Regardless of how old you are, where you live, or what your career goals are, it’s likely your ultimate goals in life are to be happy and successful. To be successful means more than just having money and making your mark. It means following your passions, living purposefully, and enjoying the present moment.

Here the two important questions based on the experience, study, and research need to be answered, which are more useful in the journey of success:

A. Know yourself. You can ask yourself: What are my “signature strengths?” Those are the skills you’re particularly good at.

B. Pick the right pond. Ask yourself: “Which companies, institutions, and situations value what I do?”

Don’t compare your own personality characteristics to other people’s characteristics. Unfortunately, many people measure their own success by comparing it to the success of those around them. If you want to feel accomplished and happy, you will have to value your own life and gifted traits, for its own sake. For Phelps, having a somewhat awkward body type made him a pretty bad runner and dancer — but it also made him an incredible swimmer.

Certain personality characteristics might be counterproductive in most situations and therefore seen as negative qualities in general.

Take stubbornness, for example.

“In your standard hierarchical corporation, stubbornness would not be a positive. … But when we talk about entrepreneurs, we always talk about ‘gritty, stick to it, don’t give into failure.’ And what is that? Well, in many cases, that’s stubbornness. There are many characteristics which can be negative on average, but given the right circumstances, they can become positive.”

Another critical element of that alignment formula of success, that is, you’ve got to know what you do well and what kind of work environment would allow you to do it.

The bottom line is that you’ll have to do some serious introspection: Are you a rule-breaker or a rule follower or somewhere in between? And then you’ll have to be honest with yourself about which environments you’re best suited for. Maybe it’s not the corporate world; maybe it’s not starting your own company.

It may take some experimentation and even failure, but in the long run you’ll be better positioned for success.


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