Two simple questions to predict success or failure

It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.
Mahatma Gandhi
1869 – 1948

Do you believe it’s possible to accurately predict success or failure by asking two simple questions? Before you answer, let me tell you the questions.

  1. Do you ever make mistakes?
  2. If so, what is the worst mistake you have ever made?

In a research study, these questions were asked to students preparing to be neurosurgeons. The researchers found that the students who flunked out either claimed that they rarely made mistakes or said that the errors were due to circumstances beyond their control. On the other hand, the students who succeeded in becoming neurosurgeons readily admitted to making lots of mistakes and described the lessons they learned from their blunders.

I realize that most people never aspire to be a neurosurgeon. However, the same principles apply. I think most of us will admit to making mistakes. But far too many people make excuses for their missteps. They blame circumstances, fate, other people — anything except their own choices.

There’s a very valuable lesson here. No matter what you attempt, you must accept total responsibility for your choices if you want to be successful. Our natural inclination is to justify our actions by shifting blame when things go wrong. But if we don’t take full responsibility for our actions, we never learn from our mistakes — thereby ensuring that we’ll repeat them.

If you find yourself consistently failing in your attempts to achieve difficult goals, stop and ask yourself the two questions above, paying close attention to how you answer them. If you continually rationalize your mistakes or make excuses for your actions, then you know where the problem is.

It is a painful thing to look at your own trouble and know that you yourself and no one else has made it.
c. 495 – 429 B.C.

Copyright © 2018 John Chancellor

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