The route to success

In my other life – the one where I am not running, writing about running, reading about running or thinking about running – I work in the design industry. I subscribe to a blog written by a man considered by many in that industry to be a guru; Seth Godin. His daily emails are pithy and thought provoking, often helping me to think about the industry and business in which I work, in new ways. Today my two worlds collided, when I received this in my inbox;

Adversity and the route to success

Resource-rich regions often fall behind in developing significant industrial and cultural capabilities. Japan does well despite having very few resources at all.

Well-rounded and popular people rarely change the world. The one voted most likely to succeed probably won’t.

Genuine success is scarce, and the scarcity comes from the barriers that keep everyone from having it. If it weren’t for the scarcity, it wouldn’t be valuable, after all.

It’s difficult to change an industry, set a world record, land big clients, or do art that influences others. When faced with this difficulty, those with other, seemingly better options see the barrier and walk away.

Why bother? The thinking is that we can just pump some more oil or smile and gladhand our way to an acceptably happy outcome.

On the other hand, people who believe they have fewer options take a look at the barrier and realize that even though it will be difficult to cross, it’s the single best option they’ve got.

This is one of the dangers of overfunded/undertested startup companies. Without an astute CEO in charge, they begin to worry more about not losing what they’ve already got than the real reason they started the project in the first place.

I think what Seth describes is not only “one of the dangers of overfunded/undertested startup companies” – it is also one of the dangers for overfunded and undertested athletes who live very comfortable lives in societies where there are much easier (and let’s face it, more reliable) ways to earn a very comfortable living. So what is it that drives the best to be the best? It must be pretty powerful, because if you believe what Matthew Syed, Daniel Pink, Rasmus Ankersen and others say (you can read my take on that here and here) then it is only due to hard work that they will succeed, which is difficult in a comfortable world.


  1. Couldn’t agree more, mate.

    It’s something that Michael Johnson has referred to several times too especially when talking about some underperforming athletes.

    Here’s to a great, worthwhile and happy 2012!



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