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A 26-year-old founded a medical startup — the same year he lost almost half his vision

Last week we explored what happiness and success mean and the truth behind the American dream's images that money, job title and fame will bring happiness. This week we'll go over the truth behind Kevin Choi from CNBC Make It's success story and six traits successful people have in common so you can begin to optimise success and peace in your life.

The story

At the young age of 26, Kevin Choi was diagnosed with myopia and could hardly see out of his right eye. With $5000 he has started a multi-million, multi-national dollar business in the medical field so patients can receive faster diagnoses. Pretty impressive right?

The Illusion

Was the first thing that captures your attention when you read this headline the age? The whole story is impressive, but reading the article on CNBC make it made me realise Kevin Choi was diagnosed at 26 back in 2016- almost seven years ago making him now 33. It also means it took Kevin about seven years to build a business that I read about in two minutes.

What do you think when you think of success? The stories that catch our attention are the outliers. They’re the stories that we look at in wonder asking “How did they do it?” They’re the stories that prey on insecurities because they highlight things most people want- but don’t have, and the stories and headlines are written like success is easy to achieve.

The truth is success is anything but easy. What we hear is normally a snapshot of a long history of failures, setbacks and humbling feedback and while the stories show what successful people had to overcome, they rarely tell how people overcame and approached each day.

The Truth

It made me wonder where the truth is on how people reach success. The top predictor of career success above any trait is joining open networks across sectors (Inc), however, research shows there are certain traits successful have in common, I’ve put six of the solid ones below with resources so that you can work on the ones that feel natural to you:

Six traits most successful people have in common

1 and 2. Competence & Warmth

Warmth is the extent to which a person is friendly, exhibits positive intentions toward others, and is trusted, kind, and empathetic. and Competence is an individual’s intelligence, their ability to achieve, efficiency, their individual skills, and overall power. As two of the most heavily studied traits with studies starting from the 1940s, research shows the most successful people have a combination of competence and warmth. (Forbes, Linkedin, Lewis Howes Podcast)

3. Generosity

Successful people look to see how they can help and give as often as possible. Wharton psychologist Adam Grant found the most successful people were “unselfish givers”, defined as individuals with an inclination to help others without expecting anything in return. (Ivy Exec)

4. Drive

Successful people are hardworking, motivated and take initiative. There’s great research on Dopamine and motivation to help you get more done.

5. Resilience

Resilience has been shown as a strong indicator to overcome hardship and find alternative coping strategies (PLOS). Resilience allows people to better handle VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous). Most people obtain resilience through overcoming hardship using a mixture of strategies which help them adapt and believe they can overcome adversity in future situations.

5. Curiosity

Curiosity has been shown in a 2022 meta-analysis to be largely linked to success. (Current psychology, 2022) Best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert advises, “If you want to live a curiosity-driven life, you must commit to being vigilant about looking for what’s piquing your curiosity.”

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post and that it helps you sleep better nailing down another answer to life's endless questions.

Questions that keep me up at night - the blog for curious people every Wednesday at 9:00am.

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