As we traverse through our lives, moving from college to first full-time job or grad school and then professional lives, or pursue entrepreneurial ambitions to build something new and scale it, we continue to take inspiration from those highly successful individuals that have ‘made it’ – achieved what we are aspiring to. The definition of success could be different for different people, however, most folks would agree that success engenders our ability to have sound health, provide a comfortable life for ourselves and our families, pursue and achieve our dreams, make an impact beyond our own selves while enjoying a harmonious relationship with our partner in a tranquil household. In addition, I would also add that success must also include spiritual grounding, which is often downplayed or dismissed altogether. Although we can spend days talking about spiritual grounding, one way to look at it is to recognize and make peace with the reality that regardless of our intellects, support and efforts, the outcome may not be in our control. This recognition instills a level of contentment that derives real peace in our hearts.
As I pondered over the key ingredients of success and observed highly successful individuals, I came to the realization that there are three key skills that everyone can hone to achieve success in life. The key word that I want to emphasize here is SKILLS. Based on the latest research in psychology and neurology, these skills can be acquired and improved upon. These skills are:
Growth mindset, a mindset that we can learn and improve in every aspect of our lives at any age and moving away from being a ‘know it all‘ to ‘learn it all‘, as Satya Nadella used it for transforming Microsoft.
Creative Confidence, a realization that we were all born creative geniuses, our creativity was snatched out of us during our up-bringing and schooling and that we can re-discover our inner creative geniuses and drive our ideas forward with confidence.
Story telling, our ability to communicate in a manner that leaves a lasting impression, convey ideas crisply and influence others.
Carol Dweck’s seminal work from her research published in her book on “Mindset” clearly conveys, with evidence, how growth mindset enhances performance and encourages growth. Essentially, there are two types of mindsets: Growth Mindset and Fixed mindset. Growth Mindset is grounded in intellectual humility that we can improve in every aspect of our lives through learning and focused efforts. On the other hand, fixed mindset considers our abilities as our innate qualities that we are either gifted at birth or not, and there is no way that one could improve upon our abilities.
Another amazing fact about growth mindset is that it applies to any aspect – technical skills, non-technical skills, emotional intelligence, relationships, communication and at any age. See this octogenarian learning to code after turning 80 and be inspired.
Checkout this video where Stanford professor of Psychology, Dr. Alia Crum shows, with evidence, that changing the mindset not only improves psychological conditioning for better performance, but actually changes physiology and yields tangible results.
So the key take away is that having a growth mindset is key for achieving success.
Creative Confidence means to believe that we are born creative geniuses, our imaginations have no limits and have the confidence to share our ideas without fear of rejection. The great American psychologist, George Land’ s following talk conveys much more eloquently than I ever could, with evidence, that we are all born creatives and that our upbringing and schooling sucks the creativity out of us. A population that starts out with 98% creative geniuses as children is transformed by our education system to have only 2% of the adult population who are able to retain their imagination. These are the lucky few who become the game changers. The sliver lining in the cloud is that there are simple ways which could help us re-discover our inner creative geniuses. He shares those techniques in this talk as well.
As the world rapidly automates the mundane and even some creative tasks through Artificial Intelligence and other technologies, we must build our creative muscles to move ideas forward.
IDEO and Stanford d School’s founders David and Tom Kelley’s book “Creative Confidence” is an excellent resource on how to unleash the creative potential hidden in each one of us. Some key tips to improve creative confidence include following:
- Separate Divergent thinking, where you are focused on generating many ideas from Convergent thinking where you evaluate and judge those ideas.
- Fail fast through prototyping ideas without large investments so you can test, validate and evolve ideas faster and in an iterative manner.
- Challenge assumptions and status quo.
- Ask questions to understand and discover.
- Embrace failure as a learning opportunity.
- Don’t strive for perfection, rather, strive towards continuous improvement.
- Have a positive outlook. Negativity kills creativity.
Having growth mindset and creative confidence is necessary but not sufficient. We have to be able to convey our ideas in an effective manner to others. Conventional wisdom says that to convince others of your point of view, you have to share lots of data and present your evidences. In fact, historical evidence and latest research on behavioral science and neuroscience makes it evident that human beings are wired for stories. The best way to influence others is by touching them at the emotional level. Stories are the best way to do that. The key aspect is that you must be authentic, understand your audience’s perspectives, have empathy for the listeners and then tell a genuine story that resonates with them.
Chip and Dan Heath’s book “Made to Stick” conveys some great approaches in captivating audience and making the message memorable.
The master of influence, Robert Cialdini, in his book “Influence”, gives some great ideas on how to influence others.
And of course, the classic by Dale Carnegie “How to win friends and influence people” has timeless wisdom on the art of effective communication and influence.
I do want to highlight that as you hone your skills around storytelling for influence, always keep the growth mindset front and center so that while focusing on selling your idea you don’t overpower alternate ideas that may yield better outcome.
I hope you found ideas in this article useful and that you’ll apply these tips in becoming successful. As always, I am looking forward to your feedback and ideas on any aspect related to this topic.