“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” -Bill Gates


COMMENT: Though Gates makes an interesting point, research by social psychologist Timothy Wilson suggests that success in and of itself is actually of little consequence. What is of the utmost importance is the narrative we construct about why we succeeded. For instance, one explanation for Gates’ unprecedented success might be that he is a genius. However, another explanation, presented by Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers, is that, through an absolute fluke, Gates had near unlimited access to one of the very first computers ever made (back when they were the size of a room) and worked incredibly hard (over 10,000 hours) learning to code. When the technology for the personal computer became available he was one of perhaps 50 people in the world with the skills to take advantage of it. This is a narrative of luck meets hard work, not inherent genius. As Carol Dweck’s research suggests, adopting a self-narrative that explains your successes in terms of skills that are stable or fixed is detrimental while a narrative involving skills that you worked hard to develop is highly beneficial.

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