How to Succeed in Life

Years back, I spent a number of years
teaching high school math and economics. My technique is to break any problem down to its most basic elements and identify a root cause. High school students all face some very basic obstacles that one way or another, they will all have to overcome. I came up with three things any human can do. Doing these three things optimizes any person’s chance of succeeding at whatever path they choose to follow. On the first day of class, I would give them each a card with the following message printed on it.

Mr. Q’s Motto.
Have Dignity  
Make Good Trades
Own Your Own Tools

Have Dignity: In life, in order to succeed, a person must have a level below which he is unwilling to go. That level will be different for every person. In all cases, it must be high enough to where it can’t be said that he will do anything for a buck. Some things must be beyond your dignity.

Make Good Trades: This is not limited to what is bought or sold. It applies to how a person uses his time and energy. To make good trades, it is good to digest the meaning of deferred gratification. A student could smoke weed or drink a beer. Any benefit from those activities is short lived. Another student could forego lighter pleasures and instead reason out math problems or hone in on the finer points of carpentry. In the end those who practice deferred gratification will end up with more satisfaction in the end. Doing one thing instead of another does constitute making a trade.

Own Your Own Tools: If a young person goes to a job site carrying a hammer and a circular saw, he will get hired. Given time, if he buys compressors, nail guns and other items, he might end up running his own crew. There are plenty of builders who started out with only a hammer. What about another who goes the academic route? He must own his own mind just as the carpenter must do in addition to owning his physical tools..

I don’t know how many of Mr. Q motto cards are still in existence in the universe. A number of years ago after retiring…. like most people, I had a Facebook page. I got a friend request from a young lady who had been a student. She included a note that she still had the card that I had passed out to the class back in 2004. Of course, I felt good about that.

Finally, there is an additional principle I will throw out there. Intelligence is typically given as the primary influence in determining success in most areas. Now, a high I.Q. can be critical. Make no mistake.

There is one characteristic however, that eclipses I.Q. as a determinant of success. That is a high level of interest. Interest is a unique phenomenon. Telling someone to get interested in something accomplishes nothing. I am not convinced that being interested in something, anything, is an inborn gift.

Let’s call that the gift of being interested.








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