from DrFrylock a post on the RMMB
Heed these words my man...
Succeeding, in my experience, takes a number of factors, all playing into one another.
Willingness to fail: The difference between a successful person and an adequate person is, ironically, that the successful person has fucked up about a hundred times more. You have to be willing to fail a hundred times before you succeed. I think most people think that "tenacity" and "perseverance" are synonyms for "doing something for a long time." They are not. They mean fucking up until you succeed. The problem is that a lot of neophytes see experienced people, who don't fuck up very often and show remarkable insight and assume they were always that way. Of course they weren't. They had hundreds of fuckups too, although probably many years ago. In my case, I was lucky and got to do eight years of fucking up before I even got to college. Now, I don't fuck up very often. When I do, it's more minor, and I'm very good at covering it up until I fix it. If I want I can usually look pretty infallible. When it's advantageous to do so, of course.
Self-esteem: This country has a serious self-esteem problem, especially in women. There has been a slow but substantial change in attitudes about self-esteem. We have all heard about the trend in little league sports to not keep score, not to identify winners and losers. There is a hypothesis hanging in the air that self-esteem can be built through simply trying at something. Then, we can avoid all those messy failures, and the bad feelings that go along with them. We can instead focus on encouragement, and everybody likes effort and encouragement, right? The problem is, the hypothesis is wrong. Effort and encouragement are not enough to cultivate self-esteem. Self-esteem is built through overcoming real challenges and failures. It comes from success in spite of real adversity. Societally, we moved from being a nation of asshole fathers that simply humiliated our kids into overcoming adversity "for their own good" to a nation of nurturing mothers where nobody ever has to feel bad and everyone is special in their own way. We need something in the middle, but we haven't found it yet.
Willingness to sacrifice: You can't have it all. You can't be a partner at a top 50 law firm and have copious free time. You can't be a straight-A student and party every night. You can't kick it with your friends and gain work experience at the same time. Sometimes, you have to go all out to pursue a dream, and that means letting other things go by the wayside. I graduated college with something like a 3.97 GPA. I held a part-time job all four years. To do that, I consciously chose to give up the social aspects of the college experience. I did not have the time nor (more importantly) the energy to do it all. I have no great "man one time this party got SO out of hand" stories. I have no "dude this chick from my anthro class and I hooked up and we didn't leave the dorm room ALL weekend" stories. None. Nothing even remotely like that. Oh, I'm not socially retarded. I don't drool and my T-shirts are remarkably free of Cheeto stains; there's a point at which too much sacrifice retards success. But there's a lot of leeway in between. However, as you get older and you pursue greater degrees of success, you must be honest with yourself about sacrifices. It is very, very hard to be a world-class success in something and have a great family life. If you look back at the history of most professions, I bet you'd find a strong correlation between extreme success and divorce rates.
Willingness to learn: Collectively, we still haven't figured out quite how to handle higher education. The European system, in which students are assessed and then forever consigned to their fate in the factory, a vocational school, or a real university, isn't quite right. There's a class-ist, demeaning aspect to it. It's worse in places like India. The American system isn't quite right either. Here, thanks to a combination of community colleges, an overabundance of four-year colleges and universities, liberal arts majors, and living at home for seven years, even Forrest Gump could manage a Bachelors degree. It's certainly more egalitarian, but at what point is education diluted beyond recognition? How many Forrest Gumps with degrees does it take before everyone else's is devalued? This dilution is the grappling hook with which the vocal anti-intellectuals in America hold on to their argument that formal education is overrated. (Our postgraduate systems, on the other hand, are excellent, but those affect a much smaller number of people).
The relationship of education and learning to success is simple: to be truly successful at any established activity, craft, or profession, there is a corpus of knowledge that you must not only be exposed to, but study and internalize. A formal education at a good university will expose you to that corpus of knowledge and attempt to compel you to study it. Internalizing it is a separate issue, and that cannot be compelled. This is why so many industrial practitioners are constantly complaining that students fresh out of college "still don't know anything" and have to be trained extensively on the job. This is because in many professions, you have to practice with the corpus of knowledge to internalize it. As any anti-intellectualist will tell you, you don't need a university to learn. However, what they don't generally understand is that whether a university is involved or not, you have to study and internalize the same things. Making a go of it on your own is rewarding but awfully hard, and you have a much better chance of missing something important.
In any case, you will likely find that (with the exception, perhaps, of prodigies) that the most successful people in any activities are sponges. They study, understand, and internalize all the information that flows past them, and they seek out more. They develop expertise in related areas that aren't necessarily their focus. This enables them to make connections between things that aren't obvious to the less studious, and often appear as "left field" insights when in reality they are simply natural consequences of a breadth of knowledge.
Willingness to push limits: Being successful is about having a keen understanding of one's own limitations and also pushing beyond them. This is uncomfortable, often stressful, and sometimes (but not always) risky. Risk is an element of any success, but there are good risks and bad ones. When presented with any new endeavor, ask yourself: "is this primarily an opportunity or primarily a risk?" If it's an opportunity, you will generally do well to take it. If it is primarily a risk, greater care must be exercised. There is no greater self-esteem boost, no straighter path to success than to attempt something that you don't know you can do and then accomplish it. Do this often enough, and with a little luck you will eventually have the chance to do something that might even be impossible. Accomplish that and you get a small taste of transcendence.
Willingness to collaborate: "It's not what you know, it's who you know." This phrase, occasionally preceded generously by "Sometimes," is one of my least favorite sentences in the English language. It has a core of truth surrounded by a worm-infested husk of anti-intellectualism. If this were really true, the only criteria for success in life would be membership in a fraternity. As I pointed out above, ignoring what you know is fatal to real success. If you are smart and inquisitive and a little ambitious, you will have the opportunity to interact with other successful people that can be facilitators and role models in your life. It's a virtual certainty. The question for you is: will you cultivate these relationships or not? Being a team player and learning from others (while they also learn from you) is a critical catalyst to success. You will see indirect but substantial gains in your life if you are respectful of the people who know more than you, and generous with those who know less than you. Becoming very successful does not mean you have to be a diva, and 'diva' is (or should be) an entirely derogatory term.
Setting realistic, incremental, and motivating goals: If you don't decide what you want to happen in your life, nothing probably will. Nobody ever got successful sitting on their ass playing Xbox and waiting for something to happen. It won't. You are not the Chosen One and there is no Ancient Prophecy written about you. On the other extreme, having your only goal be to be 1) President 2) a major-league sports star 3) a rock star or 4) famous in any way is even stupider. Those aren't goals, those aren't ambitions, those are crack-pipe dreams. If you want to have one of those in the back of your head, fine. Here's something a little bit more localized: look at the people around you who are one step closer to your eventual goal than you are. These are people with whom you should be able to associate directly. Figure out how to achieve that level of success, and then go from there. Life is a ladder, not a teleportation device. Very few successful people skip intermediate steps, no matter how lucky they are or how many people they associate with.