Last week I listened to two fascinating talks from TEDxSheffield. The first was by Richard St John based on his book, The 8 traits successful people have in common (Amazon link). St John describes the results of an extensive survey he’s conducted of the world’s most successful people – leaders from all fields and walks of life. And he lists their most common traits:
My, it got me thinking. The first three traits – passion, work and focus – struck me as being particularly crucial, indeed St John proclaims Passion as the key to it all.
It made me wonder what are my passions? It turned out pretty difficult to list them. Actually, what do I love? It provoked a surprisingly random collection of things. As I started to write them down, as a stream of consciousness and in no particular order (my family, my faith, learning, photography, children, social justice, writing, climbing, performing and so on), which of them could be really be described as ‘passions’? Were they things I enjoy ‘doing’ or just things I enjoy? Semantics, semantics. I realised that I enjoyed many of them because of the results they deliver as opposed to the activity itself. Would I pursue them without the resulting recognition, sense of achievement or whatever? Did that matter? Did that make them any less valid?
And what would it mean to be a success at them? St John, though he didn’t say so explicitly, was describing successful jobs – full time activities nurtured intensely over many years (35,000 hours over a decade, he quoted as typical). Is that what I want from my passions? Is the reward worth the costs that that kind of commitment, that single-minded determination entails and requires? Costs to my family? No. Cost to my ‘career’? I’m still pondering that one given that I’m fortunate enough to be able cover quite a few of those passions in my day job already. But, St John said, pursuing too many, even two, prevents the focus that is needed to succeed. There seemed to be too many irreconcilable differences for me ever to stand a chance of being a true success.
And then, there was a second talk. Chip Conley on ‘What Counts’ (TED talk video / transcript), pre-recorded from this year’s TED conference. Conley talks refreshingly about non-materialist measures of success; about the need to count happiness, self-worth, compassion, integrity, courage to judge the true state of our lives. Rather than objects described by Gross National Product (GNP), Conley quotes Bhutan’s model for Gross National Happiness as a better metric for society.
And suddenly, that made a lot more sense for me in terms of success.
And where success really matters.
And it doesn’t have to cost anyone anything.