By Samantha Brannon
A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between, he does what he wants to do.” Bob Dylan
We knew them in high school. We knew them in college. Those students who were really smart and who really put in the hours studying. Several years later, however, we find them still working hard, and yet their careers and other parts of their lives just don’t seem to be “taking off.” How does that happen? Well, it happens because there is more to professional and personal success that just being smart and hardworking.
The world tends to see success through a very narrow perspective. Most often, it means having lots of income, so that new shiny things are affordable – the big house, the new car every two years, that country club membership, etc. But success has a much broader definition. It includes great relationships, doing what we love, helping to make this world a better place, and to and being happy with who we are and with what we are yet to become. Within this broader context, then, a lot of smart and hardworking people are not successful. Here are the things that keep them from that success.
- Not Learning to Operate Outside of the Sandbox
The school is a sandbox. We learn to follow the instructions of our teachers; we practice getting along with others in a contrived environment; we learn that working hard will get us good grades and lots of praise; we learn how to memorize and take tests. Life, unfortunately, is not a sandbox. And if we continue to exist in that sandbox, we are always waiting for others to tell us what to do, what and how to learn, and how to be successful.
- Not Reaching Out for New Connections
Lots of smart, hardworking people tend to move in the same circles – that’s where they are comfortable. They continue relationships with like-minded friends from high school or college; they find a niche of like-minded people in their workplace. They stick with these relationships, because they are safe and because they reinforce the values, principles, and inbred standards of “work and play.” Doing this narrows a person’s perspective so much that s/he does not see the almost limitless possibilities within the world.
- Not Taking Risks
Smart, hardworking people often choose security over freedom. There’s a lot to be said about security, of course. But here’s the thing: That security can become so important that we can’t force ourselves to take the risks that will move us up in that hierarchy, and we live what Thoreau called, “lives of quiet desperation.” We are trapped in our bubbles, and we then come to the end of lives wondering what might have been. Taking those first steps are scary, but just one can lead to the next and the next. Thinking up great new ideas has its place, but when there is no follow through, they are, in the end, just daydreams.
- Not Living in the Now
We read a lot about “living in the now,” as philosophers like Eckhart Tolle advise. While many focus on the fact that they should not worry about their futures, this also means not living in the past. One of the most important principles of success is that the past is a great teacher, but it is not a predictor of success today. Every day, we must wake up thinking what ca I accomplish today? What new idea can I work on today? How can I impact others and the world around me today?
- Insisting Upon Perfectionism
Smart, hardworking people often insist upon perfection. This is a holdover from the sandbox of school. They needed that 100% on a test; they needed that perfect “A” paper. And when they get into the world, that habit continues. The problem with perfectionism is that we don’t move forward and are seen by others. Perfectionists cannot delegate and cannot let their team members make mistakes and grow. They micro-manage everything.
- Not Knowing When to Ask for Help
This may come from a lingering sandbox ego. Smart people achieve success through hard work – they always have. So, if things are not working out, then it just means they have to work harder. And so they do. And in the end, when they do not ask for that help, they often fail. And because failure is intolerable, they feel utterly destroyed. People who have experienced failure in the sandbox can tolerate it, and they learn to rise above failure on when it is critical for their success. Never failing at something means we haven’t tried new things – how boring and unfulfilling is that?
The High School Reunion Brings it All Full Circle
Last year, I went to my high school reunion – you know – that event at which everyone tries to demonstrate how successful they have become. The kid who everyone thought would not amount to much now has his own successful business and in thriving in his passion for what he does. The kid you thought would set the world on fire has settled into a corporate position which sounds a bit dull. And me? I am neither rich nor am I settled into a secure job. On the other hand, I am pursuing my passion; I am taking chances and failing sometimes; I believe that what I do helps others, and I wake up each morning wondering what new challenges await that I can sink my teeth into. I’ll go out having enjoyed the ride, and that, to me, is a success.
About the Author:
Samantha Brannon is an entrepreneur and freelancer. She is also a co-founder and writing editor at Trustessay writing service. Samantha loves self-education and rock music.