The hierarchy of success factors
We meet people everyday.
Many are achievers. Successful in what they do. There are others too. Some of them doing well, others not quite. And then there are yet some more- who are just, well, drifting along.
So what makes some people ‘successful’ and others not so much? What are the elements that contribute to being recognized, being well-off and achieving desired objectives?
Success is subjective. But note I did not define it is as- ‘being at the top’- or ‘first in the rat race’, or ’highest earning’ . Let’s say it is about achieving desired objectives. If success is about achieving desired objectives, then the question of what makes some people successful and others not- has been the age old pursuit of individuals.
The factors are explained here in the “Hierarchy of Success”.
When I set out to develop this hierarchy, I had ‘Professional success’ in mind. However, as this developed, I realized that this hierarchy could well define personal success too.
So here it is:
At the very bottom of this hierarchy is ‘Need’. This need defines your basic purpose of doing what you do (eg Working to earn a living, meeting everyday needs, etc)
This is a little different from Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ where it relates to Food, Shelter, Sex- though its position in the hierarchy is similar- right at the base.
This ‘Need’ in my hierarchy could have complex connotations. As an example- if you are pursuing a higher degree- like, say, an MBA- the need could be do get a job to earn a living. But for others within your peer group, the need could be completely different. For some of them, this need could be about earning a ‘Social Proof’. In many societies, this is particularly important for demonstrating status in society, and could even define your standing while looking for a spouse!
Immediately up above ’Need’ is ‘Want’. ‘Want’ defines the desire to make things happen. It takes you beyond the bare essentials of what is required.
If you were doing an MBA with no intention of ‘getting a job’ – and had a family business- your ‘want’ could be going beyond the theory and test the practical applications of what you learn. So if you are a clerk in a bank, your ‘want’ will make you attend to that last person even after banking hours are over. If you are a working executive, your ‘want’ will make you do that extra bit of research and that little extra bit of effort in prettifying a presentation slide.
It is your ‘want’- that would make you go that extra step from ‘just getting by’ to ‘strutting along’.
Superseding ‘Want’ is ‘Ability’. It is the physical or intellectual prowess. Your talent.
If you had the need and the want to be a Strategic Fund planning manager in a leading Mutual fund institution- but you never could get along well with numbers and maths, what are the chances you will succeed?
You have a need and a want to be a White water rafting kayaker. Unfortunately, you have a lower back problem. Your back can’t take the immensely-demanding-on-your-back sport. Your ‘Ability’ deters you from being successful.
Ability can be refined. If you want to be a singer- and have a great voice- that voice is your ability. Hone it, refine it- and your chances of being successful are high.
A caveat surfaces at this stage. Your abilities will be in context of others. So you might be a good singer- but there might be others with an equally good abilities. This is the stage- when your Abilities demand ‘remarkability’ (credit to Seth Godin). The more remarkable your abilities are, better are the chances of success.
At the top of the hierarchy is ‘Attitude’. Attitude defines what you think, how you feel and what you do.
We see this regularly in our lives. The most talented person might not necessarily be successful. And someone with modest talent but abundant attitude went further.
This is so because as people, we are creatures of ‘intuition’. We have a ‘gut feel’ about things- that draws us to someone with an attitude that resonates with us. Why do you think the best singer in American Idol almost never wins? The contestant that has the most ‘appeal’ does go far though. People like the ‘appeal’ not necessarily technique. Politicians play on this and celebrities thrive on this factor. Ability gives you a standing- a fighting chance. Attitude makes you a Rock Star.
Just to clarify-Attitude does not mean being highly outgoing or being ‘in your face’. Attitude could be in the way you interact with others- or it could manifest in the way you work. It could even be that ‘X’ factor that makes you or your work appealing.
So that’s the hierarchy.
Need, Want, Ability and Attitude. Four key factors leading to success.
Hang on! Many times we do see people with mediocre/questionable abilities and attitudes. But they are successful too. So if they did not meet the 4 Key criterion, how did they become successful?
The base of the pyramid has the answers. And the halo at the top. These are the extraneous factors contributing to success. The internal factors within the pyramid are something you can control to an extent. The external factors could be more difficult to control.
One key factor is your ‘Network’. The social circle. The contacts.
If you know the right people, doors open. With right contacts, you get better directions and sometimes shortcuts. In today’s dog eat dog world, this could be of fundamental importance.
One of the reasons why successful schools and colleges breed successful professionals is because of this factor. If you are lucky to be educated within one of these institutions, your network will automatically consist of other successful individuals willing to help you out. And then the effect continues.
And then there is Luck. Chance. Whether you believe in ‘luck’ or not, sometimes opportunities appear in a way that is inexplicable. And the opposite is true too. If your luck is screwed, you are screwed too. When the times are good, they are rolling. And when the times are bad, no matter how much you strive or struggle - nothing seems to work.
You need to control this by understanding the circumstances and working towards what is in your control, rather than fretting about it.
One last thing. The halo at the top. The environment.
Imagine you being a hazara girl in Afghanistan. Immensely talented, with great attitude and want to become an elected leader of Afghanistan. Your family has some contacts in the right political circles. You are lucky in many ways to have survived many opposing forces and have got an education.
But the environment. To get your way in a society that does not look favorably to your gender or ethnicity; to be an environment where war is a way of life- what are the chances of success?
So that completes the diagram and the factors influencing success.
What happens to Hard Work then? How about Motivation? And what about mentors?
Look carefully- and Think about it.
…still Chasing The Storm