contributed by Dr. Stephen Bangert

A simple word with such complexities.

We all desire success, yet it comes in many varieties and what you define as success another person is likely to view differently.

Acknowledging that you are and have been successful is an important part of good mental health, and is particularly important when you are under stress due to underemployment or loss of a job.  A challenge for anyone searching for a new job, especially in times like today, is maintaining a positive attitude, recognizing that you have been successful, are still viable today, and not letting rejection destroy your confidence.  In fact, this is probably the biggest challenge when conducting a job search.

Many philosophers, psychologists and writers have studied success.  In his latest book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink, focuses on this subject that fascinates so many of us.  He examines the role of talent and intelligence as well as opportunity and timing (which we often call luck).  But he also points to the common ingredient of hard work and discipline.  He writes: “Success is not a function of individual talent.  It’s the steady accumulation of advantages.”  He also gives a short prescription for success with five steps.

  1. 1.      Find meaning and inspiration in your work. 
  2. 2.      Work hard. 
  3. 3.      Discover the relationship between effort and reward. 
  4. 4.      Seek out complex work to avoid boredom and repetition. 
  5. 5.      Be autonomous and control you own destiny as much as possible.

 So how does this translate for you?

 The first step of finding meaning and inspiration in your work is ever changing as your needs evolve and as your job is redefined to address the marketplace.  It is important that you identify what you like, what your needs are, and what drives you, then ask: “What am I passionate about?” and “What am I fully committed to?”  Success then becomes the by-product of pursuing your passion.


When viewing the success of others, it is easy to overlook the hard work that was required.  The pursuit of any goal requires hard work which in turn requires the virtues of discipline and fortitude.  But just because a person works hard at something doesn’t guarantee success.  Their efforts must also be smart, that is, focused and efficient.  Distractions are the enemy.


If a job search is for an extended period, it is easy to compromise your goals especially if finances dictate.  Yet under more normal circumstances it is important to seek a job with a complexity of challenges that will drive personal growth.  A simple goal simply reached becomes boring.  Such goals lack satisfaction.  And while others might admire your success, you know if you have really challenged yourself.

 The last point Gladwell makes suggests independence and control of one’s life and work.  This is a need common to all, although uniquely expressed by each person.  This doesn’t mean you have to be an entrepreneur, however it does require the freedom to express yourself and the belief that you have something valuable to contribute.  The psychological payoff comes when you are recognized for your work and gain the respect of others.

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