Thursday, August 6, 2009


A friend of mine went to see Dr Phil.  She said that one of the key messages he made is that 'successful people do what unsuccessful people don't'.  I don't think he meant it in the way that successful people drive fancy cars or eat caviar.  

I think he meant that successful people are willing to do things that other people won't take a chance on.  He cites studies of successful people that show that they are prepared to take risks outside their comfort zone.  You could question the studies and say, 'How can you contrast successful people when it's self-defined?'.  Or in other words, what exactly is success?  If success is being exactly where you want to be, comfortable and content, then surely taking risks puts that success at jeopardy.  

So it seems like he's taking more of a socio-economic view of success... being in the top x% of humanity.  What stops people pursuing that, from taking those risks?

I think one of the biggest obstacles is that in life, we are always dealing with imperfect information.  We never know how one course of action will pan out, as there are so many other variables in play.  Sometimes, we don't even have enough time or energy to think about all the possible choices, let alone evaluate which one is most likely to be successful.  

You could probably argue that even not doing anything is a choice.  I think it is also a result of just not being sure of what to do, and waiting for more information to make the choices easier. Also, another reason why you wouldn't make an active choice is that you then live with the burden of the choices you make, whereas by sitting by and reacting to how things happen, you do not face the same burden.  Taking risks and moving out of your comfort zone can radically change lives, and the stress and strain of adjusting to either a success or a failure could be a significant barrier.

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