Success Is A Science, Not A Secret

Success Is A Science, Not A Secret

What do successful people have in common? What are their secrets, their habits, their sources of strength and inspiration, and how can you mimic them to achieve the same astounding results?
This is an area that has been beaten to death. Everyone, from educators and psychologists to coaches and athletes, has chimed in with their revelations about what it takes to be the best. And yet we still wonder and hunger for “the key.”

Well, in The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People (Harper San Francisco, $11.95), David Niven, a psychologist and social scientist who teaches at Florida Atlantic University, weighs in on the subject in a unique and surprisingly comprehensive way, given the slight size of this quick read.

Niven combed through more than 1,000 academic journals and other intellectually dense (i.e. boring and unreadable) scientific documents to cull the most current and significant findings of studies on the traits, beliefs, and practices of successful people in all walks of life. He presents them in a simple and engaging way that is chock-full of the unexpected.

For example, it is often assumed that there’s a high correlation between self-esteem and success: high self-esteem equals high achievement; low self-esteem equals under-achievement. Not true, according to Niven. In fact, those with especially high self-esteem, he says, are 26% more likely to be devastated by setbacks than their counterparts.

Niven did find a correlation between confidence and success, but he also found that having concrete goals increases confidence by as much as 50%. Thus, having concrete goals greatly enhances one’s chances for achievement.

While there are some interesting surprises to be found, much of the book reinforces what you already know to be true about success: primarily, that you alone define what success means and that it can’t be handed to you—not even in book form. Here are several more of the book’s revelations:

  • If you don’t believe, no one will. So often we look to others to convince us of what we want to believe. Little do we realize, they’re looking to us! Studies show that people are five times more likely to be optimistic about another person’s goals if they view that person as optimistic.
  • Role models are not one size fits all. People whose role models’ achievements are not relevant or attainable for them end up 22% less satisfied with their careers than people who don’t have a role model at all.
  • The past is not the future. It’s pat and overused, but it happens to be true: It’s never too late to change. Researchers found that a person’s current pattern of behavior (both in and outside of the office) is six times more likely to predict job performance than his or her personal background or professional history.
  • So much for money, prestige, and recognition. Studies show that the single most important thing you can achieve is meaning. Feeling that there is meaning in your life is eight times more likely to produce satisfaction than is a high income.