Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Equation for Success

I am currently reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell for class.  I was writing my reflection on it when I realized that this would be a good post topic.  Basically the book is about the  factors that contribute to high levels of success in individuals. This is a topic I've always been interested in, why are some people successful when others aren't? How much control do we have over our success? For class I had to create my own success equation. This is what I came up with based on my experience and understanding of what success is.  

For years, I have heard my father repeat the phrase “Luck is really preparation meets opportunity” many, many times.  In Outliers, Gladwell says, “Achievement is talent plus preparation.”  While these two statements don’t say quite the same thing, they do have something in common.  They both propose a formula for achieving success.  In my mind and through my experiences, I think success is a result of four things….
1. Inherent, God-given talent
2. Passion
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
4. Miraculous, God-granted opportunity

In my mind this is the ultimate package.  However, it is important to note that in this model it is impossible to succeed without God being a key player throughout the process.  Someone wouldn’t have to know their talent and opportunities came from God to be successful, but I think it makes success much more fulfilling and easier to cope with if you know the truth of the source of your success.  So, while everyone would not agree with me on this, I believe it is impossible to find success in life without God’s grace. 

The second step is passion.  I am extremely passionate about the importance of passion. Seriously!  One of my favorite quotes is from Oscar Wilde, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” I feel like this statement is unfortunately very true in today’s society.  So many people don’t seem to know who they are. I feel very grateful to have had so many passions in life.  Sometimes I may seem a little over-zealous with things I care about, but I would much rather be fanatical about something than apathetic towards everything.  Passion is what makes it worth getting up each day.  Who wouldn’t want to open their eyes each morning to the possibilities of the day rather than the problems?
My favorite part of my success equation is the 3rd step.  Practice.  Most people understand the concept, but few have the nerve to actually see it through to the point of true success and beyond.   I put passion before practice for a reason.  It is nearly impossible to put the amount of practice in to be successful without being sincerely passionate about what you are practicing.  For me, the things I have become good at have never seemed like work.  For instance I have spent countless hours learning guitar.  At first it seemed impossible, it took me a week to learn three chords.  Six years later it’s nothing special to learn songs in a few minutes.  You just get better with time. 
When it comes to running and my knowledge of the culture, coaching, mechanics, and psychology, well I can thank my dad for that.  To begin with, I was blessed with being a fairly smart child that probably knew too much for my own good, as well as at least some genetic talent for running.  More importantly, since I was ten months old I have been immersed in the world of running because of my father, a very knowledgeable coach and experienced runner.  When I was just a toddler I thought my best friends were the high school boys XC team, seriously.  I’ve tagged along to coaching clinics, national meets, and sat up late (which was probably like 8pm at that point) with my dad countless nights going over results and time charts to plan the next workout, to strategize for the upcoming meet.  If you remember the little girl from Remember the Titans, who lived football with her dad the coach.... well that was me, but with running.   
Now, two decades later I may have the opportunity to make a career in the running industry .  If I put together my talent, passion, and ample amount of exposure to the sport, that still isn’t enough.  I had to be given the opportunity.  By the grace of God I was led to a school that had some amazing connections to a company I loved, without even knowing it.  Furthermore, I was led to professors and staff members who saw something in me, and advocated for me when the time was right.  My opportunities to work at Nike this past summer, and hopefully full time when I graduate, were the latest steps in a long path that began when I was too young to run or even walk for that matter. 
So, talent, passion, hard work, and timing.... that's the equation for success, but there are rules.  You usually can’t skip a step, there are things you can’t control within the process, and there are things only God controls in the process. And sometime you have to go through a lot of crap that seems like it will never end.  Sometimes life will be unfair... most times life will be unfair.  When everything but timing falls through it can be discouraging, but you'll end up where you are meant to be.  Your opportunity will come. Just make sure that when it does, you've already done the hard part, you've put in the work, you're  waiting patiently, ready to take the leap and hold on tight for the wonderful journey ahead.

Wow this was a long post.... guess I was feeling philosophical today :) I'll try to keep the next post a little shorter and less heady! Have a great day!

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