We often look at chronically successful people and wonder how they do it. Gene pool? Supportive family? Nose surgically attached to the grindstone? All of the above? Entrepreneur.com columnist Scott Halford, who we are big fans of, has some idea:
Earl Miller of MIT and Mark Histed of Harvard found that our neurons retain memory and become more finely tuned when we succeed, but they don't when success isn't present. There is a difference between the absence of success and the presence of failure. For instance, when a mistake leads to a negative consequence, we have a tendency to learn from it and veer in another direction. We don't necessarily learn what to do, but we learn what not to do. On the other hand, when there is absence of success but no apparent mistakes (you lose money in the stock market but have nothing tangibly to do with it), nothing appears to change in the brain, and relatively little--if any--learning takes place.
Here's what goes on that makes success so...well, successful. When you're learning something new and you have a success, even a small one, your brain gets a little reward bump of the pleasure neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is used to thicken the neural pathways needed to learn a new skill. Your brain is drawn to activities that give you those little pleasure bumps. You can actually become addicted to success. But the big news is that the more you succeed, the longer your brain retains the proper information to help you succeed again.
To get onto the success train, Halford gives his readers five key tips:
1. Don't set out to learn from mistakes. Set out to succeed.
2. Be positive.
3. Practice, practice, practice.
4. Acknowledge success.
5. Seek out positive feedback.
For more details on each of these points, see Halford's article. While it's written as advice for company leaders there's no reason why you can't adopt its advice for yourself. (We could say something about "You, Inc." but we're concerned about the utter cheesiness of that expression.)