This post at Jezebel.com got me thinking about the attitudes we get from mass media when it comes to successful people. It seems that Cosmo ran one of their (in)famous quizzes, this one titled, Are You Destined For Success? If your answers indicate that you possess any shred of human decency, you are labeled an “Undetermined Dawdler” with no chance of succeeding in business or in life. The “correct” choices in this quiz involve being deceitful, sneaky and manipulative, while not displaying raw ambition because that would apparently be unladylike.
Of course, anyone who actually takes advice from Cosmopolitan magazine has deeper problems than can be addressed here. And if this attitude only existed in a quiz written by a bitter freelance writer making less than $20,000 a year, it could easily be ignored. However, it is reflective of what we are taught about successful people in all kinds of media. The boss is always the person who got ahead by stealing the ideas of underlings, lying, and pretending to be nice to people while actually stabbing them in the back. Sometimes literally. How many times have you watched an episode of Law and Order where the murderer is the successful businessman?
Many of us have mixed feelings about successful people. We resent them, all the while wanting desperately to be one of them. And when the depictions of successful people as evil are repeated again and again, we internalize those ideas. We start to believe that people who have reached the heights must have gotten there through nefarious means.
Perhaps those who do not become successful (or are not yet successful) console themselves by thinking that they could have gone further, if only they were ruthless and evil enough. Or they believe that the achiever was just “lucky.” Well, luck is a factor in all of our lives but, as the saying goes, I find that the harder I work the more luck I have.
How do you react to news that someone else has gotten something you want, or achieved your dream? My reaction is typically, “How did she do that? And how can I do that?” I want to know what I can learn from her. That attitude has allowed me to accomplish many things.
Fortunately, many of the successful people I have known have an abundance mentality. They recognize that it is not necessary for someone else to fail for them to succeed. They are willing to share their knowledge and experience to help others achieve what they have.
Do you know of someone who has done what you dream of doing? Learn from them. They may be willing to mentor you or offer consulting or training. If you can not make personal contact with them, find out everything you can about them. Have they written books? Do they have a blog? Are there books and articles written about them? Have they given speeches? There may be clues there that can help you.
Reverse engineering can help you find the path to success. The specific techniques will depend on what you are trying to do, but studying their career path or life journey will show you ways you can replicate their success. I chose the word “replicate” rather than “duplicate,” because no two people are alike and your path will not be exactly the same as someone else’s. However, you can follow similar steps to reaching your dreams.
Being ruthless and manipulative is not a long-term strategy for success. Building relationships, learning from others and sharing what you know will take you much further. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Apparently, that Cosmo writer never heard that you meet the same people on the way down that you did on the way up.