Predictors of Success

A study of Harvard graduates showed that a person’s approach to setbacks in life is the single greatest predictor of success. This is interesting considering that companies tend to hire based on technical skill and intelligence. However, only 25% of job success is attributed to intelligence and technical skills. Psychologist Shawn Achor states that:

Seventy-five percent of long-term job success is predicted not by intelligence and technical skills, which is normally how we hire, educate, and train, but it’s predicted by three other umbrella categories. It’s optimism (which is the belief that your behaviour matters in the midst of challenge), your social connection (whether or not you have depth and breadth in your social relationships), and the way that you perceive stress.

He further remarks in his Ted Talk that a brain that is in a positive state performs better than at neutral, negative, or stressed. Dopamine floods the brain when it is in a positive state, which has two functions. Dopamine turns on the learning centers of the brain and makes us happier.

There are ways to train the brain into becoming more positive. These include: writing down three new things that you are grateful for each day, journaling one positive experience of the day (which forces us to relive it), exercise, meditation, and random acts of kindness. Done 21 days in a row, these activities can re-wire the brain.

Given that skills and intelligence only account for a portion of success, perhaps law schools should place a greater emphasis on building optimism and social connections amongst its students.

To read a further summary of Shawn’s research click here:

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