One of the depressing things about Facebook is that after graduation, you get to track the career paths of all your former classmates. And when you do so, it’s hard not to notice the differing levels of success enjoyed by your peers. Some of us are working at Hot Dog World and some of us are international men of mystery or assistants to the stars by now.
So, what are the X factors here? How come people who got the same grades at the same school as you are excelling while you are writing your 50th cover letter? I’ve thought about this long and hard, and I’ve decided that there are only a handful of differentiating factors that can explain the disparity in success among peers. There are good reasons why they are succeeding while you may not be. But the good news is that I am absolutely confident that you demonstrate one of the qualities I’m about to describe. All you have to do is find out which one is true for you and put it to work.
So, without further ado, here’s my list of…
Reasons Why You Are (or Should Be) More Successful than Your Peers
In America, or anywhere else, you can indeed buy your way into prosperity. When you’re a have among have nots, it’s not exactly a giant leap to finance a few key opportunities. Be it grad school, job placement services, weekend long elbow rubbing conventions or the startup capital for your own business. It may seem cynical and trite, but it’s the truth—some of us were born with silver spoons in our mouths. Of course, this doesn’t mean life is easy. While getting in may be a simple matter of signing a check, staying in is going to take just as much passion and drive as working your way up from the bottom.
How do I know if I’m richer than everyone else?
Are you seriously asking that question? If so, then your first step is to lose the Marie Antoinette attitude and start counting your blessings. Then, put them to work for you. If you have any mad money lying around (i.e. you’re not living paycheck to paycheck and you’re not drowning in debt) then you have a golden opportunity here because you don’t have to worry about the day-to-day financial squeezes that the vast majority of your peers do. The same is true if you’re lucky enough to live in your parent’s basement or be on your parent’s health insurance. Yes, I said lucky. The less overhead you have, the richer you are.
What should I do with my richness?
Invest it towards your dreams. Or, better yet, consider it this way: you’ve literally bought yourself some time. Whereas many of your peers have to work at a gas station to make ends meet, you’re free to focus your time and energy on what you really want from life. Don’t squander this fortune on moping around drinking Mountain Dew and playing Xbox. Write a damn novel. Read a damn book. Start doing whatever it is that you want to do, regardless of whether it’s your job or not. If you’re persistent and passionate, it eventually will be.
In Kenneth Suna’s article about working at a restaurant while you’re laid off, he mentioned the possibility of bumping into a potential employer while waiting tables. That’s a long shot, in my view, but it can and does happen. Some of us get lucky. Some of us end up sitting on a plane next to Christopher Nolan and get cast in a blockbuster. Some of us give an old man the Heimlich maneuver at a steak house only to discover they’ve saved the life of Warren Buffet. Some of us drag our ass through Harvard calling our classmates dumb fucks and end up founding the most important social network of our century. It happens.
How do I know if I’m luckier than everyone else?
You won’t. Opportunity will come knocking when you least expect it.
What should I do with my luckiness?
This is critical. The problem with lucky breaks is that luck is fleeting. Unlike an outstanding track record or a doctoral degree, luck can leave you at any moment. I’m no hippy earth child, but I firmly believe that the only way you can make luck work for you is to pay it back and pay it forward. When serendipity puts you on top, you must immediately adopt a position of gratitude. Don’t lord your good fortune over others like a snooty asshole—start thanking everyone who helps you, start doing people favors even if they didn’t ask for it and start paying your dues, even if you’ve been transplanted over the biggest hurdles. I see luck as a good will advance on your success.
Fate gave you this opportunity, and if you default on the repayment, fate can repossess it. As a lucky person, it’s your job to seize the opportunity that’s been loaned to you, invest it wisely and prove that you are a creditworthy borrower. That way, when your luck does turn, that guy you helped out when you were on top just might return the favor when you need it most.
I know, I know, we all have our hidden talents and we are all special and wonderful and unique in our own ways. But let’s face it. Some bulbs burn more brightly than others. Some people just get it more quickly than others. Some of us see a problem and the solution comes to us almost immediately. Some of us are truly gifted. And that plays a big, big role in achieving your dreams.
How do I know if I’m smarter than everyone else?
Things come easy to you. Whereas others scratch their heads, bust their asses and burn the midnight oil trying to figure things out, you can make things click with practically no effort. That’s good and bad.
What should I do with my bulging brains?
If you are smarter than everyone else, yet you’re still not successful, then I think it’s easy to pinpoint the deficiency that’s holding you back: motivation. I bet you squeaked through college without pulling all-nighters, nagging the TA during office hours and organizing study groups. Life has been easy for you so far because you are so bright. But the thing about school and being a kid is that everything is structured for you. All you have to do is jump through the hoops, which is an absolute breeze for a whiz kid like you.
Now that you’re out of that structured environment, you have to take the initiative. You have to identify the next steps and take them. This will be hard, because as a natural genius, the one thing you probably didn’t learn in college was discipline.
So, what does a smart person need to do to achieve success? Simple: get started.
So, guess what? You’re not richer than anyone else. You’re not luckier than anyone else. And you’re not smarter than anyone else. That sounds depressing, and it may be something that you don’t want to admit to yourself. But you have to. Because when you do, you’ll realize that there’s only one thing left on the table: your ability to work harder than anyone else. This is your only tool in the box. Once you realize that you probably aren’t abnormally wealthy or gifted (and that’s okay—most of us aren’t), you can choose to wait around hoping that you’ll get lucky (which is borderline insanity) or you can roll up your sleeves.
How will I know that I’m working hard enough?
You won’t. I can’t tell you how hard you’ll have to work to close the gap between you and the next smartest guy or you and the next richest guy. But I can tell you that you don’t have any other option, so you may as well keep at it until you get there.
How do I work harder?
Easy. Never stop. Never stop working towards your goal (you do have a goal, right?). Never stop thinking about what it is you want to achieve. Never give yourself a break. Find the time to work on your goals every day. And if you can’t find the time, make the time to work on your goals every day. Create a schedule, adopt a routine and be consistent. Because the thing is, when you’re consistent and disciplined, you’ll inch yourself forward every single day. Even if it’s just a little bit, it’ll really add up. If the lucky guy who has the life you want is 700 steps ahead of you and you take two small steps forward every day, it’ll only be a year before you overtake him.
“Crap, that’s a long time,” you might say. Yeah, it is. But it’ll be even longer if you don’t get to work now. And really, it’s not that long. Think back about the last two years where you may have been doing little to nothing. That flew by pretty fast, didn’t it? If you would have written 100 words towards that novel you’ve been meaning to get on paper since college, you would have 730,000 words done by now. If you'd been following a weight training regimen since then, you'd be benching 150 percent of your body weight. Yeah.
Make a plan.
Stick to it.
I mean it.
It’s your only hope.