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What the Most Successful Don’t Know

Many career-related articles that grab attention today have a common theme. They could simply be boiled down to “what really successful people know that you clearly don’t.” In fact, I’ve even written some of those articles! I think they were pretty good—and I thank you for reading them. But in the spirit these days of being unnecessarily controversial, I’d like to spin things a different way. I’d like to discuss the things that the most successful people are completely clueless about

1. They don’t value the concept of potential. Top performers think of potential as a word used to describe someone who wasn't very good but should have been. They believe you're either willing to do what it takes or you're not. So potential = shouldn't have sucked ... but sure did!

2. They don’t really understand why people quit. Effort to them is a constant state of mind that drives continuous action. They think, Why would anyone stop trying to get better? Why would anyone plan to be a historical footnote? Along this vein, researchers find that in various challenging environments, perseverance and passion toward a long-term goal (defined in the study as grit) prove to be better predictors of success than IQ.1

3. They’re puzzled by satisfaction. They wonder why anyone would want to be satisfied. Why would you want to feel like the game is over? Which do you prefer: enjoying a great delicious dinner with friends, or that bloated feeling at the end of a meal that makes you question the concept of pants? They believe satisfaction maybe the goal of the average person, but it's the enemy of greatness.

Does this all mean successful people don’t understand the mindset of failure enough to get caught up in it? Possibly, but one thing's for sure; it proves that it’s not just what you know or who you know; it’s what you don’t know that may be the simple foundation of continuous success.

Allow me to issue a subtle warning, particularly to those who bank on their knowledge and “potential” at the expense of grit and persistence: You may be too brilliant and informed to be No. 1 in your field!

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1 Angela L. Duckworth, et al. (2007), “Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals,” in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92(6): 1087¬–1101. Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6290064_Grit_Perseverance_and_Passion_for_Long-Term_Goals.

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