August 17, 2012
Richard Wiseman is the author of many great books, including The Luck Factor. I’ve spoken with Richard on several occasions, and we share a similar perspective: a myopic focus on goals can reduce how lucky someone is.
Dan Pink (an endorser of my Goal-Free Living book, and author of A Whole New Mind and Drive), interviewed Richard for Fast Company magazine. Here is a small excerpt…
What are some of the ways that lucky people think differently from unlucky people?
One way is to be open to new experiences. Unlucky people are stuck in routines. When they see something new, they want no part of it. Lucky people always want something new. They’re prepared to take risks and relaxed enough to see the opportunities in the first place.
But the business culture typically worships drive — setting a goal, single-mindedly pursuing it, and plowing past obstacles. Are you arguing that, to be more lucky, we need to be less focused?
This is one of the most counterintuitive ideas. We are traditionally taught to be really focused, to be really driven, to try really hard at tasks. But in the real world, you’ve got opportunities all around you. And if you’re driven in one direction, you’re not going to spot the others. It’s about getting people to have various game plans running in their heads. Unlucky people, if they go to a party wanting to meet the love of their life, end up not meeting people who might become close friends or people who might help them in their careers. Being relaxed and open allows lucky people to see what’s around them and to maximize what’s around them.
Much of business is also about rational analysis: pulling up the spreadsheet, running the numbers, looking at the serious facts. Yet you found that lucky people rely heavily on their gut instincts.
Yes. You don’t want to broadly say that whenever you get an intuitive feeling, it’s right and you should go with it. But you could be missing out on a massive font of knowledge that you’ve built up over the years. We are amazingly good at detecting patterns. That’s what our brains are set up to do.
Be sure to read my article from yesterday which provides mathematical “proof” for why a focus on specific goals can reduce luck.
August 13, 2012
Given my recent articles on success, I felt it was appropriate to dig up an old one (from 2007) which talks about how we never really know what made us successful….
A couple of nights ago, I gave a presentation to a group of eager individuals who are either launching or advancing their speaking careers. During our 90 minute discussion, I gave dozens of tips and techniques for growing their business.
At the end of the evening, one attendee asked, “What is the MOST important tip?” I thought about this for a minute and replied, “I don’t know.”
Although this answer may seem like a cop out, it is in fact the truth. No one REALLY knows what made them successful. More importantly, they have no idea how others can replicate their success. They may be able to look at a series of events that led to a particular outcome. But most likely the “most important tip” is something completely different than what is seen on the surface.
Last year I attended a “book marketing” conference led by a well known author who has sold millions (and millions) of books. His promise was to provide steps and tools that made him successful so that others can also reap the rewards. Thousands of people have tried his formula over the years and as far as I can tell, none have come even close to his level of success. Those that achieved some level of success did so by riding on the coat-tails of this author, leveraging his name and network. [NOTE: leverage is one key to success, so this is not necessarily a bad formula]
I am not implying that these experts are misleading or malicious. Not at all. The issue lies in our inability to find the correct correlations between cause and effect. Too many hidden factors play a major role – ones that we might never consider or notice. Most experts use anecdotal evidence to support their conclusions. “It worked for me and a few of my buddies, so it should work for you.” This is faulty reasoning. Maybe the expert’s “10 Steps to Financial Wealth” were not the true causes of their success.
There are many, harder to measure factors that often play a substantial role. Your attitude plays a larger part than you might think. Your Rolodex of contacts can be a huge part of the equation. Being in the right place at the right time has launched many businesses, including Microsoft (see my Sliding Doors Success article).
Or sometimes plain old dumb luck is the real cause. Fortunately, in the case of luck, people can create their own luck. Studies show that those who are less goal-oriented are luckier than “goalaholics” because they are open to possibilities outside of their narrow goal-focus. [NOTE: This is a significant part of my new research on innovation and success. Stay tuned.]
So the next time someone makes a suggestion – or someone tries to sell you their 5 steps to success – be skeptical. Although it may be great advice, it may also be (unintentionally) misinformed counsel. They may not know the REAL cause of their success. Then again, this blog entry is my advice to you – so it too should be taken with a grain of salt.
P.S. Notice this entry is entitled, “Never TRUST an Expert” and not ‘Never LISTEN to an Expert.” There is a lot that can be learned from others.
March 16, 2012
As readers of this blog know, back in November 2005, I was on the cover of O Magazine. No, my face was not on the magazine. But an article talking about my Goal-Free Living philosophy was featured on the cover. The picture to the right is the actual cover from back then. You will notice an article titled, “What the Happiest People Know for Sure (page 87).” That is my article.
And now, after over 6 years, the article is online for everyone to read.
Some of you may remember an article I wrote for the American Express OPEN Forum, the title of which implied being in O “hurt” my business. Yes, I chose a very provocative title to stimulate interest and discussion, and I succeeded. For quite some time it was the most commented and viewed article on the entire AMEX site. It was controversial. And yet I am convinced that many people did not really read the article and immediately jumped to conclusions. I made it VERY clear that being in O Magazine had nothing (or at least very little) to do with the downturn of my business over a half dozen years ago.
My good friend Jane Atkinson often says, “Pick a lane and stay there.” That is, choose an area of expertise and stay hyper-focused on that. At that point in my career, I was operating my business like a drunk driver: changing lanes and confusing my clients and prospects. I was an innovation expert featured in The New York Times. And at the same time, I was writing about not having goals (my Goal-Free Living book) and was featured in Oprah’s magazine. My corporate clients began to question my dedication to innovation and big business. And my prospects were confused by my lack of focus. As Jane also says, “A confused buyer never buys.” And so my business suffered at that time – not because of a magazine article, but rather a lack of focus on my part.
I want to make it clear: I am SO proud of being featured in O-The Oprah Magazine. And I am thrilled that my article, after all of these years, is now available for everyone to read.
February 1, 2012
NOTE: This article is on the American Express OPEN Forum with the title “How to Make Goal-Setting Work for You.” But the title I really wanted was “Goals Are Stupid.” I’ll let you decide if they are or not.
We are a society obsessed with goals. Nearly everyone sets them. In fact, we just finished the most popular goal-setting day of the year: New Year’s Eve. This is when we establish our annual objectives, called resolutions.
Even though goal-setting is in vogue, is it good for us? Maybe, but not necessarily.
After studying goals for nearly 10 years, I have seen that for many, this ritual can lead to both failure and disappointment. Why? Goal-gurus often use words like “achievement,” “success” and “potential.” They position these concepts in a way that sounds appealing. “Get a better job.” “Make more money.” “Find the perfect partner.” Although our culture has placed a high value on success, money, status and fame, none of these are what we really want. I believe the ultimate goal for human beings is “happiness.”
So, what is it that makes people happy?
A few years ago, I commissioned a statistically valid study that uncovered some startling figures:
- 58 percent of people admit to willingly sacrificing their happiness today in the belief that when they achieve their goals they will be happier. This means that over half of all goal-setters believe that happiness only exists in the future when they achieve their goals.
- Sadly, according to the same study, 92 percent of people fail to achieve their annual goal—their New Year’s resolution. And it appears that this failure rate applies to all goal-setting.
But what about the 8 percent who achieved their goals? Clearly they must be happy with the results. But surprisingly, 41 percent of those who achieved their goals found that the accomplishment did little to improve their happiness. In fact, they were left disillusioned, dissatisfied and worse afterwards. Why? Many realized they inadvertently set the “wrong” goal. What’s the response? Set yet another goal, and allow the vicious cycle to continue.
If you do the math, this means that only about 5 percent of goal-setters both achieve their goals and are happy as a result. And many of those “successful” 5 percent become acclimated to the fruits of their labor and the happiness wears off. The more money you make, the more money you want. The bigger your house, the more space you desire. The more successes you obtain, the more success you want.
This acclimation perspective is supported by Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, in an interview in the January/February 2012 Harvard Business Review. He says:
“A recent study showed that very few experiences affect us for more than three months. When good things happen, we celebrate for a while and then sober up. When bad things happen, we weep and whine for a while and then pick ourselves up and get on with it.”
He contends that happiness is not linked to achievement. In fact, he provides striking examples of people who had experienced “horrible” circumstances yet were ultimately happier in the long run. Apparently, we are good at finding the “silver lining.” On a lighter note, he quotes Pete Best, the drummer in the Beatles who was replaced by Ringo Starr before the band became big. He is now a session drummer and said, “I am happier than I would have been with the Beatles.”
Achievement does not necessarily drive happiness—nor does having “more” or “less.” To be clear, I am not advocating that people sit idly while eating bonbons and watching Jerry Springer. A life like this is neither juicy nor exciting and will most likely lead to hedonistic tendencies and a feeling of being lost. You still need to have something pulling you forward; something that gets you energized.
So here is what I am suggesting…
If you enjoyed this article, please press the “like” button on the American Express OPEN Forum website and spread the love. Also, please leave comments there.
January 12, 2012
If you have not read my article on “Making Resolutions That Work,” please do so. Or, if you prefer, you can read the variant of this article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal exactly one year ago today by clicking on the image.
The general premise is that instead of setting resolutions that are specific goals (e.g., lose 10 pounds), you want to create themes that help guide you and your decision making throughout the year.
After spending a week of reflection, I have settled upon three themes:
- More Money, Less Work, Greater Impact – This is my business theme. In particular, I expect to create passive income revenue streams (i.e., make money in my sleep) through repurposing my content and levering channel partners. By doing this, I can then focus my energies on activities that will have the greatest impact on business and society.
- Rituals – I usually joke that I lack discipline, so I considered that as my theme. But “discipline” sounds so harsh and not something that inspires me. Then it hit me. While on vacation recently I had some rituals (e.g., reading an inspirational passage upon waking or drinking tea before going to sleep) that I loved. I realized I could treat “the things I need to do” as rituals. If I think of writing, calling clients, managing the books, and other tasks as rituals, maybe they will inspire me more.
- Perfect – This theme may seem a bit odd. But when on vacation (reflecting on my theme for the year), I used the word “perfect” at least 100 times to describe the trip. I realized that perfect is a state of mind. When you declare things to be perfect, they are perfect. How you see things gives you the reality. Therefore, by declaration, 2012 will be “perfect.”
These themes get me excited about the New Year. They also make activities that might have seemed tedious, more enjoyable (in particular the ritual theme).
What are your themes for 2012?