Much has been written about what makes it more likely a person will be successful. Recently I read several articles that reference a new book by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America. In it, Chua and Rubenfeld identify attributes they say are common to cultural groups with large numbers of successful folks:

  • A superiority complex—a deep-seated belief in one’s exceptionality
  • Insecurity—a feeling that you or what you've done is not good enough
  • Impulse control

I am not going to argue for or against the authors’ premise that different cultural groups experience different levels of success. But I do suggest that the three attributes they cite are very common among successful people.
Why? The first, a feeling of superiority, is essential to providing one with the drive and courage to craft and champion a different way of looking at things. Seeing things differently than others is how a businessperson can be more likely to be successful. Particularly in a small business, the entrepreneur must be his own best evangelist, convinced his ideas about how to do the business his company is in are the best.

The second attribute, feeling insecure about your work being good enough, tempers the first attribute. Unbridled arrogance is the inevitable result of feeling superior to everyone else. A bit of insecurity, productively harnessed, leads to one’s company having a culture of continuous improvement.

The third attribute, impulse control, I read as having the discipline to stick with it, even when one is having a tough time. There are so many distractions built into our lives that it is hard to not get bogged down by endlessly checking email or the like. Successful people work hard in a disciplined and focused way, postponing gratification until they have accomplished a clearly defined goal, albeit often a simple small one. Those accomplishments add up to success.

Do you, upon reflection, notice that you have a bit of each of these attributes? Or is one or more missing or not as developed as you would like?

I believe we all have choices, often about things that we never think we do. Success is a product of making choices, driven by a feeling of superiority that is tempered by some sense of insecurity and founded on personal discipline.

Satchel Paige put it much simpler: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” Stay focused on your clear vision and make it happen!