WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

 
HOW TO BE LUCKY (SEASON THREE)
 
SELF CONTROL
I decided to go with self-control here instead of the popular choice of words; hard-work. Being hardworking is a very high success determinant but hard work can sometimes be misconstrued. In fact, smart work lately has been proven to sometimes produce better results. But in any case, the key word is usually dedication, and for you to be dedicated, you need self-control. 
How do you spend your downtime? Working tirelessly on a side project that, someday, may lead to major success? Or watching Netflix in your sweatpants?
Self-control, and investing time and effort in activities that are only rewarding in the long-term, is a great way to generate successful, apparently lucky outcomes.
Please permit me to tell you the story of a man, Derek Sivers. He’s a millionaire who set up a company called CD Baby back in the 1990s. Sivers had created a credit-card account to sell CDs of his own music. CD Baby was born when a friend asked him if he would help set up a website for independent bands to sell their CDs. The site was created over the course of a weekend and later sold at a value of USD22 million. What luck! A chance conversation that led, decades later, to a multimillion-dollar payout!
Except it wasn’t really luck. Among his friends, Sivers was known as “the robot.” He had a long attention span and was happy to block out the world and work nonstop for a weekend if he wanted to master a new skill.
When, in 1993, he first heard of the internet, he didn’t just start exploring it; he taught himself HTML so he could create his own websites. This same story can be replicated and changed with the names of the world’s richest people today. Remove Derek Sivers and put Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, or Sergey Brin or any of these other guys and the story almost all look the same, they were all people that trained themselves to shut out the world. You can even put the name of any of your favorite writer and go check out their biographies. 
Unfortunately, it’s hard to improve your ability to self-regulate your behavior, so don’t get too despondent if you struggle with willpower. Our brain finds it easier to do things that we’ve done many times before – that’s why adults who have tied a tie every morning for ten years can do it on autopilot. Doing things that don’t come naturally, like tying a tie for the very first time, or teaching yourself HTML instead of watching old episodes of Friends, requires us to use the most energy-demanding part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex. If learning new skills feels like hard work, that’s because it really is.
The good news is that, though arduous, self-improvement isn’t impossible. We can all get better at self-discipline by employing tricks like physically moving short-term temptations away (no more cookies in the cupboard!) and picturing the eventual reward of long-term decisions (do I want another cocktail now, or a house in ten years?). So cultivate your self-discipline, and when a lucky opportunity pops up, you’ll be well placed to capitalize on it, just as Derek Sivers was.
However, don’t beat yourself up too hard when your hard work doesn’t seem to be paying off. There are just some places your dedication might not take you to the top. For example, writing looks like one of the easiest jobs in the world until you actually try to sit down and formulate words out of thin air. Research has shown that most writers, the most prolific ones, are either born with the gift or they just don’t have it. Hard work, self-control and dedication are good, but can be misleading. 
A Swedish psychologist named Karl Anders Ericsson once found that the world’s best musicians had, on average, practiced for 10,000 hours. This has led to a rather simplistic idea that’s been popularized by the writer Malcolm Gladwell – that you can become an expert in any field by practicing for 10,000 hours or more.
It’s a seductive theory. You, too, could have been a world-class producer like Don Jazzy, if you’d only stuck with those piano and guitar and drum lessons instead of drinking beer with your friends! But it’s not really true. Hard work and practice aren’t enough. You also need the right genes.
Researchers exploring the link between genes and athletic performance have found that genes can account for anywhere between 31 and 85% of variation between athletes. So the difference between an Olympic medalist and an “also ran” doesn’t depend on practice alone; it’s also genetic. Just ask Usain Bolt how many hours he trains. 
You need the right resources, too, not to mention the right location. It’s entirely possible that someone with the perfect genetic makeup for competitive swimming is living in a torn tent in Maiduguri. Of course, that person would be unlikely to ever hit the Olympic Games, for geographical and financial reasons.
Studies of top swimmers show that they tend to come from families with a decent income. If they didn’t, they’d be unable to travel around to competitions. They also tend to come from places like southern California, where the sun shines all year round and there are plenty of pools.
To add to genes, resources and location, you also need mental toughness. Reaching the very top in any field depends on never saying, “I quit.”
The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, a superstar footballer, are capable of looking at a loss and criticism as a learning experience time and time again, relentlessly focusing on improvement and exercising unyielding self-control. Master this, and you’ll be that much closer to becoming a five-time ballon d’Or winner. 
It’s easy to believe in hard work. A gold medalist is more likely to talk about her years of training than her superior genetic makeup, and she may neglect to mention that she grew up next door to a track and was raised by parents who paid for exclusive coaching. Sure, hard work is important. But it’s not enough on its own. 
What do you think also plays a huge impact on your level of attainment? We will discuss them in
the next post.
 
Olusola Bodunrin
Olusola Bodunrin is a social commentator with a passion for gathering facts on social issues. He is writer, businessman, blogger, and wardrobe consultant. He is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Ado-Ekiti. He anchors – ‘What You Should Know’ on SHEFFA. ‘What You Should Know’ is a column that offers to educate and enlighten the public on general falsehood and myths.