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WWS is all about your success. The goal of the site is to educate people from around the world on the art of success, so that they can be better equipped to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams.

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What is the Secret of Success?

You must have heard the old cliché that success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  How about the joke about the guy in New York who wanted directions to Carnegie Hall: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” he asked someone on the street, who responded: “Practice, practice, practice!”  This general notion that practice and hard work are important to achieve success has been around for a long time.  But now research has not only confirmed the importance of practice and hard work, but has also claimed that this is all that matters, and that natural talent is irrelevant. 

According to an article by Geoffrey Colvin on CNNMoney.com, researchers have discovered the secret to success:  Painful and demanding practice and hard work.   Keep in mind that success here is narrowly defined as your ability to do a specific activity extremely well, meaning, better than most people.  We instinctively assume that extremely talented people are born that way, and have something in their genes that the rest of us do not possess.  Nonsense, claim the researchers.  They have not found any evidence is their research that supports the notion that being talented is a consequence of possessing innate gifts.

What they have found instead is that in almost all fields, most people learn very quickly at first, but then the speed of learning is reduced and eventually the learning process stops completely.   Except that a few people are able to continue learning and improving for several years and even decades and eventually become excellent in what they do.   The other significant conclusion from their research is that no one can be great without hard work.  It is really this simple: no pain, no gain!

The evidence has shown that most talented people need a minimum of ten years of hard work before they become great, and in some fields they need even more.   There are some great examples in the world of sports that confirm these findings.   Take Michael Jordan as an example.  Naturally talented, you say?  Not so.  Michael was fanatic about practicing, and did not show great talent at an early age – he didn’t even make his high school team.  Ok, but how about Tiger Woods?  It just so happens that Tiger’s dad got him started at a very young age, so by the time he became a well-known champion he had already put in more than 15 years of practice.  And even though he is one of the greatest golf players ever, he still practices diligently and keeps trying to get better.

The kind of practice that makes champions, or great performers in any field, requires much more than just putting in the hours.  The practice needs to be deliberate, meaning you have to set goals that are progressively more difficult.  You must also monitor your progress and make adjustments, or refinements, to keep on improving.  And one more requirement:  you must practice regularly.  Inconsistent or sporadic practice does not produce the same results.

Not all scientists are in complete agreement that hard work and practice are all that matter regardless of your natural talents.  But there is overwhelming evidence that deliberate practice leads to great performance, even for someone that showed no early signs of natural talent.   So if you want to be great in any field, all you have to do is work hard at it.  But working hard is not something that just anyone is willing to do, because the extra effort required to achieve greatness implies pain and difficulty for many years.  So the question that still remains unanswered is why are a few people able and willing to go through what it takes to achieve greatness, while most people would rather avoid all the hard work and pain.

There are many factors that influence success and many qualities that we typically associate with greatness: Good genes, education, courage, intelligence, vocation, positive environment, etc. These may all be important, but even if you lack one or more of these ingredients, evidence shows that it should not stop you from being as good as you want to be in any field you choose to pursue.  What this research is telling us is that any of us can achieve greatness, regardless of any pre-wired limitations that you may have thought you had.  And this opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

If hard work and practice is all it takes to achieve greatness, then, if you are serious about achieving greatness in a particular area, what you need to is figure out a method for staying motivated so that you won’t quit no matter how difficult the task at hand may seem to be.  You have to be patient and give yourself time to improve.   Remember, in most fields a minimum of 10 years of practice is required.

So here you have it.  The key to success, which for the purposes of this article is defined as being great at something, is to be motivated enough to work hard and be persistent for a long period of time.  How do you stay motivated? Motivation is a broad discussion in and of itself and is covered in several other articles.

There Are 5 Responses So Far. »

  1. all true!

  2. […] nature versus nurture debate has been around for a long time.  In the article What is the Secret of Success?  we discussed how some researchers have come to the conclusion that hard work is a stronger […]

  3. […] the impact that his innate talent and work ethics has had on his success.  In the article What is the Secret of Success? we explored the issue of effort versus natural talent extensively.  Let’s see what Will […]

  4. […] immediate gratification will be more successful than those that were not as lucky.  However, other studies have shown opposing views that go as far as attributing success completely to effort and practice, […]

  5. […] Geoffrey James wrote an article for Inc.com with the title “True Secret to Success (It’s Not What You Think)”  The title of the article alone gets you thinking.  Well, he says it is not what I think, but do I even know what it is that I think?  What do I really think it is the secret of success? […]

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