Why are people successful?

I’ve just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers.”

This book focuses on the reasons people are successful, or not.

It seems culture, and where/when you grew up might actually play a part, but there is nothing wrong with that!

Because I love to learn about successful people and the creative potential of the mind, I read a lot of business books, biographies and lots of things about the human condition.  This book is worth a read.
My favourite quote in the book is “Achievement = Talent and Preparation“.

Success is not sheer talent alone.

That’s inconvenient.

Now our excuse for not pursuing our goals – that limited belief “I’m not talented enough” goes right out the window!

It is time to take responsibility and Just Do it.

That’s the secret, isn’t it?

If we want to be a successful writer or artist or art curator or poet or songwriter or screenwriter or business owner or world class skateboarder, or whatever else it is that we dream of being, WE must TAKE ACTION.

Finding the ideas is the easy part.

Making the time for the work is far more difficult.

The only difference then between those that are successful, and those that are not, is that the successful ones set their goal (or goals) and every single day, put their attention, focus and time into DOING the things to take steps toward their goals.

I’ve developed the habit of sitting at my computer and writing, every single day, regardless of whether my inspiration is shining or not.

I write.

And later I polish, and edit. 

I’ve always suspected that if we could take that little seed of talent in our bones, and stop wishing and hoping but instead, gave seed the time, and lessons, and lots of hours practice (all of which would protect the roots), one day we’d wake up and realise that our creative dream had COME TRUE!

We might not be Lady Gaga on a world stage, but we would be singing for our supper!

Malcolm also introduced KIPP public schools. The vision of a KIPP school is that every child grows up free to create the future they want for themselves and their communities.

A KIPP school believes every student walks through the doors of school bearing gifts. Talent, Perspective. Drive. Inspiration. Their job is to support every student to see those gifts, then build the skills and confidence they need to pursue their highest aspirations. 

A key tool they use is the The SSLANT Protocol. This stands for:

  • Smile
  • Sit up
  • Listen
  • Ask questions
  • Nod when spoken to
  • Track with your eyes

Simple, isn’t it?

Last week, I was talking to a doctor whose son attends the top-ranked boys college in our town.

“All the young boys were lined up outside their classroom, with their boater hats on.  The teachers told them that once they saw their parents arrive, they were dismissed for home. My son saw me, then turned about face, walked over to his teacher, took off his boater hat, shook her hand and said goodbye. In that moment,  I knew he’d be all right in life”

This exit scenario is different from a typical classroom where children stand behind desks and sing “Good afternoon, Teacher”, wait for the bell to ring, then rush off in a flurry of activity, a whirlwind tornado of chaos.

One of my mentors, years ago, encouraged me to greet, and farewell, every child with a handshake and their name.  As in, “Good Morning Tom. How are you today?”

I believe this eye-to-eye, HEART to HEART, contact each day is the greatest gift we can give the children in our classrooms. When children grow up believing that they have every right to be here, feeling respected and able, they mature with a deep belief in themselves and their ability to succeed.

But what if you didn’t have that growing up? I don’t think that can be an excuse.
  Why not start believing in your ability to be successful now?

We can start with these KIPP principles.


Sit up


Ask questions

Nod when spoken to

Track with your eyes

It starts with a smile.

With every person I encounter this week, I’m going to smile, sit up, listen, ask questions, nod when I am spoken to, track with my eyes, and greet everyone I meet by their name.

It continues to amaze me that we can practice outward behaviours and make such an impact on our internal reality.

Success. Here we come.

I’m betting that if you make these six behaviours part of your everyday reality, it won’t be long before you are back at the page, roaring and ready to go into action and achieve those dreams and goals of yours.

Cheers to your future success!

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