Depending on who you ask, the reasons for success vary across an almost infinite spectrum. A common response is that reaching the pinnacle of success is attributed to luck, a chance event that catapults an individual into the stratosphere of achievement. Another response may be that some people are just born with the characteristics needed to be successful, and that if you aren’t naturally intelligent or talented, you are simply out of luck. Perhaps it is the result of a serendipitous moment where everything magically clicks. Regardless, the reasons for success seem mythical and mysterious. It appears that making it to the top requires a magic formula derived from the greater powers of the universe. After all, if a clear tied and true path to success exists, then why doesn’t everybody make it?
I’ve always been a curious person. I try to find commonalities and draw patterns in the things I observe on a daily basis. It fascinates me to think about why people do what they do, why they are where they are, and why they are or aren’t doing anything about it. I spend a great deal of time reading and learning about successful people, and at the same time I spend a lot of time observing unsuccessful people. As far as finding specific reasons as to why someone is or isn’t where they want to be in life, I can’t draw a unifying conclusion. The fact of the matter is that luck definitely comes into play, as well as circumstances and conditions. Good ideas do go unnoticed, and bad things can happen to good people. Although it is very difficult to create a causational argument as to why people become successful, it is possible to find patterns, and at least provide some anecdotal argument for the reasons people live the life of their dreams or don’t.
First I would like to provide you with my definition of success. To me, being successful has little to do with the amount of money you make. In my opinion, being successful is having the ability to wake up each morning, and do exactly whatever it is that you enjoy doing, without the necessity of doing things that you dislike in order to make a living. Even if you are not currently at that point, I also believe you are successful as long as you’re working towards living an excellent life. It saddens me to see a society in which the majority of people spend the majority of their lives doing things that they dislike, for seemingly no other reason than the belief that they have to. It’s almost as if many of us are living in a sort of dream state that we need to wake up from. We’ve been put under a spell by the intuitions of our society and by the media, which has us living in a zombie like state where we plod through a monotonous routine day after day, and year after year until we are dead. The description I’m giving is bleak because to me, that’s how bad I think it really is.
The opposite of fear isn’t courage; it’s conformity. I think the main reason many people do not live the lives they want is because they are just scared to be different. God forbid you decide that college isn’t right for you when the media and your parents are telling you that you must go or else you are going to be poor. God forbid you decide that you want to start a new and innovative venture in lieu of a corporate job with a 401k plan and benefits. God forbid you decide that you’d prefer to live your life outside of a little box.
The one observation that I’ve drawn is that many, if not all, of the most successful people in the world are divergent thinkers. I believe that the reasons so few people make it is because it requires a way of thinking that so few people possess or faithfully practice. The most successful people in the world aren’t particularly smarter or more talented that the group as a whole, but they do have the ability to think outside the box, or realize that the box doesn’t even exist. It goes against everything we’ve been told since a young age to decide to be an entrepreneur. Any famous entertainer would probably tell you that they were mocked and laughed at when they expressed their vision of becoming what they are now. In the short term, it’s definitely easier to play by the rules and to play it safe; but in the long run, I believe that never taking any risks in life is the greatest risk you can take.
If it weren’t for innovative thinking we wouldn’t be able to enjoy any of the modern conveniences that we have today. Nearly everything that wasn’t purely created by nature is a creation of someone’s mind. The technology needed for me to type these words was once just a hunch inside of a human’s brain. Every product we use was at one time a thought residing in the back of someone’s mind. What if these innovators had decided to play it safe because their ideas weren’t “realistic” or “practical”? Without divergent thinking, the world we live in would be a much different (and presumably worse) place. So which side of the fence do you want to be on? Which route is going to lead you to true prosperity?
I’m not saying that you have to quit your job and start your own venture if that doesn’t fit who you are as a person. I am saying, however, that if you are living a life that is not aligned with what you truly want from your life, you are going to regret it one day. It’s a dull pain that will linger within you, and it won’t hurt that much in the short term, but it will eat away at you slowly, until one day you utter the thought of “what the fuck have I done with my life?”, and sadly, according to your definition, that answer may be “absolutely nothing”.
So back to the question of “Why doesn’t everybody make it?” My conclusion is that the ones who make it make a conscious decision to want to make it. Many of us have dreams and wishes but they never turn into anything more than that. If you want to make it you need to have a clear vision of what being a success means to you, and you have to work towards it. If you never make it and you know that you’ve truly poured your blood sweat and tears into it, you will be able to live with that. If you never take a chance with your life, you will always be left to wonder what could’ve been, and to me that is the greatest tragedy of all.
It may not be feasible to jump right into an alternative career path, but as least you can start to make a plan to change and act deliberately towards your new goals. Ask yourself “Why Haven’t I made it?” and think about it deeply. Then ask yourself “What Do I need to do to make it?” and think about that deeply. Lastly, ask yourself “Can I make it?”
After some careful thought, I believe that you will come to the conclusion that you in fact, can make it.