What I tell myself everyday.

To all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask is one thing, and this is.. I'm asking this particularily of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism - for the record it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen." - Conan 'O'Brien

October 15, 2009

The Anatomy of Determination

Very interesting article about the anatomy of Determination. And its relationship with Ambition, Willpower, Talent to succeed.

"We learned quickly that the most important predictor of success is determination.....But while it certainly helps to be smart, it's not the deciding factor. There are plenty of people as smart as Bill Gates who achieve nothing."

"I can't think of any field in which determination is overrated, but the relative importance of determination and talent probably do vary somewhat. Talent probably matters more in types of work that are purer, in the sense that one is solving mostly a single type of problem instead of many different types. I suspect determination would not take you as far in math as it would in, say, organized crime."

"The simplest form of determination is sheer willfulness. When you want something, you must have it, no matter what."

"Being strong-willed is not enough, however. You also have to be hard on yourself. Someone who was strong-willed but self-indulgent would not be called determined. Determination implies your willfulness is balanced by discipline."

"That word balance is a significant one. The more willful you are, the more disciplined you have to be. The stronger your will, the less anyone will be able to argue with you except yourself. And someone has to argue with you, because everyone has base impulses, and if you have more will than discipline you'll just give into them and end up on a local maximum like drug addiction."

"If this is true it has interesting implications, because discipline can be cultivated, and in fact does tend to vary quite a lot in the course of an individual's life. If determination is effectively the product of will and discipline, then you can become more determined by being more disciplined."

"In fact the dangers of indiscipline increase with temptation. Which means, interestingly, that determination tends to erode itself. If you're sufficiently determined to achieve great things, this will probably increase the number of temptations around you. Unless you become proportionally more disciplined, willfulness will then get the upper hand, and your achievement will revert to the mean."

"I think there probably are people whose willfulness is crushed down by excessive discipline, and who would achieve more if they weren't so hard on themselves. One reason the young sometimes succeed where the old fail is that they don't realize how incompetent they are. This lets them do a kind of deficit spending. When they first start working on something, they overrate their achievements. But that gives them confidence to keep working, and their performance improves. Whereas someone clearer-eyed would see their initial incompetence for what it was, and perhaps be discouraged from continuing." I think you definitely need a certain amount of hard headedness and warped sense of reality to succeed. Since young I was too concerned with other people's opinion as a gauge of my self worth)

"There's one other major component of determination: ambition. If willfulness and discipline are what get you to your destination, ambition is how you choose it."

"Ambitious people are rare, so if everyone is mixed together randomly, as they tend to be early in people's lives, then the ambitious ones won't have many ambitious peers. When you take people like this and put them together with other ambitious people, they bloom like dying plants given water. Probably most ambitious people are starved for the sort of encouragement they'd get from ambitious peers, whatever their age."

"Achievements also tend to increase your ambition. With each step you gain confidence to stretch further next time."

"So here in sum is how determination seems to work: it consists of willfulness balanced with discipline, aimed by ambition. And fortunately at least two of these three qualities can be cultivated. You may be able to increase your strength of will somewhat; you can definitely learn self-discipline; and almost everyone is practically malnourished when it comes to ambition."

"Note too that determination and talent are not the whole story. There's a third factor in achievement: how much you like the work. If you really love working on something, you don't need determination to drive you; it's what you'd do anyway. But most types of work have aspects one doesn't like, because most types of work consist of doing things for other people, and it's very unlikely that the tasks imposed by their needs will happen to align exactly with what you want to do."

Indeed, if you want to create the most wealth, the way to do it is to focus more on their needs than your interests, and make up the difference with determination.

"For example, willfulness clearly has two subcomponents, stubbornness and energy. The first alone yields someone who's stubbornly inert. The second alone yields someone flighty. As willful people get older or otherwise lose their energy, they tend to become merely stubborn."

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