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What Behavioral Economics Can Teach You About Success

(Success is equal part hard work and equal part luck). Success is the outcome of perseverance in the face of challenges. Everyone knows about the 10,000 hour rule, that is you need to keep doing the same thing again and again until you become an expert in that field. The problem is, most of us at some point have planned to do exactly that, or even have mapped out how we are going to get there, but when the first storm comes we are knocked down and lose the motivation to get back up and keep going.

A lot of authors and motivational speakers (or famously successful people) have offered their advice on how to stay on the track to success. If we can boil down all the different strategies they offer, the one formula they all contain is this: just wanting success is not enough, you must want it really bad. A favorite quote I see in the gym captures this perfectly. Your body can handle it, you just have to convince your mind.

Set your alarm song to Whitney Houston’s One Moment in Time? Check. Put up posters with motivational quotes around your bedroom? Check. Get a tattoo with your favorite success quote? Check (and ouch!).

If all of those above work for you (or not), here is one more piece of conventional wisdom that has now been validated by the youngest branch in Economics. You have the birth right to success; anything less and someone is robbing you off your possession.

Let me give you an example that behavioral economists do to test this so-called “Endowment Effect.” Scholars walk into a classroom of students and start giving them each a mug that is worth say $5. In one variation of this experiment, they then ask students how much money they are willing to sell the mug for. In another variation, they offer the chance for the students to trade the mug with a chocolate bar worth the same amount. In both scenarios, the students value the mug more than it is actually worth even though they have owned it for only a few minutes.

Now, if you are finding it hard to wake up in the morning to go to the gym, start believing that that flat abs or bulging biceps is yours to begin with, and not going to the gym is letting someone steal that from you. Or if you keep finding excuses not to start your own business now that you can sell in a few years to Facebook for $1 billion, believe that you have the $1 billion now and not working for it is like getting your wallet stolen many times until the amount you’ve lost is $1 billion.

Picture Credit: RKOI

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