by Brian T O'Toole
Growing up in a middle class family I could not help but admire the rich and famous. The power and charisma of celebrities, sports stars and business magnates was alluring, even to a 12 year old.
I wanted to be as talented as Tiger Woods and as wealthy as Warren Buffet. They represented my hopes and dreams, an aspect of my being that was vacant, personal success.
As time went on my childhood dreams gradually dwindled due to societal expectations and responsibilities. Dreams were replaced with degrees.
I became disillusioned and decided that reaching such levels of excellence and grandeur was beyond any mere mortal, after all these demi-gods were pre-ordained for a life of fame and fortune ... how mistaken I was.
Undergoing a mini-enlightenment period during my early twenties, I discarded my envy and began to examine the individual traits and characteristics of my idols.
Their biographies confirmed what multiple self help books have been peddling for years. Success is not innate, it is acquired. This revelation has had a lasting impact on me.
There is after all a common denominator linking Richard Branson to Jay Z, Oprah to Ronaldo and Steve Jobs to Barack Obama. The common denominator is SEL:
You must be willing to give up something in order to achieve your goal. Whether its leisure time, choice, money, beliefs or habits, something you value must be relinquished. This concept is called opportunity cost in economics i.e., the cost of foregone alternatives. For example if you want good grades in school you must spend more time studying and less time partying. Partying is the opportunity cost.
Tiger Woods was not born a gifted golf player and Mozart was not born with the ability to create beautiful music. Their skills were acquired through perseverance and commitment. Thousands of hours of practice were needed to reach their levels of excellence. Effort is obviously an integral part of the success equation. The book "Bounce" by Mathew Sayed does well to convey the importance of effort in pursuit of excellence.
Never underestimate luck. Those born into western democracies, supportive families and prosperous communities are positioned for success. Their ability to achieve it lies within their desire and willingness to do so. It is obvious that those who lack good fortune face greater challenges and a reduced probability of succeeding. However they are not entirely precluded. It may require relatively more effort and sacrifice.
There are of course many other factors which can contribute to success however these are in my opinion absolutely vital. Feel free to add to the list and share your personal success stories.
By Brian O'Toole
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