After thousands of failed efforts to make the electric light bulb, Thomas Edison said, “I haven’t failed, I’ve identified 10,000 ways that it doesn’t work.” I have always been fascinated with the concept of bell curve, most commonly known as “The standard deviation plot.” For those who are not familiar with the concept, here is a plain English definition: It is a plot or curve that assigns a value of zero to average and assigns a unit value to anything that varies from average.
The units can be positive (higher than average) or negative (lower than average). For example, average students will receive the grade “C” on a given test while a smaller ratio will receive above (A and B) and a few will receive D or F. When compiling the percentage of each grade on a plot, it often resembles the shape of a bell.
It is interesting that, somehow, this bell formation applies not only to statistical formulations, but also to many practical matters such as financial or personal success. I have come to look at this bell curve as a hurdle or hill to climb. While some small percentage of people quit climbing at the upslope, most people usually manage to make it close to or near the crest of the bell. A small percentage don’t quit there and continue to the other side (I call it the sweet side).
Success is relative. It is relative to how one measures up as compared to average (belly of the curve). It is no coincident that most successful people live on the downslope of the curve. Actually, I dare to say that they ALL live in that neighborhood. So why is it that some make it to the end while the majority settles in the middle? Is it because those who live in the “average” zone prefer to be there? Maybe, but then how do you explain millions upon millions of people who buy lottery tickets every week for a rare chance to fast track to the sweet side? Who among us does not wish to win the lottery and become wealthy and financially secure?
I have asked myself why some people (about 2 to 4 percent) make it to the sweet side, while most will not. Let’s consider a few theories:
Theory One: Is it because some are smarter than others? Maybe, but I know some very smart people who never made it over the hump while some less gifted individuals do.
Theory Two: Are some people just luckier than others? Maybe, but as a general statement that cannot be true since we all know that luck is short-lived and a fool and his treasure will eventually be parted.
Theory Three: The distance traveled on the curve is directly correlated to the degree of one’s perseverance. This author believes that, without perseverance, one lacks the will to stand up to the many hurdles faced along her journey. To understand the importance of perseverance, you need only have a look at some of the greatest success stories in recorded history.
It’s hard to formulate perseverance but here are some tips that I have found helpful:
- Clarify Your Goal. State your goal in present time. Write desired outcomes and imagine them. Be detailed, specific and positive.
- Intend to Achieve Your Goal. Identify resources that can help you attain your goal. Break the goal into small steps, working backward from your desired outcome and start date.
- Develop Support Systems. Meet regularly with positive, encouraging people who support your goals and celebrate your achievements. Select other sources of positive reinforcement such as books or tapes with uplifting themes.
- Choose Productive Attitudes and Behaviors. Don’t dwell in the past or worry about what might happen. Don’t ever view yourself as a victim. Maintain optimism. Expect good things. Replace negative thoughts or statements with positive ones.
- Develop the Will to Risk. Don’t fear mistakes. Ask: What’s the worst that can happen? Decide whether you could live with the worst or take steps to reduce the chance of it happening. View mistakes as life lessons and opportunities to grow.
- Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle. Care for you mind, body, emotions and spirit. Schedule quiet times to think and reassess. Practice stress relievers such as deep breathing, exercise, running, meditation. Get sufficient sleep, eat healthy. Take time for fun and friends.
- Practice Imagery. Imagine yourself living your desired result today. See, smell, touch and hear aspects of your goal. Each morning upon rising, review your goal. Repeat the process at night.
- Persist. With every “no” of defeat you’re closer to a “yes” of success. If you learn from set-backs and stay on course, success will follow.
- Monitor. At regular intervals (preferably daily), ask yourself whether your activities are helping you attain your goal.
10. Persevere. When your mind, emotions and activities focus on your goal, you can achieve the extraordinary and find your pot of gold at the end of the bell curve.