Unmasking the One-person Success

A brief history of Success

Throughout the ages of humanity, the idea of success has changed at a speedy pace. Taking 5th century BCE Athens as an example, we know its people, just having seen a tyrant fall, valued politics greatly. The mark of success then could be drawn between those who achieved a political position within their city-state, preferably within the council, and those who never did.

Some of these successful individuals have transcended their time and space and their lives are remembered even today, long after they have died. But, do we have to measure them with the same scale of success? In the book Mindset, the new Psychology of Success (2006, Carol S. Dweck) we can see how success; or rather, the way we view it, has taken a turn. Dweck tells us about Thomas Edison, who, contrary to what you might be thinking, wasn’t a reclusive genius in a lab-coat but a savvy entrepreneur who knew how to catch the eyes of the press.

The question that needs asking

Why does this idea of a lone genius prevail in our minds, then? Here’s what Mindset can teach us about it:

“There are many myths about ability and achievement, especially about the lone, brilliant person suddenly producing amazing things.”(Dweck, 2006, page 57)

If we look deeper into it, we can see that people tend to blame their own failures on others. When it comes to comparing oneself, it’s easy to say “Yes, Edison was a genius and one-of-a-kind, that’s why he succeeded and I don’t”. You’d be surprised to see how many people are inclined to compliment others using words like talent, inspiration and genius.

What really makes people tick, as Dweck puts it? It’s not strict discipline, and it certainly isn’t ‘dumbed-down’ content. We conclude that people thrive when their curiosities are encouraged, their minds fed constant incentives in a loving network of support and companionship. There’s this distinction between people with a ‘growth’ mindset, those who challenge themselves to constantly do better and learn proactively, and people with a ‘fixed’ mindset. It’s as simple as “I couldn’t pass this exam, so I must be dumb”.

The wonderful thing about people is that anyone can develop to unbelievable extents, given the proper guidance and encouragement. Changing from a fixed to a growth mindset is not only possible, but important to do as early as possible. Allow your potential to unfold and never stagnate!

Love,

Fernando.

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