Planned, or just an accident?

“I was never particularly ambitious. Things just happened.” So says cricket legend Ian Chappell.

Think about your own successes, those that put you in the top one percent, or even one-in-a-thousand. Were they chosen goals, or did the good outcomes just occur?

Example 1:  Mark Zuckerberg didn’t plan on being a business star with Facebook. It began as a sort of game, an online jest.

Example 2:  Supermodel Kate Moss was discovered at JFK airport in New York at the age of 14 while returning from a holiday with her parents.

Instead of having big audacious goals, perhaps all we need is to place ourselves in the way of opportunity, watch for natural or accidental gains, then develop them as far and fast as possible.

Goals are often applied to activities in which feel “behind” or inferior, eg weight loss or passing exams. These goals help us succeed, although the results are unlikely to be world-beating. They may simply raise us to normal levels.

This type of achievement can be even more satisfying than where we outrun a lot of people and finish up in the leading bunch.

But the really top results may be those that were never actually planned.

Photo by Elisa Ventur

 

Over the top, almost

I recently went to a performance of Verdi’s nineteenth century opera, La Traviata. Like modern musicals, it was a multi-media spectacle, combining singing, dancing, narrative, an orchestra, scenery and lighting.

The outdoor harborside setting boosted the opportunity for grandiose effects, including fireworks and cast members arriving by boat. An enormous 3.5-tonne chandelier with 10,000 Swarovski crystals overhung the stage.

SWEET SPOT REACHED

The whole enterprise was over the top – almost.  This is surely the key to success in entertainment, communication or almost anything, which is knowing how far to push and when to ease back.

The sweet spot is the point just before the effort falls over the line into absurdity or ridiculousness.

Changing entertainments, watch any motor race and check the lead car. You’ll see lots of small evidence of the traction limits being approached, such as brief wheel locks during braking, sideways judders on the bends, tail wag under acceleration.

The winner is the person who can drive fastest without spinning out, colliding or failing to take a corner.

JUST THIS SIDE

The skill of motor racing is not to drive safely and under control, but to keep the car just this side of catastrophe. Similarly, an accomplished producer or communicator knows exactly where the traction limits lie.

Of course each medium has its own parameters or variables. Opera is not the same as motorsport or a politician’s speech.

But people who have mastered the sweet spot principle are invariably the most successful. This was just as true in Verdi’s time as it is today.

Photo by Borna Bevanda

 

Where did it all go?

Most of us have heard of the resources curse. The notion is that countries blessed with natural resources don’t end up doing as well as those that start out with nothing. Think Venezuela with all its oil, versus Japan, possessing few natural advantages.

The concept can apply equally as well to people.

Those endowed with gifts sometimes cruise along, not as diligent as others, and often accomplishing less with their lives.

GIFTS GONE

Having never worked for their blessings, these people may not know where these came from. Consequently, they don’t know how to protect them or reclaim the gifts when gone. 

Possible types of bestowed advantages include sporting talent, family money, social connections, educational opportunities, good looks and intelligence.

Big achievers often come from behind, spurred on by an acute awareness of what’s lacking in their lives. They get enormous satisfaction from filling this deficit.

The “lucky ones”, meanwhile, sit back and wonder where on earth it all went. 

It’s not how you start out that matters, it’s what you become.