“I am a big fan of dreams. Unfortunately, dreams are our first casualty in life – people seem to give them up, quicker than anything, for a ‘reality’.” Kevin Costner
“Study hard.” “Get good grades.” That’s what conventional wisdom says. Success, we are led to believe, will be based on natural ability or god given talents. But is this really the key to success? If success is only reserved for the ones able to do well at school or had been given the ability to memorize and apply information, what would happen to the rest of us who lack formal education, have little natural talents, physically challenged, weak or poor?
Let’s look at certain examples that challenged these conventional thinking.
One day a boy was sent home from school. With him was a note from his teacher to his parents. The message? This boy is too stupid to learn and it was advised that he just stayed at home. The boy was Thomas Alva Edison.
Another boy was rated the slowest learner in his chemistry class by his teacher. The boy’s name? Louis Pasteur.
Most people, reinforced by conventional beliefs will probably call you unrealistic if you said that anyone, despite not having good grades or formal education can achieve success just as much as the talented few. You will be told to be “practical” and stop your childish dreams now. Dreams are .. well, for dreamers.
But numbers do not lie. So let us analyze the number games a bit more. These statistics answer it all:
Half of all the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies on average had C or C minus in college.
65 % of all US Senators come from the bottom half of their school classes.
75 % of US Presidents were in the “lower half club” in school.
And more than half of all millionaire entrepreneurs never finished college!
Of course, I am not asking you to abandon college and start working in a garage like Steve Jobs. All I am saying is that success takes more than good grades. And the most important ingredient of success is not natural abilities or the talent to memorize facts.
People who are not gifted in term of intellectual abilities realize that this is their handicap, but they succeed in life because there are certain traits that they all have or acquire in their path to success. What are those traits?
1. Fire. When Bill Cosby dropped out of Temple University, he threw himself into career in comedy completely. Starvation didn’t deter him. He said, “Once you’ve made that commitment, then your blood has that particular thing in it, and it’s very hard for people to stop you.”
People like Bill Cosby have fire in their hearts. Their burning commitment brings the whole body to tap inner strengths, resources and abilities that they did not know exist in themselves. It gives them the spark and inspires them to achieve what they want in life.
2. They Set Goals. The great Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova once said, “To follow, without halt, one aim; there’s the secret of success.”
She is right. From the age twelve or thirteen, Steven Spielberg knew that he wanted to be a movie director. So one day, after a tour of the Universal Studio he put on a suit, brought his fathers briefcase containing only a sandwich and candy bars and walked past the guards. He lived in an abandoned trailer that he found and using some plastic letters put Steven Spielberg, Director on the door. Finally at twenty, three years after being a squatter he was offered a seven years contract to direct a TV series. The rest is history.
He had a goal, followed it, and adjusted his strategies until he succeeded.
3. They love what they do. Steve Jobs of Apple Computer, a college dropout who ventured into computing said, “I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.” When Steve Jobs started his Apple Computers no one ever thought a kid in blue jeans would revolutionize the computing world while making himself an icon and a billionaire.
For others, nothing could deter them from pursuing what they love, even a criticism from an authority on the field. Donald Cram for example, was so lackluster in his chemistry major up to the stage that his professor urged him to change his field of study. But he insisted that he loves the subject and persisted to continue.
In 1989, he won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Winners like Jobs and Cram are passionate and excited about what they are doing. That is definitely one of the most important qualities that lift one person above the rest.
4. They never give up. Another significant trait of these winners is the fact that they keep on pursuing their goals regardless of the outcome. They simply refuse to surrender.
George Bernard Shaw dreamed of being a great writer – despite the fact that he had only five years of formal education. He quit his job as a clerk to write; believing that one day he would make it big. But the path wasn’t easy. It took him nine years before he could make a living from his writing. He never gave up his dream even though his total income for those first nine years was only 30 dollars.
But persistence has its rewards – he eventually became one of the world’s greatest writers, made a fortune from his writings and eventually won the Nobel Prize.
5. They believe they can. Ben Franklin was the fifteenth of seventeen children of a poor candle maker. Although he had a little more than a year of schooling, he believed that he could still succeed in life. So he learnt philosophy, science, finance, politics and four languages by himself. Lack of schooling or money couldn’t deter him from being a great scientist and a statesman.
In short, many have succeeded despite the fact that they lack formal education or are having problem getting good grades at school. Success takes more than that. What you need is clearly defined goals and burning passion to pursue it. You must believe that you can achieve what you want and never give up. Stay committed, and stay focused – no matter what happens.