I'm not sure any of us know exactly what has made us who we are, but it's an interesting topic to think about, and one I consider often as I want to share those things which have brought me success with my readers. Often the narratives are a little bit too convenient to believe that they represent the whole truth, so I'll share my own with the caveat that it's impossible for me to remove my subjective opinion.
I generally assume that the overwhelming majority of my success has nothing to do with things that I have done. I was born into a great country with a lot of opportunity and no war or famine. That's about as out of my control as it gets, but may be the greatest factor in any success I've had. How well would I have done if I was born into poverty in the middle of a war somewhere?
My parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles have had a huge impact on my life. This one is a little bit harder to quantify, but having food or shelter was never something I had to think about, nor was having clothes or the ability to do activities with my friends. My family gives me a tremendous amount of love and encouragement, and every parenting book I've ever read has underlined how important that is.
I think that my success (and maybe your own), could be attributed 80-100% to factors completely out of my control. So while I think that it's important to be proud of one's achievments and success, it's disingenuous to not spread that credit around pretty widely.
Of the factors I'm in control of, I think that the biggest contributor to my success is my interest and willingness in making high quality independent decisions. I believe that I learned and refined this skll through Montessori schooling, my parents, my relatives, gambling, and pickup. If I were to boil decision-making down I'd say that it's about assessing which factors matter, weighing those factors, thinking about second and third order consequences, and compiling all of that information to make a concrete decision. I think that I'm fairly excellent at this, and it has paid massive dividends in my life.
Next I'd say that I've benefitted tremendously by surrounding myself with excellent people who are smart, positive, and good friends. It's easy to take friends for granted, but whenever I stop and think about how amazing my friends are, it's easy to imagine how much worse my life would be without them.
Last, I'd say that the third biggest factor is my (learned) ability to always be positive and to appreciate everything I have as much as is possible. I say that this is such a huge factor because it ends up being a multiplier on everything else. If you achieve something but only feel half of the benefits, was it really worth working so hard for it? If you learn to appreciate and to see the positive and minimize the negative, everything you have achieved or will achieve in the future will be significantly better.
Again, I have no idea how accurate my assessments are, but I think that most of my success was out of my control, and that decision making, friends, and positivity have been the three biggest factors that I had direct control over. Even if you aren't ridiculously lucky to have such a big head start as I had, you can and should still focus on those things you can control.
Photo is the road on the way to the ski mountain in Las Vegas. I can't wait to go skiing next season!
Interested in coming to Superhuman 3 in October? Details are here
I land in Narita Airport, Japan, pull two thousand Yen out of the ATM, and get on the train for Tokyo. From memory I walk down familiar streets until I get to the New Zealand Embassy in northern Shibuya, where my friend Elliot lives. I haven't seen him in almost two years, and have only emailed a few times since then, but it's as if I never left. We joke around, walk to dinner, and make plans for the weekend.
The next day I pop my Japanese SIM card into my phone and call my friend Toby to let him know that I'm around. He tells me about a party he's throwing in Yoyogi park, so a couple other friends and I join him.
Nothing about these individual scenes is particularly noteworthy. That's the point. In various places around the world I have enough good friends that I can have a pretty normal life there while visiting.
It was a few years ago, and I walked into the dining hall and sat with my friends. Pretty routine day. I was a freshman, and my first year was winding down. I was one month into my new frat and life was good.
My friend, a class senator in student government, had a piece of paper laying on the table. I picked it up and read the big title "Run for Student Government", and I immediately joked that I was dropping everything to run for President. I was just joking of course; I had seen a bunch of other Baylor freshmen run for various positions earlier in the year during freshmen elections, and I had no interest in running.
But then my friend said bluntly, "No seriously you should totally do it. The current president is an idiot, and the senators don't like him. We need someone smart." (Note I think pretty highly of the other guy, these aren't my words) That got me thinking that it would be cool to put up a bunch of posters with my name on them around campus. See, I realized nobody gave a shit about it, and every campaign I had seen didn't take advantage of that fact.