For the last 30 years US parents, schools and youth athletic teams were all fed a singular, central message about how to rear successful children and guess what? They were wrong. All the developmental literature and experts have been pumping out the message: self-esteem is the #1 ticket to success.
That’s why all the kids playing T-ball got a trophy, whether they won or not. Some leagues didn’t even keep score. After all, athletic contests weren’t about athletic ability, training, or practicing. And, they certainly weren’t about real winning. They were engineered to be all about building up your self-esteem. Hence, the endless ribbons, trophies and even grade inflation that were meant to fill up the well of self-esteem that would somehow flow over into a river of success.
Schools and parents were fed, and then recycled a stream of “build them up” rhetoric, because children were supposed to be protected from feeling the pain of poor performance and criticism. Competition and comparison were evil doers. Self-esteem was to be preserved at all times.
No one was better, we were all just different.
At least that’s the way it has been in the US. Of course, from other cultures we heard about draconian measures taken by so-called “tiger parents,” who pressured, demanded, and withheld any fun that could possibly get in the way of perseverance.
In the US, parents were supposed to be helicoptering around their kids, so that all possible praise and good fortune wouldn’t dim the bulb of self-esteem.
Turns out all that is hogwash. Self-esteem, earned or not, isn’t a causal factor of success. Self-esteem is a by-product of success. If not, you simply have a person with a bloated ego, poor self-management and a complete misunderstanding of what work is.
This is why so many managers are completely perplexed about their entry level employees. Many of these new workers seem to think that simply showing up is the job – and by the way, when is the next raise and promotion??? I hear an endless litany of complaints from their managers. These folks don’t spell check their work , they don’t finish their work, and they have only a very casual relationship with deadlines. Plus, they don’t get along with other people at work, clients included.
Someone owes us all an apology.
It’s not self-esteem that leads to success.
Self-control leads to success.
In the famous, “can-you-wait-for-two-marshmallows” test with young children who were sat in front of one marshmallow they could eat on-the-spot … you guessed it. What happened to the children who waited; that fraction of the group who exhibited self-control? Decades later, they were successful adults! The one-marshmallow eaters were far behind in wages, job titles and life in general.
Self-control – the ability to patiently wait, to think about future reward while working hard in the present – that is all you need to succeed.
So if you feel unjustifiably proud of yourself for having all those little trophies? Don’t worry. There’s a new chance, every time the sun comes up. Today, you can practice being polite, waiting your turn, or get working on something that is really difficult – and won’t pay off for years to come.
It turns out self-control builds character. And, that’s what it takes to pursue a vision for your own business or build a career in a company or industry. Now get to work!
If you fat shame yourself, then your brain lays down a new set of neural pathways to ensure you feel fat – even if you aren’t. Then, as you repeat your so-called problem to your friends or yourself, you develop even greater dissatisfaction with your body. The final gift from your lips? An increased potential for an eating disorder. That’s why you can no longer “feel fat” on Facebook. At least officially. Because it causes you to harm yourself.
So, let’s say your okay with your fat situation. Your body is okay. And you just said,
“Wow, I’m such an idiot in math. I am dumbfounded by Excel. I never really understood it, and the latest update is beyond me. ”
“Geez, I cannot write this report on time. I am awful at reports. I don’t even know where to start on these things.”
“Gosh, I am such a procrastinator. I keep putting things off. Then, I get so nervous I just rush to get them done. It’s never right, but I settle for done.”
“Man, I am always lost. I could have a GPS, a satellite helmet and a self-driving car. I would still get lost.”
“ Argh, I will never date again. I will never find one decent human being on this planet who loves me. I hate this whole relationship-thing.”
Ta da! You have just created your own life. These negative meditations are laying tracks in your brain, and your train of thoughts know exactly where to go: again and again. You trash talk yourself silently. Your trash talk yourself with friends.
In just a sentence or two each day, you trash your possibilities, your confidence and your happiness.
Next time you call yourself stupid? Stop. Then tell yourself why you are not stupid. Give yourself evidence when you have been just fine, maybe brilliant.
Whatever mantra you’ve been using to cause a lifelong problem, be it about fat, math, software, writing, procrastination, navigation, relationships or more? It is literally all in your head, because it’s been on your lips.
Coach yourself to success!
- Identify the personal traits you want to keep building into your personal brand and your personal intelligence.
- Find an affirming sentence.
- Set your brain to work finding the evidence of how great you are.
- Then lather, rinse and repeat.
You either have it or you don’t. New neuroscience reveals that 20% of the population has what is best described as a innate marijuana-making machine in their brains, resulting in – among other things – a low probability of becoming addicted to opiates and the like. It’s a gene mutation, the good kind.
Beyond the ability to “just say no,” to substances, what does this so-called bliss gene really deliver?
- Relaxation under pressure
- Calm, steady judgment
- Perspective when things goes awry
- Immense self-control and patience
- A cheery, congenial, and agreeable dispositions
So, if you’ve been aggravated about the literature on why tall men earn more than 10X their average heighted peeps, and why naturally thin people are viewed as superior in their ability to get work done on time and on budget?
You now have another fact of biology to disdain. Unless of course, you have that gene mutation. In which case, celebrate for: #whatyourmamagaveyou.
This mutant gene gives you a leg up on the ability to self-regulate, potentially the greatest skill you can have now in business. Yes, it is a skill; although, it’s clear today that’s it’s also a natural inclination for some of us.
Self-regulation is the ability to act gracefully or elegantly in even truly awful circumstances. No matter what’s off, you cause the least friction. Your interactions are streamlined. You use what you take and you take what you need, not a whit more and with no waste of time, talent or other people’s patience.
You can see why bliss gene blessed people are among the most likely to succeed.
What about the rest of us? What about the bipolar, ADD, hysterical, narcissistic, and dependent personalities among us? Are we DOOMED?
No. We are just special.
You may recall a time when parents were advised that not every child was going to be great at everything. No matter how much helicoptering Mum or Dad would do: there really would be failure. And that failure really would direct us to success.
Why is failure good for success? For the same reason that a “no” is as good as a “yes” in selling. A “no” allows you to move on.
What if you are easily irritated, fractious, with little patience for anyone other than your cat? You can move on to something much more self-centered than a large company or a one room office with everybody from the start-up eating onion sandwiches and playing basketball in the hoop over your desk.
Strengthfinders was supposed to give you a path to your bliss, by identifying your innate traits that would be fulfilled by the type of work you do. It was supposed to lead you to the right seat on the right bus. There’s been dozens of books and theories and self-assessments like this. And, there’s been books by folks like Daniel Pink that companies adopt in hopes that a set of core values, vetted by an expert, and written on a wall would be an organization’s salvation from bad bossing, sexism, racism, tribalism, or any other mentally challenged acts or beliefs of the people in the organization.
The problem? Just us. We oftentimes don’t believe what is plainly true. Not everyone is a company man (or woman). Not everyone can put up with everything that goes on in the mayhem of organizational life.
Yet you do belong among the working and likely wealthy, when the corporate gig repels you or expels you. You just belong to the gaggle of amazing superheroes who make it on their own. That includes the genius inventor, the insightful consultant, the there-when-you’re-needed-most freelancer, the call-me-and-I’ll-come-in contract worker, imaginative artisan, or even the tyrant of your own domain (AKA your own blog address).
Bliss gene or not: you belong. It’s just a matter of finding where your real bliss is. It just might be all about finding you.