Success Is A Skill

According to Amy Chua and Jeb Rubenfeld, Yale law professors and authors of What Drives Success? A New York Times Sunday Review feature article, success in certain ethnic groups has to do with three underlying principles: 1) A superiority complex 2) An inferiority complex 3) Impulse control. For instance, believing that certain groups are chosen, better than or more elite can add extra confidence for individuals to persevere when times are tough. Feeling not good enough, not smart enough or not successful enough can add extra drive or motivation. Without the ability to delay gratification or learn to control one’s impulses, people won’t work hard enough in the now to secure longer term success. This article is very interesting and worth considering. Some statistics are especially interesting like Nigerians who make up less than one percent of the Black population in the United States yet in 2013 nearly one quarter of the black students at Harvard Business School were of Nigerian ancestry.

Having been raised Jewish I can relate to this article personally. On the one hand there was a sense of pride bordering on elitism on behalf of my parents in their cultural beliefs and yet there was always this feeling of not enough as well. Learning to delay gratification, a skill or trait that parents can enhance by teaching it to their children is was a quality my mother instilled in us with her patience and nurturing. Motivation too can be taught, especially at early ages. There is nothing about success that can’t be enhanced through good parenting and proper training. Remember Trading Places with Eddie Murphy – perhaps an exaggeration but nevertheless it makes a potent point – success is a skill that can be taught and learned like many others! I often refer to myself as a high end teacher. I teach success in life and business!!

Providing a Better Education

Friedman’s thoughts in the Review section of this week’s Sunday New York Times are worth considering. American workers are increasingly less competitive with other nations like India, China, Singapore, Poland, and Germany to name a few. The problems are systemic. We simply don’t do a good enough job educating our children to compete in an increasingly globalized and competitive world. The top ten percent of America now take home fifty percent of the national income. Income inequality is increasing. One solution is to learn from other countries who do a better job of providing autonomy, accountability, and ownership on a teaching and student level and who spend more per capita on less advantaged children. Having worked in inner city environments for years I have seen firsthand the systemic issues that create dynamics where poor and underprivileged children fall far behind their wealthier piers even by age five and certainly by age ten. We can and must do better!

A client of mine asked me to work with her thirteen year-old daughter who is a competitive ballerina in south Florida. I said sure, relishing the challenge of helping an adolescent in a sport that I have never experienced first hand. The cool part about working with athletes as a Sports Psychologist is that no matter what the sport, the underlying issues are similar. And so are the techniques that we can apply to address them!

This young girl was experiencing significant anxiety before big competitions as well as having normal adolescent challenges with her family and friends. We chatted for a bit about her life, her friendships, and her passion of dance. Attending a performing arts school, she was consistently dancing five to six hours a day during and after school. This left her with very little down time and much less social time than most of her peers, two significant challenges for anyone let alone an adolescent.

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