It is very difficult to simplify something as complicated as success, yet as you can see above, I have certainly attempted it. What is important to notice is that I specify “self-made” success and not success in general. It is hard to consider success passed down as true success in life. Therefore, I am not counting the type of success that is passed down from successful parents (it is easy to be seem successful when, from birth, you have all the money and connections you need to get you through life). But I digress.
Successful individuals are typically either very intelligent or very willing to take on risk, or both. You only need one to be successful but having both is an almost guarantee of success.
The problem with intelligence is that it is nearly impossible to measure accurately as there are so many forms of intelligence. However, most people can quickly identify someone as having a particular intelligence – a sort of indefinable quality that serves to grant confidence to those who have it and those who must confide in them. Intelligence leads to great ideas which are successful no matter what you do. Intelligence means knowing what to do and when but intelligence does not necessarily lead to action which is where risk comfort comes in.
An example of someone who has intelligence but lacks risk comfort is a dreamer. Someone who spends all day thinking about how things could be better – but continues to daydream and not take action on it. Some risk and passion must be combined with intelligence for true success to flourish.
Having a comfort level with risk can also be thought of as having passion, doing everything in your power to make something happen. Successful entrepreneurs, for example, must have this passion. Looking at it more literally, it means being willing to do what it takes to be successful and make things happen – potentially risking everything while you do it. Intelligent people are able to accomplish great things while minimizing risk, but some of the greatest accomplishments have required taking on significant risk.
An example of someone who is comfortable with risk but lacks intelligence is a rogue gambler. Someone who always bets it all in the hopes of a big payoff. Sometimes, they will be successful but without intelligence the odds are against them.
Together these two factors are the largest determinants of self-made success. Of course this whole discussion is a simplification of a complex number of factors that determine personal success, however, sometimes it is important to boil concepts down to a simple digestible form.
Can you think of examples of self-made success that didn’t involve either intelligence or risk comfort? What other factors do you think are important for self-made success?