When it comes to what determines success, many would put their money a high intelligence quotient. There’s no doubt IQ plays a role in academic achievement, but acceptance into an Ivy League school far from guarantees success in life.
CEOs who’ve recruited the brightest graduates become puzzled at the bell curve of performance—after all, shouldn’t all geniuses perform at an elite level?
Not surprisingly, researchers have found that IQ plays a far less significant role in success. It’s these three qualities, under the radar and often overlooked, that make all the difference when it comes to success.
1. Self Regulation
The ability to manage your behaviors consistent with your values and goals. We’re often the biggest stumbling blocks to our own success. The famous Stanford “Marshmallow” study placed treats in front of children and told them they could eat it now, or wait and be rewarded with a double amount. Tracing the lives of the children into adulthood, they found those who resisted performed better academically, earned higher salaries, and were less prone to obesity.
Self-regulation is like a muscle, it can be quickly depleted, but, it can also be exercised and strengthened. Make daily practices of restraining yourself—refuse the desire to get on social media, don’t eat all the food on your plate, or wake up ten minutes earlier in the morning.
Just like the children with the marshmallows, habits in one area of life are contagious.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself on exactly the same page with whoever you’re engaging with.
Different views typically cause conflict, empathy allows for integration and relieving tension. It’s the difference between “I think you’re wrong” and “I understand where you’re coming from.” The former isn’t bad, but generally absent of empathy; the latter makes for a more constructive and open-ended engagement. And that creates rapport—the magic word for anyone in sales or building relationships.
It’s not a selective trait, the discovery of “mirror neurons” showed the biological ability we all possess to empathize. Watch someone face-plant and you’ll recoil and ‘feel’ their pain.
Emotional awareness is key. Begin to observe your feelings, label them as they arise, describe your experience as if you’re interviewing yourself. As you master and become more familiar with your inner-self, you’ll start to better perceive and intuit what someone else is going through.
Most importantly, empathy shows that you care. Keep the words of Teddy Roosevelt in mind, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Psychologist Angela Duckworth studied successful individuals at West Point Military Academy, the National Spelling Bee, rookie teachers in tough neighborhoods, and salespeople in private companies. She noted the common factor, “It wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t I.Q. It was grit.”
While self-regulation deals with temptations, grit is resilience when faced with adversity either physically and psychologically. It’s a trait synonymous with the “Growth Mindset.”
When wrestling with a problem, a fixed mindset says they’re failing and not cut-out for the job. A growth mindset believes they’re getting closer to the solution and gaining mastery. Professor Carol Dweck’s research shows that the brain develops new neural pathways if it preservers through a problem rather than throwing in the towel.
The culprit is a psychological highjacking—conditioned by the popular notion that talent is inherent and immutable, rather than maleable. Adopting a growth mindset is more than positive thinking, the cognitive shift reduces the body’s stress response. A less stressed person will process adversity more efficiently, and be able to iterate instead of hitting a brick wall.
Cultivating grit takes patience and consistency. But it can be developed from simple daily exercises such as learning to juggle, or taking a cold shower. It’s all about applying the compound effect in finance to all areas of life.