A lot of success advice revolves around the idea of “being honest with yourself about the things you’re good at, and pursuing those things relentlessly.” We’re told that all successful people can be boiled down to a paragraph which states their chosen field and the personal style they brought to it which allowed them to be successful.
Here are some examples:
Bill Gates: entrepreneur and philanthropist. intensely smart, workaholic, ruthlessly competitive.
Christopher Hitchens: master wordsmith and essayist. contrarian. known for his outspoken views on Athiesm and his pugnacious writing style.
Oprah Winfrey: media mogul. revolutionized the daytime tabloid talk show. philanthropist. known for her ability to get celebrities to open up about their lives on TV.
Woody Allen: writer/director/actor. known for raucous one liners, Marx-brothers inspired slapstick comedy, portrayal of neurotic Jewish characters in romantic comedies, and a prodigious output of films over his long career.
Because successful people can be described in this way, the common wisdom goes, if you can figure out what you’re good at in a similar way it will help you be successful.
In order to figure out what you’re good at, a common piece of advice is: “Be brutally honest with yourself about it.”
But the problem with this advice is that for most of us younger than 22, asking ourselves “What am I good at?” returns a blank response.
Most success advice doesn’t recognize this because it’s generally written by people who have spent a lifetime figuring out the answer to that question. By contrast, even the most prodigious 20-year-olds among us probably have been working successfully for five years, if that many. Continue Reading