Success, Grit & Dirty Work
Yesterday I spent 5 hours driving with a busy and plugged in spouse alongside me. I have a condition called DMMS - Driving Makes me Sleepy. I made that up, but no less it is a very real problem. I once took a turn driving for 20 minutes on a 12 hour road trip before I was deemed dangerously tired and retired back to co-pilot position (where I immediately perk up and do a fantastic job navigating). To combat the lack of conversation, music or phenomenal views to keep me lively - I turned on my podcasts and headed over to my two favorites, This American Life & TED Radio Hour. After finishing a fascinating and sobering episode "Call Me Fat", I decided a more inspiring episode was in order & turned on "Success". 53 minutes of just wow.
Here's the episode synopsis:
Success has become synonymous with financial wealth, influence and status. But can we define success in another way — one that welcomes a broader range of accomplishment? It may not be as obvious as you think. In this hour, TED speakers share ideas for what makes us successful. TED speakers include Professor Angela Duckworth, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, HealthTap CEO Ron Gutman, Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe, and writer Alain de Botton
I was mentally noting the entire episode and left really wondering if our narrow definitions of success and how it is achieved are healthy and accurate. My key takeaways (listen first if you don't like spoilers):
1. Identify others by their passions, not professions.
Next time I meet someone the first question isn't going to be "What do you do?" Possible alternatives to asking about their profession as their first identifying question may be:
"What do you like to do?"
"Where are you from?"
"Cookies, brownies or cake and why?"
"If you could live anywhere and do anything what would you do?"
Attempting to identify people based on their drives, their story, their personality. Ways we can stop equating a person foremost with their profession. Our egos and identities need to survive independently of our job titles and the aspirational and complexity of people is so much deeper.
2. Get Gritty
When Angela Duckworth spoke about success in high school students, it was fascinating to learn that success (graduation, good grades) were not correlated to IQ. The greatest predictor for success was not talent, good looks, intellectual or emotional intelligence but what she calls "Grit". Which is a mix of passion and perseverance. Something that can be cultivated when we (and children) are offered a Growth Mindset. When they realize failure is a process to success, that being bad at math is the beginning to being good - we can become resistant to giving up, we can overcome adversity and persevere when we're dead last. Which, is the best indicator of success. Try out her Grit Scale quiz here. https://angeladuckworth.com/grit-scale/
3. Bring your Passion
Mike Rowe and Tony Robbins didn't exactly agree on the "follow your passion" comment - but what they both seemed to a agree on is that passion is not something we follow, its something we bring with us. And what is that 'passion' that pays? That requires understanding both 1. What drives us and 2. What drives our 'audience'. As Mike Rowe beautifully demonstrated, while he was an opera singer, it did not satisfy his personal growth, while he meet blood worm farmers and pig ranchers that are fulfilled and happy, success can take the form of the dirtiest work that may not have societal clout.
4. Redefine Success
Perhaps my favorite point was that life and our time within it is finite. And for every success we find, we sacrifice somewhere else. Many successful CEOs are failing at home. Where we choose to invest our time is important and we must understand that inertia or others' expectations cannot be our reason for success in the wrong arenas. If you desire to be the best parent and spouse, you likely will need to reimagine the time you invest as a businessperson. The Olympics may not be in your future, but what is success to you? It is not the same as it is for any other. We have to take stock in what is important to us and assign our time and drives to make those things work. If writing is more important than tv trivia, why assign more time to the lesser goal? If running your own business is more important than dating, don't others tell you being single is failure. That is for you to decide. And it can change. And it will change. And that is REALLY OKAY. In fact, I'm pretty sure that is what a mid-life crisis is - redefining and realigning our time with our true aspirations.
Go have a listen if you haven't already. Maybe on a hour stretch of super sleepy road. It'll make you laugh and think. I promise. And for the record, the correct answer is Cookies - because they've got better toppings than most cake and easier to eat than brownies. Especially with a glass of milk.