I Can Succeed

This is another way of aphorism, “I’m confident that I can succeed.”

Successful people believe that they have the potential within themselves to make desirable things happen. It’s not quite like a carnival magic act where the mentalist moves objects on a table with his minds or bends steel. But it is close. Successful people factually believe that through utter force of personality or talent or brain power, they can maneuver a situation in their direction.

It’s the reason why some people raise their hand and say, “Put me in coach” when the boss asks for volunteers to solve a problem – and others recoil in the corner, praying they won’t be noticed. This is the classic definition of self-efficacy, and it may be the most central belief driving individual success. People who believe they can succeed see opportunities where others see threats. They are not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity. They embrace it. They want to take greater risks and achieve greater returns. Given the choice, they will always bet on themselves. Successful people tend to have a high “internal locus of control.” In other words, they do not feel like victim of fate. They see success for themselves and others as largely a function of people’s motivation and ability – not luck, random chance, or external factors.

They carry this belief even when luck does play a critical role. Several years ago six of my partners wanted to get involved in a very large deal. Since I was a senior partner, they needed my approval. I was against it, telling them it was idiotic. I finally agreed, but kicking and screaming. Five years later the return on my “idiotic” investment was the biggest lump sum check I’d ever received – seven digits to the left of the decimal point. There is no other way to describe it except dumb luck. They insisted that my good fortune had little to do with luck and was really a payoff for years of hard work. This is the classic response from successful people. We tend to believe that success is “earned” through an individual’s motivation and ability.

Of course, this belief makes about as much sense as inheriting money and thinking you are a self made man. If you are born on third base, you shouldn’t think you hit a triple. Successful people, however, believe there is always a link between what they have done and how far they have come – even when no link exists. It’s delusional, but it is also empowering. This belief is certainly better than the alternative. Take the example of people who buy state lottery tickets. It is a statistical fact that state-run lotteries are “regressive taxes” on people who are not the highest income earners. Serious lottery players tend to believe that any success is a function of luck, external factors, or random chance. These serious scratchers see the lottery as a manifestation of the randomness of success. They feel that they might get lucky and win millions of dollars if they buy enough lottery tickets. Studies show that people with these beliefs tend not to be high achievers or high wage earners.

To make matters worse, many people who win high payouts in the lottery often do a poor job of investing their winnings. The same beliefs that led them to buy hundreds of lottery tickets are reinforced when they win the lottery. That is, they make irrational investment decisions, hoping again that luck – rather than their skill and intelligence – will make them richer. That is why they plunge into questionable schemes. They don’t have the base belief that they can succeed on their own, so they rely on luck.

Successful people trade in this lottery mentality for an unshakable belief in them. And that presents another obstacle for helping them change their behavior. One of the greatest mistakes of successful people is the assumption, “I am successful. I behave this way. Therefore, I must be successful because I behave this way!” The challenge is to make them see that sometimes they are successful in spite of this behavior.

Academic instruction isn’t the only responsibility teachers have in today’s classrooms. More and more, teachers are being called on to teach students about values … things like making good decisions, the showing of respect, taking responsibility, choosing friends, and having a positive attitude. It’s a responsibility that could be overwhelming, considering the limited hours available in a school day, the number of kids in the classroom, and the diversity of backgrounds and personalities each child represents.

Character Education by Just Do The Right Thing” is a practical and powerful tool that equips educators to tackle values training with confidence.

By: Francis David