Secrets to Financial Success

The September 2006 issue of Money magazine has an article by Ryan D'Agostino about financial success. Ryan set out across America's wealthiest zip codes, knocking on doors and asking people how they became successful. This is the essence of modeling excellence: find people who are good at something and ask them how they do it. Duh.

Financial Success Mindset

Despite the various ways each person became wealthy, Ryan found that the successful shared similar beliefs and strategies. In other words, they shared a similar mindset.

Belief #1: I'm Lucky

If you believe you're lucky, you will tend to notice the opportunities for success all around you. If you believe you're not lucky, you just won't be able to notice the blatant opportunities around you. An experiment by Richard Wiseman found that unlucky people would miss a clearly marked shortcut to solve the problem presented: lucky people found it right away.

Belief #2: I Learn From Every Success and Failure

Ryan also quotes Carol Dweck, author of Mindset. She found that there are "fixed" mindsets and "growth" mindsets. Fixed mindset people believe that intelligence and success are fixed at birth. Growth mindset people believe that intelligence and skill are cultivated by trial and error. Failing is the best way to ensure they succeed the next time.

Dweck created a simple test and measured people's behavior to the answers. Fixed mindset people only wanted to know if they were right or wrong. Growth mindset people wanted to learn the right answer. Her insight: persistence and the pursuit of knowledge lead to success.

Belief #3: Risk is the heightened probability that there is a big range of possible outcomes

Risk doesn't mean danger? It means a range of possibilities? How's that for a fresh mindset? Successful people weight the upside and the downside of every opportunity and decide whether to pursue or skip it. In other words, they use their noggin to evaluate the chances of success.

And, I strongly suspect that they find ways to test the waters without jumping in. When my coauthor Greg Engel and I first published the Motivation Profile back in 1992, we started with a few dozen photocopies. We ran some pilot workshops and improved the profile until we felt it was robust enough for the market. Our first printing was 2,000 copies which sold out easily. Since then we've sold tens of thousands.

I call this the crawl-walk-run strategy for success. I recommend it to my Lean Six Sigma clients: run a few pilot projects, learn something, adapt the methods and tools to more closely fit their business, and then expand the implementation to the next round of pilot projects.

I also call this LBD: learn by doing. There's no substitute for the rapid learning that occurs when you prototype a product or pilot project.

Here's My Point

The wrong beliefs can hold you back. The right beliefs can facilitate and accelerate your success.

Are you lucky? Are you learning from every success and failure? Is risk a range of possibilities? Do you look before you leap? Do you start small and leverage your learnings?

Isn't it time to stop making excuses and start debugging your mental software?

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