Success: depends on self-control.

Success: depends on self-control.

It has become politically incorrect these days to look at specific cultural and ethnic groups and draw conclusions from how they think and behave. Even when those conclusions happen to be positive, there’s still a forbidden stench about them lest you make other groups feel inferior.  

And yet there are some statistics and characteristics so glaringly obvious and astounding they’re impossible to ignore. Consider, for example, the following, all of which are based on credible data in the United States:

  • The median household net worth is $99,500 but among Jews it’s $443,000.
  • Even though they make up 1.7 per cent of the American population, Jews account for twenty of the fifty richest people and a third of the top 400.
  • Despite constituting just 0.2 per cent of the global population, Jews have won half the non-fiction Pulitzer prizes and a fifth of the Nobel ones.
  • The amount of land owned by the Mormon church is larger than the state of Delaware.
  • The Church of England has assets of $6.9 billion whereas the Mormon church, with a fraction of the members, has assets of $30 billion.

Those findings are detailed in a fascinating and immensely readable new book, The Triple Package, written by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, both of whom are professors at Yale. Using enormous amounts of empirical research, they conclude Jews and Mormons (and a few others) share three attributes: (i) they feel superior; (ii) they feel insecure; and (iii) they control their impulses.

It’s true that feeling both superior and insecure is a conflicting paradox. Jews, for instance, fundamentally believe they’re the ‘chosen ones’ while simultaneously feeling threatened even decades after the end of World War II.

If you’re fortunate enough to be part of a group that tends to make its members feel that way, statistically you have a greater chance of success. But if you’re part of the less fortunate majority, here’s what you can learn – and emulate – from what those groups do that makes them so disproportionately successful.

Feel superior: As Chua and Rubenfeld note, feeling superior is especially challenging for those on the Left whose ideology encourages them to believe everybody is equal and that people shouldn’t judge themselves as better than anyone else. For progressives, “judgements are anathema. Group superiority is the stuff of racism, colonialism, imperialism, Nazism.”

And yet it is that sense of superiority that makes some groups strive to become more successful, if for no other reason than to prove their theory. The authors refer to it as the “I’ll show them” mentality. From an individual perspective, the same principle applies. Assess your talents and strengths, and convince yourself you have value to offer that others cannot.

Feel insecure: Another challenge outlined by Chua and Rubenfeld is that the self-esteem movement, particularly in regards to the indoctrination of it in kids, has instilled excessive amounts of preciousness to the extent many are unable to perceive or handle threats. Jews and Mormons, conversely, promote insecurity among their members and this fuels a cathexis of ambition.

For individuals, the key is to avoid complacency by vigilantly looking for threats in your pursuit of success. The more aware you are of the risk you won’t succeed, the more motivated you’ll become to try harder.

Control your impulses: This is about resisting temptation and staying focused, with the Mormons being a standout of such impulse control. The group’s teenagers, for example, are less likely to have sexual intercourse, drink alcohol, smoke pot, or watch X-rated films than teenagers of any other faith. 

When it comes to personal success, some of the most inhibiting impulses include procrastination, irresponsible spending and unplanned decisions. 

So, if all of the above increases your chances of becoming successful, is it also enough to make you happy? Sadly, no. Even Chua and Rubenfeld concede that “success to some extent necessarily implies a trade-off with happiness”. The question then becomes: which one do you crave the most?

Do you agree with these three success strategies? Why, or why not?

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