Sunday, September 6, 2009

Who calls the shots?

Confession time: Few things turn me off of a movie, book, idea or anything else more than when it's described as "inspirational."

I'm not a terrible person (I hope). I'm actually a big fan of hope and inspiration. The problem for me is that when I hear something described as inspirational, I think "cheesy, contrived, blatant attempt at emotion." (You've probably guessed that I'm not a fan of Chicken Soup for the Soul books.)

This bias of mine makes me skeptical of people marketing their "Steps to a Better You," "How to Be Successful," or other such products.

The fact remains, however, that some people are successful in life, and others are not. So what makes people successful?

Many people have attempted to answer that question, and many are still trying. One of my favorite books is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, which I wish wasn't referred to as a "self-help" book because I don't see it that way. He researched the book by studying the lives of successful people. That's a method I can respect. The best way to figure out how to be successful is to study people who already are.

Over the years, I've developed my own thoughts and ideas about what leads to success, which may or may not be accurate. That's the beauty of a blog - I don't have to be right.

I believe the most important determinant of success lies in the concept of ownership. When it comes to your life, who calls the shots?

Some people take ownership of their lives, and others don't. Continuing in the idea from my previous post that there are three types of people in the world, here's how I see the concept of ownership:

The Workers (Optimists)
: "Workers" are content to go to work each day and just do the job their told, without career advancement or management responsibilities. They are happy with their lives just the way they are, and see no reason to make changes. They don't really think about whether they have ownership of their lives, since they are just fine with how things are.

The Wishers (Pessimists): "Wishers" are not happy with their lives and careers, but they do not take ownership of their role in making their lives what they are. They see themselves as victims of circumstance, and express resentment of the people and organizations they blame for their unhappiness. Often, wishers have experienced very real challenges in life (whether related to family, health, or other hardship), and are at times real victims of circumstance. The problem is in how they respond. They lash out at the cause (whether real or simply perceived), remain unhappy with their lives, and fail to take the steps necessary to build the life they want.

The Winners (Improvers): "Winners" take ownership of their lives. They recognize that a happy life and fulfilling career require planning and hard work. They experience challenges in life, just as do the Wishers. They respond to challenges by focusing their efforts on making their lives better. They see both the good and the bad in the world. They recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, and always work to improve themselves. When obstacles come their way, they figure out a way. In their lives, they call the shots.

So those are my thoughts on success this week. Whether my ideas have merit, well, I'll just have to wait and see.


  1. I share your disdain for cheesiness.

    Coincidentally, I posted on success yesterday, based on a hand-inked poster "The Road To Success" from 1913. I also comment on the role of macro events on our micro successes.

    Hope you'll link over and comment.

  2. Do you think the "optimists" have an important place in the system, or do you think if everyone was striving to advance their careers it would really be good for everyone?

    There's not enough room at the top for everyone, so what happens to the peoople who strive to improve, but don't pull it off as well as the next guy?

    No doubt every company would run much more efficiently if every person had the "winner" mentality, but can they all really succeed?

    (I'm really wondering all those points, not disagreeing with you!)