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On Career Success: Advice to Millennials

The discussion on which personality traits are best predictors of success has been going on for a long time now, without much definitive proof from actual research.

What seems to be generally accepted is that intelligence (IQ) does not seem to be closely correlated with business success (be it professional status, wealth or financial standing). Rather, it is traits such as persistence, tenacity, grit or self-control that are more predictive.

There are some interesting writings on the topic.

Angela Lee Duckworth’a notion of grit that she defines as: "perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” She argues that grit, coupled with the power of passion and perseverance are strong correlates of success.

A related term is offered by Zolli ("Why things bounce back") who defines resilience as “the ability of people, communities and systems to maintain their core purpose and integrity among unforeseen shocks and surprises.”

Diane Coutu (HBR, How Resilience Works) concludes that resilient individuals share three unique traits:

• a resolute acceptance of reality;

• a sense that life is meaningful;

• an exceptional ability to improvise.

Another trait which seems to correlate well with business outcomes is self-control…. the tendency to “sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals.”

So, there you have it. Grit, resilience and self-control will get you places. Complacency, which may correlate well with happiness and work-life balance, will most likely not help you achieve ambitious goals. Who is to say which is preferable?

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