Successful people have obvious advantages over the rest of us. These range from being born into a wealthy family to education, gender, race and even having nurturing parents.
But if we were to put those aside, which ones are advantages they weren’t necessarily born with? What if we controlled for factors such as wealth, health and background, then started sorting through by benefits that can be learned?
A thread on Quora asked the question: “What is the most unfair advantage a person can have?” The top 10 Quora answers included physical attractiveness and not needing a lot of sleep. These are great if you’re born with them.
But I wanted to focus on three “ unfair advantages” that while, some have naturally, can also be learned with practice.
1. The Ability to Resist Temptation
This answer surprised me.
Delayed gratification is an important measure of success. It’s what keeps the ambitious from cashing out as soon as they make a little money, and the successful people to continue working hard long after they make their first million.
The ability to resist temptation means sticking around for the long-haul, even when short-term rewards seem more attractive. In finance, long-term investors such as Warren Buffet have always fared better than quick traders. Even Cinnabon’s president Kat Cole, who has an amazing success story, took a massive pay cut to go from a Hooter’s girl to take her first corporate job. A singular focus was key to Cole’s success.
One way to harness your willpower? Practice not giving in to every craving as soon as you get it.
2. Being Eternally Optimistic
Scared to fail? In a world filled with examples of young, accidental millionaires, it’s hard to find the strength to try again once you’ve faced adversity.
But bar none, every successful person I’ve met has faced rejection hundreds of times. Sara Blakely, the youngest self-made female billionaire on Forbes’s billionaires list, told me she’s lost count of the number of mill owners who refused to make the first Spanx prototype when she started. Blakely’s unfailing motivation kept her going strong.
This TED Talk by University of Pennsylvania Psychologist, Angela Lee Duckworth, discusses the relationship between success and grit. The ability to bounce back from failure relies heavily on believing you will be successful if you keep trying.
Practicing optimism requires discipline, especially for those of us who grew up in risk-averse cultures. In much of Asia, fear of “losing face” continues to be a very real threat to entrepreneurship. Women in general, are less likely to take risks for fear of failure. Training yourself to always believe in positive outcomes isn’t easy, but it can be an acquired skill with practice.
3. Not Caring What Others Think
One of the top answers on Quora was that successful people “lack a conscience.” I don’t believe you have to be ruthless to succeed. In fact, management thinkers like Adam Grant argue that many successful people genuinely “give” and in turn, get ahead themselves.
Rather than seeing success as a zero-sum game, I find “not caring what others think” is important to succeed.
What differentiates successful people, is they don’t always get influenced (and sometimes, side-tracked) by what others think.
Many of the greatest innovators – from Leonardo da Vinci to Elon Musk – were once ridiculed, or told to abandon their ideas by loved ones. Musk recently talked about the lengths his friend went to dissuade him from his ambitious SpaceX project: “One good friend collected a whole series of videos of rockets blowing up and made me watch those…he just didn’t want me to lose my money.”
This doesn’t mean abandoning all advice and inhibitions in pursuit of your ambitions, but rather, being selective about who you listen to. And if advice doesn’t match your gut instinct, you listen to yourself first.
These were the three advantages that I find can be cultivated. You can’t change the family you’re born into, height and/or physical attractiveness. But I’ve met many successful people who have overcome these disadvantages by channeling optimism, self-restraint and self-belief.
Which of these three could you develop and practice to be more successful?
Culled From: Forbes.com