Rules for Success

Nicholas Kristoff’s New York Times column this morning lists four principles to follow to achieve success. His advice is obviously addressed to young people, but should be of interest to older people as well. There may be hundreds of such recipes floating around, with huge variations among them. Kristoff’s is somewhat surprising and probably one of the best. 

His number 1 is: Take a course in economics, specifically in statistics. I agree.  If you don’t understand a concept like “reversion to the mean,” for example, you’re less likely to be good at thinking straight. Number 2 is to find a cause bigger than yourself. That’s absolutely true, but I would supply a big caveat: Make sure the cause is a worthy and honorable one, something that can make the world a better place. Number 3 is to find a supportive and loving mate. That too is wise, but easier said than done. To make sure you’re psychologically equipped to make the right choice, you have to follow a bunch of other rules I won’t get into here. Number 4 is to get “outside your comfort zone.” Particularly, live in country for a year where a language other than English is spoken. Become so fluent that you can even say the word for doorknob in that language. 

I agree with this one as well, but, if you embark on such an adventure, make sure you are forced to converse nearly all the time in the language of that country. In one like the Netherlands, for example, you’re likely to find that nearly everyone can speak English. Don’t let them do that to you.