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How to be successful

  1. Feb 12, 2008 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    Recently I heard a very insightful comment made by an author [name unknown] who studied highly successful business people. The comment hit me like a ton of bricks - one of those aha moments that makes it seem as if we always knew this but just never thought about it. She said that the one common trait that she noticed in everyone studied was that they don't blame other people or events for their failures. Rather than saying, such and such failed because of so and so, they would say something more like "the failure resulted from my failure to do action X, or I failed to realize Y, etc. They always took responsiblity for their failures and then considered what they should have done differently. It was all about what they did wrong and how to improve themselves.

    It also struck me that this is a truth valid for any pursuit.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2008
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  3. Feb 12, 2008 #2
    Hmmm. That's definitely virtuous. I wonder though if it's totally related to success, though, because in many political environments ensuring that blame is placed on others instead of you seems essential to success. If you look at all the people who have climbed high in corporate or government bureaucracies, how many of them have made it there without having displaced blame from themselves at some point or another?

    I'd be inclined to say that the success probably wasn't worth it, though.
  4. Feb 12, 2008 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    Even politicians have the dark of the night.

    There is a quote from the Pulizer Prize winning author Thomas Friedman, in the quotes thread:
    ~ In the US, politicians tell lies publically and the truth privately. In the middle East, politicians tell the truth publically and lie in private.

    Note that in both cases they allegedly know the truth.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2008
  5. Feb 12, 2008 #4


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    I don't think it's so much where you place the blame for something going wrong as where you place the responsibility for fixing it so it goes right the next time. Afterall, part of success may be saying, "This is something too important to leave for this other person who already botched it to fix, I need to do it myself."

    On the other hand, if one takes TOO much of the blame for failures, they may hinder their ability to delegate work to others, which also hinders success. Nobody really can do everything, so you need to be able to decide which things you can turn over to someone else and who you can trust to handle it, and only handle the most important things yourself (afterall, that's why you're going to pay yourself the big bucks when your company is successful, because you're going to handle the BIG problems).

    And, I do think it applies to politicians too. They may get away with it once or twice if they're making a lot of other sound decisions, but if they start to establish a pattern of making others scapegoats, that's when they start to fail (afterall, that's what finally happened to Bush...even his most ardent supporters began jumping ship when one after another person in his administration "resigned to spend more time with the family" over what were ultimately Bush's bad decisions).
  6. Feb 12, 2008 #5
    The most important thing to be successful in achieving goals is when your employees share the same goals. You'll make it if you succeed to form a team around you that has only one objective, to make and keep capo happy. Because if he is happy, they are too as they have experienced. Knowing exactly how to interact with them is also a key for success. part of that is how to handle disappointments. A reaction like: "I didn't realize that I was insufficient clear...." may be far superior to "you stupid....Can't you listen" That's the leadership part,

    then there is the management part and luck.
  7. Feb 12, 2008 #6
    people like steve jobs, steve ballmer and numerous other prominent bosses are renowned for screaming at their staff and blaming anyone but themselves for things going wrong. but bosses (including this kind) tend to know when to take the blame, like if their team screws up then they don't go "but it was my team!" like some kind of baby to their clients, they are responsible for those they command.

    this is a prime example of telling people what they want to hear. everyone wants to hear the moral "take responsibility for your actions" in stories so they can build themselves up off it. if you're the science guy and you bring me broken science then you screwed up - simple as that.

    Edit by Ivan: advertising deleted.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 12, 2008
  8. Feb 13, 2008 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    My take was more from the angle of "those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it". However, there no doubt that self-flaggelation is never productive. Also, the words "blame", "guilt", and "virtue" for that matter, were never used in the discussion. The tone was one of pragmatism.

    Relating back to the example of politicians or someone like Gates, another thought is that a person's process of self-evaluation as discussed in a book may have nothing to do with their public face. I think these are two completely different situations, which is in part why politicians write memoirs.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2008
  9. Feb 13, 2008 #8


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    I think success is based not only on competence, but an inner drive and acceptance of personal responsibility.
  10. Feb 13, 2008 #9
    I believe that you are exactly right. However, as you probably suspect, it is a very old concept. It is a given that excelling in just about any field is a process of continual improvement, which can only happen if a person looks at what he/she did not do so well and look for ways to do it better. I would not be surprised if Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan are often their own worst critics.

    Here are some quotes that I have heard from different people that all relay the same message:
    "The road to failure is lined with excuses."
    "It doesn't matter to your body why you ate junk. What matters is that you ate junk."
    "We all have excuses. It's just that losers use them and winners don't."
    "Become very good at making excuses and you won't be very good at much else."
    "Many people don't reach their potential because it's much easier to point fingers than to look in the mirror."

    With all of that being said, I believe that the first step in being successful is for the person to figure out what he/she wants to achieve. Basically, trying to succeed without a goal is like trying to hit a target that doesn't exist.
  11. Feb 13, 2008 #10
    hey come to think of it, if something fails and you know that it is because of someone, the main point is figuring out how you won't bump into him/use him again and not something like " Hey I failed because this guy sabotaged my venture, It's all his fault and I hope I dun runinto him next time". I guess it's not so much of whose fault it is but rather what we have to gain from the lesson learnt!
  12. Feb 13, 2008 #11
    When ever I find something screwed up my first thought is "What did I do wrong?" I don't know if it's because I take personal responsibility or if it's more "Where there's smoke there's fire."
  13. Feb 13, 2008 #12
    If somebody makes your venture fail then you should wonder why he had the opportunity t do so and if he had a motive to do so (deliberately) or was it accidently.

    If this person is a third party or competitor, you may wonder what you did wrong in order to give him the opportunity and why you did not consider his motive to do so. Why didn't you see it coming? or at least why didn't considered the possibility and the consequences?

    If the failure was due to an employee, why didn't you anticipate the possibility. Were you sure that he was willing, capable and loyal, the right man for that job?

    See how much difference you could have made between being successful and failure?
  14. Feb 13, 2008 #13
    yep, the main point was that we have to learn from our lessons or we would have paid for the lesson for nothing
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