What makes people succeed in life?
The world is full of books, DVDs and motivational speakers on the subject of how to become successful. Some are mere lists of platitudes to keep repeating to yourself. Others, like Napoleon Hill’s Classic Think and Grow Rich, focus on the character formation required for success. Others still are based on case studies with a fake-it-till-you-make-it approach.
Few, however, are based on science. Pseudoscience, like Neuro-Linguistic Programming, abounds in the success coaching market. But hard science is rather hard to find. You know, numbers and statistics and compelling evidence rather than anecdotes. Research done by academics with no particular vested interest in the results.
A new online course from Michigan University’s Ross School of Business combines ideas from anthropology, sociology and management science to examine the drivers of success, and what successful people all have in common (Which is two ways of saying the same thing). Taught by Paula Caproni, Lecturer of Management and Organizations, its full title is ‘The Science of Success: What Researchers Know that You Should Know.’
What psychobabble there is in the course is clearly aimed in the right direction. Students are taught the value of positive core self-evaluations and a growth mindset, which sound like no-brainers. After all, nobody ever made a million dollars by moping around, except perhaps Leonard Cohen. The course also dispels some common myths about success that might send you in the wrong direction if you try to act on them. It is also made clear that IQ and/or school grades are not indicators of success – in fact sometimes quite the opposite.
An intriguing lesson on expertise uses the example of ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, the airline pilot who landed a plane full of passengers in the Hudson river after both engines failed. This lesson also discusses what birds, squirrels and elite London cab drivers have in common and what this means for our personal success. There iis an equally intriguing section on children, marshmallows and delayed gratification.
Other topics, backed up by research, discuss social capital and the power of relationships, the importance of resilience and self-compassion, and plenty of case studies. All this is topped by the creation of a personal action plan. The seven-week course walks you through the steps to success, and tells you why. That it comes from a lecturer of Management and Organizations should mean it is backed up by research rather than the desire to sell a million books. Oh, and it’s free. You can Sign up here.