I worked in advertising for a long time. It’s an industry that seems to attract some of the smartest, funniest and most creative people in the world.
For nearly two decades, I worked with many people who are so talented you’d think they were born to do this.
You know who they are. The ones who spend the least amount of effort, yet get the most amazing results. Everyone loves their work but secretly hates them for making everyone else look like an amateur.
Success seems to be reserved for these unicorns. The rest of us are destined to be either cheerleaders or hecklers in their parade.
In her book “Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your Potential”, Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck shares how people with natural talent can easily fall into a fixed mindset.
This fixed mindset ultimately limits their growth and success in life.
Undoubtedly, talent is a great thing to have and it gives an advantage. Yet when results can come without much effort, these “naturals” may not learn to work hard or cope with setbacks.
After leading award-winning teams at work for a decade, I found that the individuals who achieve the most success don’t always have prodigious natural talent.
But they always have an edge about them.
This edge they carry with them transcends talent and other tangibles like skill, strategy and situation.
They find success through a positive mental attitude that is the foundation of their edge.
Looking to find your edge? You’ll need to do these three things.
Number One: Feed Your Hunger
Many people dream of professional success. But what separates the winners in life from the dreamers for life?
A hunger for success.
Tony Robbins has said that hunger is more important than intelligence, that it is the key difference maker in successful entrepreneurs.
Paul Arden reminded us that “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.”
Every quest starts with the want of success. When you make your dream the destination of your journey, your hunger for success pushes you on.
We don’t get to live our dream unless we want it. And I don’t mean the “Yeah I want it, give it to me” variety. That’s asking for a Happy Meal at McDonald’s.
Think General Maximus in Gladiator and his steely “I will have my vengeance in this lifetime or the next”. That’s wanting it.
Attaining success is hard — and rightly so. You have to be serious about your dreams or they will stay as dreams.
Look at UFC champion Conor McGregor. Already at the top of his game, he’s still as hungry as they come. He wants it. He has it. He wants it still.
Forget his fighting talent for a moment. You just don’t want to be in the cage with this man.
He’s a very hungry dog and you’re in his way to his favorite peanut butter biscuit.
Anybody can achieve success through a positive mental attitude. But why is hunger so important?
Hunger will not be denied
The hungry ones are too single-minded and determined to quit in the face of obstacles. They take setbacks as a sign of their proximity to success and use them as motivation.
Actually, they will use anything they can find as motivation.
Hunger is better
They work to get better. They already know that to reach their goals, nothing less than their best effort will do.
While others snooze, they are putting in all kinds of work that don’t even remotely rhyme with ‘snooze’.
Hunger is smart
They are not content with outworking the competition, they want to outsmart everyone too.
This has nothing to do with raw intelligence, but it has everything to do with unconventional thinking and creative problem-solving. They get around challenges and get ahead.
• • •
How can you become this sort of undead-Terminator hybrid? To find success through a positive mental attitude, here are four powerful ways to do that.
a) Find your Bill in Kill Bill
Like all great plans, the plotline of this Tarantino classic is delightfully simple and single-minded:
The Bride takes down a lot of people to finally get to Bill.
Now it’s your turn: think of your goal as Bill. What’s your Bill?
Whether it’s starting your own business or writing that book, it’s now your mark.
Dig deep to find that ONE thing you absolutely have to achieve that will complete you as a person.
Now channel your inner The Bride. Let nothing and no one stand in your way.
b) Immortalize your failure(s)
You may know the story of how the greatest basketball player to ever play the game was left off his high school team.
Every time Michael Jordan got tired from practice, he would close his eyes and see the list of chosen players — without his name on it, of course — and he would get up to practice some more.
Have you experienced an unforgettable failure? Perfect. Never forget it. Use it to succeed.
c) Who else are you doing it for?
Everyone needs help to succeed. If you’re like most people, life will hit you and hit you hard with its litany of sucker punches.
If your goal is centered on you and only you, you will be shaken when you run into obstacles bigger and tougher than you.
But if you are also doing it for someone who has sacrificed for you, someone who has supported you, someone who needs you, the respect you have for them will help you find another gear to beat the odds.
d) Never forget how you started
Along the way to your goals, you will get to suffer temporary failure and celebrate small successes.
Remember how you started, and neither good or bad days could sway your focus. Remind yourself that things are never as good or bad as they seem.
Keeping an even keel is the smart and steady approach as you go about this business of nailing your dreams.
When thinking your goal, ask yourself how much do you want it. How much are you prepared to struggle, sacrifice, or even suffer for it? Your answers may predict your success or failure.
• • •
Number Two: Draw strength from setbacks
Angela Duckworth, a researcher from the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a study at the famed West Point military academy in the US, known for its brutal, high drop-out rate initiation program.
She tracked over 2,000 new cadets across various personal attributes including school results, intelligence, leadership potential, physical fitness, and mental toughness.
Her research found out that when it came to completing the program, it wasn’t the smarter, or physically stronger, or more leadership-ready cadets who had the advantage.
It was the cadets with higher scores for mental toughness – or grit – who were 60 percent more likely than their peers to finish the initiation program.
Harsh conditions do to our mindset what a sharpening stone does to a knife.
We are built to survive and even thrive under difficult conditions. Look at the human body. Our muscles only grow when load stress breaks down their fibers.
They are repaired through a cellular process to be stronger than before.
Adversity is life’s idea of a workout session. Sure, we will feel the pain and aches. But we will also feel stronger. More resilient. More alive.
In his bestselling book David vs Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell argued how difficulties in life may actually help individuals achieve success.
Difficulties in life and work are pretty common. We all know someone who got fired. Or someone who got passed over for a promotion they deserved. Someone whose business failed. Had a personal meltdown. Or developed health issues because of a stressful lifestyle.
Some never find their way back.
Those who do, come back stronger, proudly flexing their resilience muscle.
But what separates the comebacks from the casualties? Here are 4 important questions to consider in times of difficulty:
a) What can you learn from this that you can’t learn anywhere else?
It’s never a failure if you have learned something. Remove the labels on experience — good or bad.
All events and experience teach us something. We learn more about ourselves during tough times. You never know what hidden resources or assets you may have, until dire situations call for them.
(Source: The School Of Life)
Thomas Edison insisted he didn’t fail 1,000 times to invent the light bulb; he merely used 1,000 steps to do it.
b) What are your strengths and how do you make the most of them?
When setbacks hit, it shakes even the best of us.
Remember that whatever happened to you doesn’t have to be your story — you can rewrite it.
This is when we lean on our talents and strengths, instead of dwelling on our weaknesses. Positive psychology is fast recognized as an excellent way of managing our self-confidence.
What do you want to be known for? What have you been doing well? What do people compliment you on?
c) Imagine that you have achieved your goals. What changes did you make for that to happen?
Sometimes the answers to our problems lie dormant within us. They stay hidden away because we may be unwilling to acknowledge certain inconvenient truths.
Often, a setback is the alert siren before the real storm.
Missed the promotion? Maybe you weren’t as ready as you thought you were, you’ll be burnt-out had you been promoted.
That doesn’t mean you change your goals. Instead, change the way to get to your goals. Think about what’s working and what’s not. Align them with your purpose, identity, and strengths.
d) What can you do now to turn this setback into a good thing?
Thinking forward — instead of lamenting or regretting — is the critical step to staying present and focused.
Could it possible that what you label a bad thing today could, at some point in the future, turn out to be a good thing? Think about what you need to do to make that happen.
Take decisive action. What do you need to do now? What is important about this five years from now? When will you begin?
Success isn’t the absence of failure, it’s reaching your goals despite experiencing failure.
• • •
Number Three: Make gratitude your attitude
Building up your mental edge takes work. You’ll have to want to achieve your goals bad. You’ll have to bounce back from setbacks.
This is why having an attitude of gratitude is so important.
The calm of gratefulness balances out the emotion and energy of ambition and resilience.
Studies have shown that being grateful has enormous benefits, here are three of them for our professional development:
a) We like ourselves more
When we’re taking pause to be grateful for who we are — our strengths, experience, relationships and values — we stop comparing with others.
Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack.
A study found that being grateful is negatively correlated with envy and social comparison.
Your mental edge is stronger when it’s built on bettering yourself, not bettering others.
b) We cope better with difficulties
Life is full of surprises. Guess what, you won’t like all of them.
When life throws you a curveball, gratitude is proven to reduce negative emotions like frustration, resentment, and regret.
When you’re grateful for your experience and the lessons you’ve learned, you’ll be more in control of your future.
A study of Vietnam war veterans found that those who practiced gratitude had a lower incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
If gratitude can work for those who had to brave bullets and bombs in the battlefield, it’ll work for you if you messed up that presentation.
c) We feel more optimistic
In a bad situation, the pessimist says, “Things can be worse.”
The optimist simply smiles and replies, “They can.”
Negative people typically focus on the negative things around them.
Gratitude is the antidote that helps you see the positives in your life.
Consciously look out for things you can be grateful for. This helps you become more present in your actions and interactions with others.
In his book “Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier”, researcher Dr. Robert Emmons showed how people who practiced gratitude boosted their optimism by as much as 15%.
How to consciously practice gratitude:
1. Start every day by taking three minutes to think of three things you’re grateful for.
2. Write a gratitude journal. Write down 5 things you’re grateful for and why
3. Do a 15-minute daily or weekly gratitude meditation
• • •
To succeed through a positive mental attitude, you’ll need to include these three critical mindset adjustments. Together, they become your most valuable talent.
Do you agree that talent is optional for success? How did you get your mental edge? What other positive mental attitudes helped you? Leave a comment below to share.