“Our value is the sum of our values.”
– Joe Batten
We call the men and women who realized their dreams and ambitions, accomplished great things, and left an indelible mark in their chosen fields of endeavors in different ways – winners, achievers, successful people, distinguished individuals, people who achieved renown and wealth, extraordinary and great men and women, and exceptional and remarkable ladies and gentlemen. I don’t know if there are other ways to call them. The one thing I know for sure is that there are only a few people like them in the world.
Why did they succeed? Why only a few people would end up standing on the winner’s podium?
Aside from their obvious dogged determination to get what they want and become who they want to be, what else do you think is common among them? Here’s my take – a strong value system.
Let me refer to value system as the collection of a person’s attitudes and beliefs.
How important is a person’s value system? Does it correlate with success?
Your attitudes and beliefs inform the decisions you make and control the way you live your life in general. Thus, you have to be aware and critical of your own value system – of the attitudes you possess and the beliefs you uphold. If you haven’t yet, you need to evaluate your value system as objectively as possible. The following should be the goals of your evaluation: to strengthen the good ones that you have; and to identify which ones are sabotaging your pursuits and endeavors.
Moise (2104) explained that “beliefs are about how we think things really are and tend to be deep-set. They represent mainly assumptions that everyone makes about [themselves], about others, and about different phenomena that are occurring in their own environment. Attitudes, on the other hand, can be considered as the response that individuals have to others’ actions and external situations, ways of conduct that people have learned having certain beliefs and values.”
Beliefs and attitudes are byproducts of our education and the accumulation of experiences since childhood. The attitudes and beliefs we possess constitute our conditioning or programming which in turn influences our perception and reactions to whatever happens around us. They inform the way we talk, behave, and think. They are the foundations upon which every decision we make stands.
Accept it or not, your attitudes and beliefs will dictate whether you succeed or fail, whether you live a happy life or a miserable one. There’ no limit when it comes to success and greatness. You can have and become whatever you want. But as Zig Ziglar once said, “Your attitude, more than your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” You also need to evaluate your beliefs. “Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy,” says Tony Robbins.
“The beliefs that accumulate in the minds of people as they get older become the rules that govern their actions and way of thinking. The beliefs and evaluations people hold about themselves determine who they are, what they can do, and what they can become (Burns, 1982).”
Who you are, what you can do, and what you can become are things that are not foreordained or predetermined as what advocates of the doctrine of predestination would want you to believe. They are results of the decisions you made and will be making. How far you climb the ladder of success and greatness depends on the quality of the decisions you make.
Your decision-making mechanisms are wired to your value system. That’s how critically important it (value system) is. The soundness of your decisions therefore is hinged on your attitudes and beliefs. Whether or not you would end up joining extremely successful people at the top depends on your willingness to develop the same value system that brought them there.
And what is the nature of their value system? What attitudes and beliefs do achievers have?
Part of my daily routine is reading literature and watching videos on personal growth and development. This allowed me to evaluate the value system of people who made succeeding a hobby. In talks and guestings, some of them openly discuss the specific attitudes and beliefs that made them who (and what) they are.
I chose the following as the most important attitudes and beliefs that constitute their value system: Self-belief; In control; Personal Accountability; Positive Thinking; Positive Perspective; Positive Mindset; Passionate; Purposive; and Grateful.
These achievers have faith in themselves. They are in control of their destiny. They are personally accountable. They think positively. They look at things using a positive perspective. They have a positive mindset. They are purposive and passionate about everything they think, say, and do. They are grateful.
The distinguished individuals in our midst strongly believe in themselves and never doubt their ability to succeed (or to eventually succeed.) Not that they never failed. They did, sometimes multiple times like J.K. Rowling whose first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 publishers. But she kept trying until Bloomsbury published her first Harry Potter novel (J.K. Rowling, n.d.). The rest, as they say, is history.
What if J.K. Rowling stopped trying after those many failures? She would have not become one of the highest-paid authors of this generation earning millions of dollars a year. What if Henry Ford and Soichiro Honda, (founders of motor companies that bear their names); Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (of the Microsoft and Apple fame); and Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln (giant political figures in their respective countries) all succumbed to their initial failures? But they did not. They have (and had) faith in their capabilities and in their dreams. They did not quit. They knew that eventually, they would reap the fruits of the hard work they sowed.
People who achieved renown and wealth got what (and where) they wanted because they willed it. Instead of becoming hostage to the notion that men get to live their assigned fate, they took control of their own lives and charted their own destiny. They also consider themselves personally accountable for whatever happens to them and what they become. They make their own decisions and live their lives on their own terms. They take it incumbent upon themselves to ensure that they succeed, with or without the help of anybody. They don’t rely on anyone but themselves. They would appreciate any kind of help but these people prefer to climb their own way to the top. Their character is that strong and their heart and mind focused on their goals that no matter what, they would reach the summit of any mountain they wanted to climb. That’s how they got there. And that’s how you’ll get to the top and rob elbows with them. That is if you are willing to emulate them, to follow in their footsteps.
Despite the skepticism thrown against positive thinking (or any of its equivalent constructs), achievers embrace it for they know and are smart enough to acknowledge that it is more beneficial to think positively rather than negatively. They practiced positive thinking and I don’t mean that they just imagined themselves becoming successful then they became successful. They used positive thinking only as a springboard.
Those who bothered to study positive thinking before judging its worth do acknowledge that it is not the be-all and end-all of personal growth and development. As I said previously – it’s a springboard. It is better to have hope – which is what positive thinking gives – than none at all. But as John Maxwell puts it, “hope is not a strategy.” This they know. Thus, they did not stop after thinking positively. They acted after thinking. They carried out their plans.
Thoughts have power in themselves. They affect a person’s health and wellbeing. But you will not bring your dreams and ambitions to fruition by just thinking and not doing anything. “Act is the blossom of thought and joy and sufferings are its fruits.” It was James Allen who said that.
The few extraordinary and great men and women among us view things, events, and issues using a different lens. They have the propensity to look at them at a positive vantage point. What ordinary people consider an adversity is for them an opportunity. This Jim Rohn illustrated succinctly through an anecdote about two salesmen who, one day, experienced a storm. One of them looks out and says “Wow, what a storm! With weather like this, they can’t expect you to go out and make sales. He stays home. Same morning, the other guy looks out – same rain, same storm – and says “Wow, what a storm! With weather like this, what a great day to go out and make sales! Most everybody will be home – especially the salesmen!”
That’s the kind of lens that those people who succeeded possess. They see opportunity amidst adversity. What about you? They refuse to be drowned by the unstoppable waves of challenges. They surf through them. They are the ones who look at failure as a teacher that tells them what didn’t work thus they perform better when they try again. These people would simply refuse to dwell on the negative.
Their positive perspective is part and parcel of another important construct called “positive mindset.” Others view perspective and mindset as similar concepts. I construe them differently – the former is a component of the latter. Mindset refers to the general attitudes of people, not only the way they think about things and issues. There is something else to mindset aside from the ability to put things, events, issues, and what-have-you in a positive frame. That something is what Carol Dweck (2006) dichotomized into “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset.” She (Dweck) refers to it as self-perception or self-theory that people hold about themselves.
Needless to say that the winners who raised their hands in the podium of success possess a positive (or growth) mindset. They believe that a person should continuously hone their skills and abilities. It is what successful people do – dedicate themselves to lifelong learning. They worked hard maintaining the notion that intelligence and talents are something that they are not born with but something they have to acquire and nurture. Even if many of them are innately intelligent and talented, they never assume that they are. They are determined to learn what they want to learn and acquire the skills they must develop in the pursuit of their dreams and ambitions.
Achieving goals has seemingly become natural for these exceptional and remarkable ladies and gentlemen because in addition to all the aforementioned beliefs and attitudes embedded in their value system, they are also passionate and purposive. They display tremendous passion in their personal, professional, and business pursuits. They know what they want and would not leave a stone unturned until they get it.
Certainly, these people whom we look up to because of their tremendous accomplishments and exploits are not whiners and whingers. They are satisfied and grateful. And why not? Why would they complain when they have everything they want and they are exactly where they want to be. They are enjoying the fruits of their labors. As the old saying goes – “You reap what you sow.”
It is hard to tell as to how many of these people who have accomplished so much have the humility to recognize that in the process of them becoming and getting what they wanted, there was an unseen force that guided and helped them. Those who do call that unseen force different names. I call it GOD.
It is my personal belief that what will glue together our attitudes and beliefs into a stronger value system is faith in GOD.
Burns, R. (1982) Self Concept Development and Education. Dorset Press, Dorchester.
Dweck, C.S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine Books.
J.K. Rowling. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wik/J._K._ Rowling#Remarriage_and_family
Moise, C. (2014). Importance of beliefs, attitudes and values in the frame of human resource motivation. Annals of Spiru Haret University Economic Series. 126.96.36.199458/1422
I sorely miss the best dad in the world – Mussilini De Villa Ligaya.
My dad was a clever good-looking Batangueño with a great sense of humor. That’s the best way to describe him.
He was a merchant. He would buy different products (clothes, kitchen utensils, blankets, mosquito nets, etc.) from Divisoria and sell them in far-flung barrios (villages) in the provinces of Central and Northern Luzon. He would bring me along once in a while especially during summer time. I was so fascinated by his capability to interact with people, make them laugh, and convince them to buy. There were times that my father challenged me to initiate and close deals. I tried so hard to copy his good business acumen.
Aside from teaching me how to communicate with customers, my dad also impressed upon me when I accompanied him in his business sorties the values of hard work and patience. We perspired, huffed and puffed, as we carried the products he was selling and walked together through muddy rice paddies to reach homes of potential customers in places which the vehicle he hired could not reach.
Those were the times that I realized that whatever we want in life will not be served in a silver platter.
My dad was the reason why I developed fondness for reading. He was a voracious reader. Everyday he would read three newspapers – Bulletin Today (now Manila Bulletin), Tempo, and Balita. He did not spend a single day in high school but he was so good at English. He was my first English teacher.
He was also the reason why I included “teaching overseas” among my career options. Way back in the late 1990s, when I informed my dad that I was about to complete my Master’s, he asked this question – “How much would your additional degree add to your monthly salary?” I gave him a rough estimate of what would my monthly pay be should I get that graduate degree. He shook his head and told me that my cousins (and the husband of a cousin) who have no Master’s but are working as seamen are receiving salaries three (3) to five (5) times higher than mine.
In no way that my dad undervalued education. He was the one who pushed (and helped) me to get a college diploma. He merely challenged me to maximize the returns of whatever degrees I earned. That night, I revisited my career path and included ESL teaching abroad as an option.
My coming here to South Korea to teach was not an overnight decision, it was a part of a plan – a plan that was influenced by my dad.
I love you dad!
One of my favorite poems is W.E. Henley’s “Invictus.” I read it for the first time in my literature class way back in college. That was the time when I started to ask a lot of questions about many things – not the way a curious child would but the way a young adult searching for a personal identity ought to. The poem impressed upon me a strong belief. It created a mind-set, a value that helped shaped who I am now – that a person is in-charge of his own destiny. That whatever (or whoever) a person becomes is the sum total of all the decisions he makes.
For me, the day a person says “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul” is the day that he is embracing personal accountability. Thenceforth he becomes responsible for his words, thoughts, and actions and whatever decisions he makes he ought to own them. If he succeeds and becomes happy as a result of his decisions he will take the full credit and benefits. Conversely, should he fail, should he not succeed in his boldness to take on the challenges of life refusing help from anyone, he knows there’s nobody to blame, not even himself. He acknowledges that being self-sufficient is not a fault. Recognizing that each person has his own mountain to climb and that it is wrong to become an additional burden to anybody is a virtue, not a fault.
It is the person who makes himself a burden to his fellowmen that should be faulted. He should be faulted for not making himself personally accountable for his own life. He should be faulted for thinking that it is the responsibility of his fellowmen to help him. Yes, “no man is an island” but each person should think that nobody could force anyone to offer help. Helping is something that nobody could demand from anyone. It flows naturally from the generosity of a pure heart.
Believe that people know when somebody really needs help. The good-hearted among them would definitely offer a hand. However, they are also wise, they are capable of determining if the problems a person is facing resulted from his unwillingness to embrace personal accountability. They know if a person is stuck in a hole dug by his own laziness and vices. They know that that person does not deserve help. Never assume that generous people are dumb. No person should push himself to the edge because of his irresponsibility thinking that somebody would hold his hand before he falls to the bottom of regrets. Nobody might and he would come crashing down to his certain demise.
The person who acknowledges personal accountability blames neither himself nor anyone when he fails in his undertakings. Instead of falling into the deadly trap of the blame game, he tries to figure out what went wrong and learn from his mistakes. He considers failures as pathways to attainment. He won’t stop until he succeeds, no matter how many times he fails.
On the other hand, a person without it (personal accountability) blames not himself but others for all his failures. For whatever misfortunes he encounters it is always someone else’s fault. When he fails in his relationships, the other party is to be blamed for failing to satisfy the standards he set. When he resigns from his job, it’s because his co-workers and his boss suck. When he could not find a new job, he blames the government. Even for simple matters like coming late for an appointment he would put the blame on someone or something else – like the traffic and the weather.
Heaven forbid that he also blames his parents for their being poor (if his parents are) and their being unable to leave a fortune he could inherit. Heaven forbid that he blames his siblings and relatives, branding them selfish for not sharing their blessings to him.
The list of people and things he blames for his bad luck and adversities is so long but has forgotten to put himself on top of it.
It is not difficult to identify a person who is allergic to personal accountability. He is the one who whines at everything and whinges every time. He is never satisfied. His standards of excellence are so high that it seems none of the geniuses, past or present, could ever earn his approval.
For the person who lacks personal accountability there is always something wrong. The problem is he offers no solution to the wrongs and ills he sees. Compounding the dilemma is his strong sense of entitlement feeling that people around him should find a solution to his own problems. He is not satisfied not helping find solutions to problems, he also wants others to solve his own.
It is not obligatory for any person to offer solutions to all the wrongs and ills – to fight all evils. Voluntarism is a rare virtue. And if you’re not that somebody with a strong sense of personal accountability who would come forward to resolve the problems, if you could not offer a solution to the problems, please don’t add up to the problem. Be not the problem.
At least, each person is being called upon to tread the path of self-sufficiency. Take care of you own problems and don’t bother others for them, directly or indirectly. Self-sufficiency is the starting point to the journey to personal accountability.