So You Want To Be Successful?

It is has a lot to do with human economics. My grandfather felt so.

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As a young kid, I was awed at how many people spoke admiringly about my grandfather, many years after he was gone. Interestingly, as I reflect back, my grandfather was not a wealthy man, at least monetarily. He had taken up contract work, like road building, to supplement his family income post retirement. So, what was it about him that made folks travel from far off places and take their time to talk to us? This was always in the back of my mind.

Where are the Dots

Steve Jobs, in one of his most commemorated speeches to a graduating class at Stanford, shared a master class story about “connecting the dots.” He talked about how his off-beat class on calligraphy, in his formative years, came back to help him while designing the first Macintosh computer. Best summed in his words- “Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.”

Psychology and Economics Inter-play

I connected the dots about my grandfather, years later, while reading a seminal piece of research work by Adam Grant in his book Give and Take. In a nutshell, the psychologist in Adam divided people into three buckets — givers, takers and matchers. He then rank-ordered folks on a success scale. The interesting result was that givers were at both ends of the totem pole.

Drawing analogies to the basic tenants of economics: net value = value less cost, the folks at both ends of the totem pole provided something of value for others. The difference was how they viewed the costs. Folks at the top end of the totem pole mirror my mother’s gem of advice: focus on what is of great value to others but less cost to you.

Looks like my grandfather had applied basic analytics in human relationships instinctively- his cost items were network connections, physical labor, application of his intellect and attentive time. Where he excelled was in customizing cost items that were of great value to each individual- individuals who were propelled to spend their time and money to visit us and share their deep sense of goodwill and shape my thoughts at a tender age.

Putting it all together

Ergo, it also looks like my grandfather had cracked the code to the philosophical question from Robin Sharma’s thought provoking book, The Monk who sold his Ferrari -“If your tombstone could only have one line on it, what would that line say?” Simple, yet powerful question.

How do you define your success and what would you want your tombstone line to say?

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Stories to fuel your mind. Theme: life’s hidden treasures in plain sight. Goal: Warm tone, solid content, crisp stories. About me: one google search away.

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