“The Dip” by Seth Godin is a good example of how motivational success books work. The Dip offers this list:
Seven reasons you might fail to become the best in the world [at something specific]
1. You run out of time (and quit).
2. You run out of money (and quit).
3. You get scared (and quit).
4. You’re not serious about it (and quit).
5. You lose interest or enthusiasm or settle for being mediocre (and quit).
6. You focus on the short term instead of the long (and quit when the short term gets too hard).
7. You pick the wrong thing at which to be the best in the world (because you don’t have the talent).
The Dip presents this list as part of a crisp package suggesting success (however defined) is guaranteed, if you follow the program.
Guaranteed success!? Sign me up, right?
Here, however, are seven more reasons you might fail to become the best in the world
1. You are paralyzed by analysis (and miss a critical window).
2. You have health problems that interfere.
3. You have great luck in some other category (say, parenting) that is inherently non-“best in the world” but diverts your attention. And you rededicate.
4. You avoid taking the kind of extremely leveraged positions that could result in “best” with the result that you are rewarded, but not extremely. Maybe Seth Godin would define this as being the “best in the world” at satisfying the market demand for an affordable accountant, say, if you do not become the very best accountant, or would define it as becoming the “best in the world” at satisfying market demand for a local accountant in a particular geographic market, but realistically you’re not different than the higher-priced, more highly sought-after accountant in a bigger city. You just made different choices and accepted less risk.
5. You did take a risk, say an 80% chance of becoming the best choice for a candidate for a local office, but the 20% turned out to happen in this universe, and you’re stuck with being an also-ran.
6. You succeed in becoming the best… but not before the world changes and the thing you’re best at isn’t in demand anymore. E.g., somewhere in the world is the best cab driver in the world. But given how soon we are likely to see cab services taken over by automated driving, if you set out now to be the best cab driver in NYC, and give yourself five years of aggressive work to get there… well, you’ll fail, and that’s something you and I know because we know about self-driving cars. But someone in Tegucigalpa who doesn’t know much about the venture finance money pouring in to fund self-driving cars won’t necessarily know what you know, and what I know, and they may set out to become the best cab driver in Tegucigalpa… and a fat lot of good it may do them.
7. You get sucked into a financial trap, taking on way too much student debt, via the promise of “guaranteed success” and spend the rest of your life falling behind as you have more debt to service than other people who, the wonders of education notwithstanding, are still about as smart and hard-working as you.