.
It's one of the least significant factors. Hard work is overrated.
Effort is the single most overrated trait in producing success. People rank it as the best predictor of success when in reality it is one of the least significant factors. Effort, by itself, is a terrible predictor of outcomes because inefficient effort is a tremendous source of discouragement, leaving people to conclude that they can never succeed since even expending maximum effort has not produced results. — Scherneck 1998 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
Research shows number of hours does not predict success at work or at home. Success correlates with the quality of those hours.
The quantity of hours spent working or thinking about work, or hours spent with our families, does not predict achievement or life satisfaction. Instead, the quality of those hours — how stressful or relaxing they are — is a much more potent factor in producing a satisfying family life and career. — Brown 1999 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
Being conscientious — detail oriented and showing follow-through — produces five times the results of intelligence.
In a study of recent business school graduates, employee conscientiousness was five times more likely to predict supervisor satisfaction than was employee intelligence. — Fallon, Avis, Kudisch, Gornet, and Frost 2000 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
We're in an era where multitasking seems essential and an employee must be a flexible "jack of all trades."
But the most successful people feel they are an expert at something.
Sixty-eight percent of people who consider themselves successful say that there is at least one area of their job in which they are an expert. — Austin 2000 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
(Learn how to be an expert here.)
3. Make plans and goals
Sometimes it seems so much is getting thrown your way that all you can do is try to keep up.
But successful people pause, reflect, and think about long-term improvement every day.
Successful people spend at least fifteen minutes every day thinking about what they are doing and can do to improve their lives. — Sigmund 1999 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
Achievement is rarely random. Great generals don't shrug and say, "We got lucky."
Nearly every executive interviewed for a study saw "plans and strategy" as responsible for their success.
Case study research on business executives reveals that 98 percent see their position as the result of plans and strategy and that more than half credit their use of a successful person as an example to help define that plan. — Gordon 1998 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
"I want lots of money" doesn't cut it.
Having concrete goals was correlated with huge increases in confidence and feeling in control.
People who construct their goals in concrete terms are 50 percent more likely to feel confident they will attain their goals and 32 percent more likely to feel in control of their lives. — Howatt 1999 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
(Learn about the most effective type of goals here.)
4. Focus on the small wins
Stop thinking that slaying dragons is all that matters.
Seventy percent of long-serving corporate leaders focus on the average events — not the best or worst.
The typical is much more common than extremes, so knowing how to handle that pays off almost every day.
Long-term studies of corporate leaders find that seven in 10 of those who survive longest in their jobs downplay both the best and worst outcomes they experience and keep their feelings relatively steady. They have what psychologists call a "focus on an acceptable average," not on the extraordinary, which is useful because almost every day turns out to be more average than extraordinary. — Ingram 1998 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
A consistent amount of minor success produces much more happiness than occasionally bagging an elephant.
Life satisfaction is 22 percent more likely for those with a steady stream of minor accomplishments than those who express interest only in major accomplishments. — Orlick 1998 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
You want a steady amount of challenge, achievement and feedback:
(Learn more about happiness here.)
5. Know what motivates you
Motivation predicts career success better than intelligence, ability, or salary.
When tested in national surveys against such seemingly crucial factors as intelligence, ability, and salary, level of motivation proves to be a more significant component in predicting career success. While level of motivation is highly correlated with success, importantly, the source of motivation varies greatly among individuals and is unrelated to success. — Bashaw and Grant 1994 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
But what motivates people can vary widely.
What reward gets you going? Do you want to be richer? Do you like helping people? Do you want praise?
Don't speculate. Think about specific times when you were very motivated and what caused it.
Research shows that reward is responsible for 3 quarters of why you do things, so align rewards and goals appropriately.
Researchers find that perceived self-interest, the rewards one believes are at stake, is the most significant factor in predicting dedication and satisfaction toward work. It accounts for about 75 percent of personal motivation toward accomplishment. — Dickinson 1999
Take the time to reflect on how far you've come and the good work you've done. It boosts your motivation.
That's not indulgent or fluffy — persistent people spend twice as long thinking about their accomplishments.
Comparing people who tend to give up easily with people who tend to carry on, even through difficult challenges, researchers find that persistent people spend twice as much time thinking, not about what has to be done, but about what they have already accomplished, the fact that the task is doable, and that they are capable of it. — Sparrow 1998 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
Here's Dan Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the single best book on motivation:
(Learn more about motivation here.)
6. Choose the right workplace
Psychologists have observed that bad habits can spread through an office like a contagious disease. Employees tend to mirror the bad behaviors of their co-workers, with factors as diverse as low morale, poor working habits, and theft from the employer all rising based on the negative behavior of peers. — Greene 1999 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
You want to learn and grow — but you want to be learning the right things and growing in the right way.
Having a diverse set of co-workers can make you much more productive.
Teams in the workplace composed of people with differing personalities are 14 percent more productive than teams composed of more compatible individuals. — Fisher, Macrosson, and Wong 1998 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
We all know mentors and role models are valuable.
What most people don't know is that these aspirational figures must "fit" with your career goals.
Role models who aren't relevant or whose achievements are unattainable can make you 22 percent less satisfied with your career.
People who actively target someone to serve as a role model draw positive feelings from that person only if the role model's achievements are both relevant and attainable. People who choose role models who do not fit that description wind up 22 percent less satisfied with their careers than people who do not have a role model at all. — Lockwood and Kunda 2000 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
(Learn how to use context to your advantage here.)
7. Learn people skills
Eighty percent of CEOs feel that people skills are not only essential at work but also make them happy at home.
Eight in 10 ceos report that a healthy family life is crucial to a productive business life and that the same key skill — "interpersonal engagement," the capacity to express concern and interest in those around them — is crucial to both home and work. — Henderson 1999 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
Being defensive not only makes you disliked, it also makes it hard to learn anything.
Defensiveness is negatively correlated with learning on the job. People with highly defensive personality traits speak more times in meetings, are more likely to interrupt a speaker, and are one-fourth slower in adapting to new tasks. — Haugen and Lund 1999 [The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People]
(How do you learn people skills? Start here.)
To sum up:
Seven things that will make you more successful:
- First, build a better you
- Quality, not quantity
- Make plans and goals
- Focus on the small wins
- Know what motivates you
- Choose the right workplace
- Learn people skills
What's the easiest way to get started? Go here.
Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.
More from Barking Up The Wrong Tree...
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- 10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2014
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
- Scottish independence is another financial crisis waiting to happen
- Hey, grammar nerds! Stop freaking out about 'alot.'
- Your literary playlist: A guide to the music of Haruki Murakami
- Fall movie guide: All the films you should see in September
- 11 scientific studies that will restore your faith in humanity
Subscribe to the Week