In my opinion, there are too many linguistic clues that suggest an undiscovered force—or forces—that might help us understand why some people are more successful than others in life. Clues such as: “He has a magic touch,” “She’s got that ‘it’ factor,” “There are no coincidences,” or “I was on fire.”
It may be tempting to brush all this off as nothing more than semantics, but this isn’t a mere question of word choice. Gaps in our language are often indicators of discoveries yet to come. For instance, we’ve recently discovered that birds fly migratory patterns based on magnetic sensitivity, and that sharks hunt wounded fish based on the electric impulses thrashing fish give off, too. (So much for “instinct.”) As curious scientists get hold of new diagnostic tools, we constantly find ourselves replacing vague words with new, more specific ones.
So while I know people might hear all our synonyms for “intuition,” “charisma,” or “positive thinking” and think, “Waste of time,” I’m not one of them. I hear the words and think, “Discoveries yet to come…”
Let’s take “positive thinking” for example. I recently watched this video from the awesome RSAnimate series:
I was struck by the hard line the narrator takes against the notion of “positive thinking,” and the idea of self-determination which sits behind it. Why make it all or nothing? Why not instead assume that self-determination is an ability, governed by a set of genetic and environmental factors—not too dissimilar to intelligence or athletic ability—that we don’t yet understand? Do that, and we get an entirely new choice than the two held out by the narrator of this film, (namely, that you either do or do not exert force over the world via your positive thoughts), which is: you have a certain capacity for changing the world through positive thinking, and that capacity may or may not be enough to make the impact you want.
(Perhaps, it may just be enough to mess things up.)
Like manifesting a “win” in a sporting event, manifesting career “success” may be more than a binary thing (either you get it or you don’t) determined by focus or desire: it may depend upon a combination of natural and developed ability, mastery of both the rules and the strategies of the game, and a complete understanding of the way your adversaries (i.e., the people working at cross-purposes) will “play.”
By way of analogy: the FIFA World Cup is winnable, but not by everyone; presumably, the most determined, most capable, and most prepared team will win. And of course, we all know how luck sometimes changes things.
This model makes the concept of self-determination much less complex, since it takes it from the realm of the metaphysical and makes it more like a game.
And I like simple.
Jason Seiden is CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing. Ajax amplifies brands by aligning employees' online messaging.