What Determines Success?

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Gifts are hard for me. I can't think of anything I want. With so few cues or clues for my friends and family, it's not surprising I received two copies of Malcolm Gladwell's latest David and Goliath for Christmas. What else would you get for Luke?

David vs Goliath

In typical fashion, Gladwell unearths a new foundation upon which we can build our understanding of success. Why do so many of the most successful people in the world rise from a difficult past? With a lighthearted grimness, Gladwell shares their stories and makes connections to their outcomes. So many of the worlds top entrepreneurs are dyslexics because the have learned to work outside the norm and thrive, for example. That's not to say that all children who suffer from dyslexia will become entrepreneurs, but that such a "desirable difficulty" can help propel a few to the top (Time had an article that hinted at this idea a while back).

What elements have helped push me in my life?

1. I struggled with reading, adapting to audio books in high school as a natural extension of the Read-Alouds in Sonlight's Cores. I don't have dyslexia, but I had to adapt nonetheless.

2. I grew up with no disposable cash. My parents were missionaries for many years and then made a whopping 20 cents an hour for the first few years of Sonlight. I never felt poor -- I credit my parents for this -- but I knew there was no money for things my friends often had. This pushed me to find creative ways to amuse and challenge myself. I've read this is similar to why the original Star Wars trilogy and Matrix was so successful; the filmmakers were required to use creativity due to limited budgets. Throw a ton of money at these creative people and, well, things don't end up so well.

3. I attended a small high school which, reading Gladwell, allowed me to be a big fish in a small pond. I rocked at high school. While small, unknown schools are often looked down upon, there is a huge benefit to giving kids confidence as they learn (another benefit of homeschooling).

But my life has also been filled with obvious blessings too:

My parents are happily married. I have enough money to invest in my dreams. I've had an overall great experience with church. I was homeschooled by parents who were actively involved in my education and challenged me in both big and small ways. And much, much more.

God has also been incredibly good to me (the "luck" factor in Outliers, one of the Gladwell's other books I mention here).

So what determines success?

Hard work, God's providence, tenacity, intelligence, a good family, opportunity, and more are all part of the mix that help us succeed, as are the challenges, setbacks, and obstacles we encounter. Even as we learn more about how good and bad things can hinder and help us, I think it's important to remember that who we become is right up there with what we do. May we keep our eyes focused on Christ through the hills and valleys we all must go through.

I wrote the post on defining success as a precursor to this one. We must be careful to define what we mean as we tackle questions such as these.

What has helped determine your success?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

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