The Underdog Can be Your Ticket to Success
by Kevin D. Crone
Lately I’ve been thinking again about what it takes to be successful. This topic has taken up my thoughts since 1964 when I was one of those who picked up the ball to keep Dale Carnegie’s vision alive in Canada after his death. Dale created a vision for me and millions of others that I could succeed in life despite any perceived drawbacks. He actually proved to us that we could feel more confident about ourselves by overcoming our fears and other self-made mental models by making us do the things we were uncomfortable doing, until we were comfortable and somewhat good at it.
I came from a large, not well-to-do family who couldn’t afford to give me a university education. Yet, I experienced being with some wealthy kids in high school who were smart and expected success. I thought, “Oh well, I’m from a factory town with no place to go but up,” but I didn’t expect much. Probably others didn’t expect much from me either. I had to learn to do everything for myself and pay for my education and everything else by myself. I had to put in incredible effort and focus and motivation that many other kids didn’t have to think about, or so I thought. (I know, I know, I sound like your Dad or Papa.)
What does that mean today in this world where it seems everyone goes to university? Do people still need confidence? Does feeling confident matter as much as knowing stuff? You bet, we still judge ourselves by how good we are in comparison to others around us. Heck, you may have had a tough time getting a good job with your education, let alone rising up the ladder in this educated yet, competitive business environment. How does that make you feel? We generally underestimate just how important focus, effort and motivation are. So, if life hands us a lemon it can be a blessing whether we realize it or not.
Difficulty and being the underdog triggers those things. In essence, it can wake us up and maybe some people around us as well, to the necessity that hard work leaves us better off, not worse off. The over-dog and their intellectual complacency and narcissist behaviour can, and should be, stretched as well, because their understanding of how good they are should be challenged with uncomfortable tasks so their self belief can be exposed as being delusional.
Everything overdone, including self-confidence, can lead to being dangerous. Bosses who treat their people like peasants don’t necessarily care how they come across. Or people who never stand up for, or lead anything, can think it is okay not to be heard. Those two examples can lead to unproductive behaviours and poor results.
I still love Dale Carnegie’s basic belief that your life is what you make it. Difficulty doesn’t mean it’s over. Your ability to create your life and career depends about 85% on your attitude, ability to be heard, to influence others effectively, and only 15% on having a good education that gets you started. It’s really up to us. Having the right attitude, effectively communicating, leading and influencing others is the hard part. It always will be.
Constantly getting stretched at those things will give us the leg-up on our competition. I’m not saying that I hope you experience dramatic failure so you will learn to succeed. I’m just reminding you that focus, hard work, motivation, our skill at influencing others and communicating well is usually worked on when we experience difficulty. The underdog is blessed. Don’t drop your vision, up your confidence from doing difficult things until you succeed. It’s never over. The north winds made the Vikings tough. Face into them and get at what seems too difficult to do – now.
Have a great week!
Kevin D. Crone
Chairman, Dale Carnegie Business Group
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