Lists are everywhere and form an integral part of our daily lives, whether they be shopping lists, to-do lists, done lists, short term goals, long term goals, bucket lists or favourite quotes among many others. Personally, I love them and the done list is one of my favourites, as it forms a reminder of everything which I have accomplished during that day, week or month. Lists can also be helpful, saving memory space in our overloaded brains as well as valuable time. A shopping list is a good example of this; you identify what you need, write it down, put that list in your pocket and off you go. These are, however, not the type of list which we will be looking at today.
There is a type of list upon which we are becoming overly reliant. This is, in my humble opinion, to our detriment. What type of list am I thinking of as I write this? The list of what successful people do, read, eat…
Don’t get me wrong, they can be very interesting and motivational, but that’s about it. The problem with these success lists, is that the evidence of success and achievement is deeply personal and specific to that individual. I can adopt all of Cristiano Ronaldo’s behaviours, training routine and eating habits but that won’t give me the same results and turn me into a star footballer. There is also the matter of context; what works in professional sports will not always be transferrable to another domain, such as business. Another question is raised over the validity of the evidence. These lists are often based on generalisations and similarities, pointing at particular behaviours or traits that a groups of successful people share. There is often a lack of scientific support for these findings, which tend to be anecdotal. As mentioned before, they can also be rather specific to a particular context and bear little relevance to the situation in which you find yourself. Then we have the small matter of change. Times change. The world evolves and changes. Technology advances and changes at a rapid rate. These particular lists, however, do not always account for this. A quick google search on Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg will bring up plenty of lists, many of which deal with their rise to eminence. What they do not take into account, though, are their circumstances and the climate in which they released their groundbreaking products. It is simply not possible to follow a list and launch another Apple or Facebook today, in the same way that Jobs or Zuckerberg did all those years ago.
The problem is that these success lists are comforting. In an age where everything is fast, from our food to our information, it’s encouraging to be offered a shortcut to success. The truth, though, is that there is no shortcut. If you want to be successful, you need to take action but be prepared to fail and then learn from your experiences. There are no substitutes for hard work and effort. Rather than focusing on what successful people do, focus on your strengths and abilities and stop trying to be someone else. As Oscar Wilde once said “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken,”
Thank you, as always for reading. If you agree, or disagree, with the above please feel free to leave a comment