The Most Important Thing You Will Read All Day (Again)

“It turns out that for all their diversity, the strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex – a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite – insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.”

“What Drives Success”

I didn’t want to change my personality. I told my psychiatrist I wanted to be me all the time.

He told me no one gets to be that way. That to be successful one has to assess situations and choose how to behave.

Let me restate this, utilizing the analogy we developed over time.

What club do you want to hit?

Maybe you’ve never played golf. I hadn’t since I got that hole in one, decades back. But we all know that there are clubs for long and short. Drivers for tees and putters for greens. And under the rules of golf, you get to carry fourteen sticks in your bag. Which one do you want to employ?

You’d never use the putter on the tee. Nor the driver on the green. You assess the distance and the wind, factor in your experience and make a choice. Does it always work out? No, but you learn from both your triumphs and mistakes and adjust in the future.

That’s what winners do.

I was a loser.

I mistakenly believed that life was about reaction. And my reactions were screwed up by…me being me. A bit of paranoia, a need to make sure I was not taken advantage of, an inability to see two steps down the road.

But no longer.

Now I read situations and react accordingly. Thinking about what I want to have happen.

Now let me be clear. Sometimes I want to take out the driver when a putter will do. Someone’s pissed me off so bad that I want to blow them away, or I don’t care about their response.

But generally speaking, I’ve learned impulse control. And at this point my life is laden with invites and opportunities and when I first started to see this doctor it was as barren as the Mojave desert.

As for a superiority complex… What did Bob Dylan say, if he revealed his desires, his innate sense of self, his desire to triumph… He couldn’t, because people step on your dreams, they laugh at you.

That’s what’s funny about most of the people who succeed and sustain. They have no need to tell you how great they are, how big they’re going to be, it’s self-evident. Sure, some rappers break the code, but there’s an exception to every rule, and how long do they last compared to Jamie Dimon anyway.

Huh? That overcompensated banker?

But most of the people in banking and tech did not yearn to be famous at ten, desire to be on television and make a bit of money. They put their nose to the grindstone and waited for the results. That’s the way it used to be in music, before everybody believed they were born a star and just had to convince people by fighting for attention.

As for insecurity… Why do you think the most famous people do it? To cover up that hole inside. To make their lives work. That’s why the greatest of musical stars can never write another hit. They do it to prove something, to make themselves happy, and when all that success does not achieve that inner goal…their motivation is gone. After the women, the cars and the cash, when they still feel rotten, why double down and do the work? Why not just go on tour, play the oldies and count the cash?

Musical stars are the worst. When it comes to insecurity that is. Who’d want to sacrifice that much, burn that many bridges to make it? Don’t equate making it with those TV reality stars. They’ve got no idea what’s involved. It’s just a giant party and they want to partake. True genius is a tortured process. And the peaks barely last. It’s great to be number one today, but the day after you win your award, or the day after that, you’re the same damn person with the same damn problems.

You think you can break the rules?

Good luck.

This article could be much more readable. But if you hang with it until to the end you’ll see that Sonia Sotomayor saved herself. That it’s best with parents guiding and imploring you, but you can be self-directed.

There are very few winners in the world. Sure, coming from a rich family helps. But superiority is not enough. Nor are advantages. Without the above three elements you’re not going to succeed.

I’ve got the superiority complex.

As for insecurity, I’m riddled with it. As referenced in the article, my dad kept telling me I was a POS, that I couldn’t relax and had to do well in school. When I came home with a bad report card he took me to the garage and pounded my skis into the concrete. He was completely out of control. And this resonated. How could I make it and escape?

Not that he wasn’t loving and giving, but he wanted to instill in me the reality that no one was on my side, and if I didn’t do the work, when he was gone, I’d be in trouble.

Sounds bad, I know it.

And for a long time, it never worked out for me. Oh, I had successes, but they didn’t sustain.

That’s when I learned the third part of the puzzle, impulse control. And with the trifecta complete my life zoomed past my competitors, it shot up the chart, coping with the good (and the hate) is much harder than sitting on the sidelines with the sour grapes contingent.

But that was not me. I wasn’t envious of others’ success nor licking my wounds as much as I was flummoxed by how hard I was working and how many brick walls I was hitting.


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