21st Century Alchemy: What causes success?

Market research company Fond Obshestvennoe Mnenie studies the attitudes and values of Russian society with regards to social issues, politics and the economy.

In 2011, it asked individuals from three broad income brackets: “What are the most important factors for financial success?”

Would they agree with Cervantes’ often-quoted observation in ‘Don Quixote’: “Diligence [careful and persistent work or effort] is the mother of good fortune.”

Long slog over short burst
Presented with eight options – ability and talent; connections; cheating and cunning; entrepreneurial spirit and courage; luck and fortune; good education and qualifications; hard work; presence of initial capital – the respondents were asked to select the three that made the biggest impact.

Two did not get a look-in – ability/talent and luck/fortune – while three were selected twice: hard work, education and connections.

The difference between the low and high income brackets was striking. Selecting connections, cunning/cheating and capital, the low income group clearly believed success was given or stolen – that it wasn’t earned.

Selecting hard work, education and entrepreneurial spirit, the high income group had an entirely different perspective. For them, it wasn’t just hard work, but courage and education (takes work) that contributed the most.

Is success a privilege?
What this tells us is that ‘success’ is determined more by what we believe than the raw ingredients at our disposal (unearned gifts). Put another way, it’s our perspective (our belief) that ultimately determines what we’re willing to do.

The low-income earners in the survey may never succeed because they falsely believe they can’t (no gifts) – their perspective has already stopped them. And if we believe that success comes from gifts, then without them, we may believe we can’t succeed either. Without them, we may not even try.

But the truth is we all have the same access to hard work and courage. The question is: do we believe they matter?

Applying the three ‘R’s
Explore this further with the 3 ‘R’s: Read, Reflect and Respond.

Review: what do you believe contributes the most to success (list)?

Reflect: is it given or earned? Is there a gap between your beliefs and your actions?

Respond: if you believe you can succeed then go for it! If you believe you can’t, change your perspective.

Remember that the right result starts with the right perspective, is motivated by the right response, and is achieved through the right effort.


Too many hours
Q: I’m working at a predominantly Danish workplace and I’ve noticed a trend: expats consistently work overtime and Danes work far less. I don’t want to lose my job, but I can’t keep pulling these hours. ~ Winfred
A: You’re right! On average 40.6 hours compared to 31.2 hours (about 2 extra hours daily). But you’ve no doubt heard: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” The same applies here. So be on the team. If you’re more like a local, you might get noticed more not less. A good work environment is far more than how many hours you work.

Change your change
Q: Our company was recently bought and the organisation was completely ‘restructured.’ What happens now? ~ Lamont
A: Handling workplace transitions can be stressful for everyone – not just for new management, but also for old or pre-existing employees. Everyone should have an open mind, relax and embrace change. Trust each other to do their best, have patience when others resist or make mistakes, and always work together for the best result. Most importantly, lend a helping hand to each other and don’t undermine what is happening (including gossip).

Retirement job
Q: I’m 54, have only had two jobs my entire career, but I’m bored. I’d love to try something new, but I’ve stayed because no-one will hire me. I don’t need the money, but I’m not done working yet. ~ Ursula
A: I don’t think you need a new job or career, just a new perspective. So instead, consider reinventing your reality. It’s simple but not easy: 1) define/redefine what success means to you (now) and envision your life with ‘it’; 2) Research your options; 3) Pick, plan, prepare, and practise. Recent film inspirations: ‘The Intern’ and ‘A Walk in the Woods’
(both 2015).

Learning to love
Q: I’m a trainer at a staffing agency and need to give presentations. I hate them. How do I get my head around it? ~ Whitney
A: In the film ‘Pretty Woman’, Ricard Gere’s character says: “They either love it [opera] or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.” You don’t love presentations and it probably won’t change. You can learn to appreciate them, how to do them better, but you’ll never love them. Accept it and do them, or find someone who loves them.