Talent is luck, the important thing in life is courage. Oh, and luck also…

Thursday, 20 April, 2017

This ties in with what I call my pub (or bar) band theory. I’ve seen plenty of great bands performing in a bar. They play well, and their music is fantastic.

Yet somehow they don’t make it big. I know the definition of success varies, but some bands are destined to remain to pub bands, whether they want to, or not.

So what do the groups who make it big, those who score recording deals, and play to packed stadiums across the world, do right?

Two things possibly. They may have connections. Friends in the right place. And they are also, quite likely, lucky. Someone who can make things happens, hears their music, and likes it.

For the most part, creative success has little to do with talent or hard work. Lots of people are talented and hard-working. Talented and hard-working people are nothing special, for better or worse. To be successful, you need more than just talent and hard work. You need luck. Or, even better than luck, you need connections.

Not something that happens to everyone. In the meantime, if you’re short of connections, and luck, keep on keeping on.

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Working your way up from the bottom of a workplace hierarchy

Thursday, 15 September, 2011

While the essence of how we work may be changing, many of us will continue to be employed in the more usual fashion for some time to come, and will find ourselves starting new roles at the bottom of a hierarchy and working our way up. Ryan Holiday has put together a primer for those who are starting out and are keen to get ahead.

Most importantly, remember that you are not special. There were a million other kids on this path before you and there will be another million after. Most of them either went nowhere or turned out to be nothing. Even the successful ones might still flame out or be assholes. What does this mean? It means don’t get high on yourself. Don’t tell yourself a story. Be quiet, work hard, and stay healthy. It’s not ambition or skill that is going to set you apart – notice I didn’t mention those things a single time. It’s safe to assume you’ve already got them covered. What will set you apart, what is rare, is humility, diligence and self-awareness.

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The superstar advantage, nothing succeeds like success

Friday, 8 July, 2011

Swiss tennis player Roger Federer, and US golfer Tiger Woods, are two examples of sporting stars who enjoyed a long run of success, not only on account of their talent, but also because of their very success, which played a part in intimidating their opponents, further adding to the ascendancy of Federer and Woods.

A few years ago, Jennifer Brown, a professor of Management and Strategy at Northwestern University, published an interesting paper on what she calls “the superstar effect.” The effect occurs when competitors are so intimidated by the presence of a certain player, such as Woods and Federer, that they start playing far worse. As a result, the success of the star becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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If you want your dreams to come true don’t dream about them

Monday, 30 May, 2011

Positive fantasies, an extension of positive thinking, which are visualisations of our dreams and goals in action, far from being a source of encouraging affirmation, may instead be detrimental to success. A better approach is to instead imagine overcoming potential hurdles that stand in the way of our objectives.

But ultimately, Happes and Oettingen believe that positive fantasies are likely to scupper your changes of obtaining your goals. “Instead of promoting achievement, positive fantasies will sap job-seekers of the energy to pound the pavement, and drain the lovelorn of the energy to approach the one they like,” they write. “Fantasies that are less positive – that question whether an ideal future can be achieved, and that depict obstacles, problems and setbacks – should be more beneficial for mustering the energy needed to obtain success.”

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Last night a best selling book changed my life

Tuesday, 10 May, 2011

Elif Batuman, whose book The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, elevated her to the status of best-seller author, discusses what that success has meant for her.

On the way back to the Chinatown hotel, swaying beside A in a subway car, I found myself contemplating the life of the writer. “First, he must endure poverty and the world’s indifference; then, having achieved a measure of success, he must submit with a good grace to its hazards,” as Somerset Maugham put it in Cakes and Ale. “He is at the mercy of journalists who want to interview him and photographers who want to take his picture, of editors who harry him for copy … of agents, publishers, managers, bores, admirers, critics and his own conscience.”

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Entrepreneurs: crazy risk takers essential to economic well-being

Tuesday, 2 November, 2010

Despite the fact many entrepreneurial ventures fail, such risk taking – coupled with often unreasonable expectations of success – are nonetheless a vital part of a thriving economy:

Many entrepreneurs aren’t even that lucky. They wildly overestimate their chances of success. But this second delusion, suggests economic historian John V.C. Nye, may be essential to maintaining an entrepreneurial culture. In a 1991 article titled “Lucky Fools and Cautious Businessmen,” Nye, now at George Mason University, argues that countries become economically stagnant when their business people become too mature and rational.

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Keep your friends close but your enemies closer, now that’s talent

Thursday, 7 October, 2010

From a recent talk by New York based photographer James Danziger on succeeding in the industry (or any other creative type profession for that matter)… the actual extent of your talent is measured not by the praise you receive from friends, but from those who do not particularly like you.

Have talent. (Talent is not when your friends tell you they love your work, but when people who don’t like you have to admit it’s good.)

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It’s no longer up to you New York, or anywhere else, come to that

Wednesday, 8 September, 2010

Big cities, such as London, New York, and Tokyo, once places where those on lower incomes would migrate to in search of some “social uplift”, that is personal and financial advancement, and a better life, are increasingly made up of people who are struggling to get by.

But contemporary London’s emergence as the headquarters of globalization has had widely differentiated impacts on class. On the one hand, it has paced the emergence of the West End. Many once hardscrabble neighborhoods – including Shoreditch, Islington, and Putney – have gentrified. Yet walk a bare half mile or less from the Thames River, particularly to the south, and you encounter many marginal, and often dismal, districts. These areas have not much benefited from the global economy and are inhabited largely by those who survive at the expanding bottom of the wage profile.

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I’m a failure, let me count the twenty ways this is so

Wednesday, 7 July, 2010

Being intelligent does not guarantee success, and there are plenty of ways – at least 20 – that can cause otherwise intelligent people to fail at whatever they are trying to do.

From the 20, a few of the stand out, and probably very familiar, points:

  • Lack of motivation.
  • Inability to translate thought into action.
  • Procrastination.
  • Excessive dependency.
  • Inability to delay gratification (celebrating small wins rather than continuing to work towards bigger goals).

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Does an author become a success if they actually sell any books?

Thursday, 1 July, 2010

How many books does an author need to sell to be deemed a success? How long is a piece of string? Possibly both these questions have the same answer.

And let’s look at the nitty-gritty. Playing the “he sold x many books” game is always a fool’s errand, we should first acknowledge. There is only one reason we’re indulging in it here: the point being that there is nothing to be jealous of when someone sells or publishes a book. The publishing industry is very wacky! All kinds of crazy people sell books! You too can be one. And publishing a book is often a terrible, ugly process, and after all that, you are forcibly reminded that nearly no one buys books.

For my part, if I wrote a book and sold just one copy, I’d probably consider that a success.

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