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Laws of Success

There’s a science to success — and it’s a science worth studying

The Israeli army devised a test for predicting which soldiers would make good officers: Eight soldiers who didn’t know each other, with no markings of rank, had to get themselves and a long log over a six-foot wall without touching it. Psychologists observed the soldiers to predict which were most likely to succeed as officers.

Long before psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for behavioral economics, he spent his yearly army service making those predictions. “We were completely confident in our evaluations and felt that what we’d seen pointed directly to the future.”

Thing is, they were wrong. Their predictions were only slightly better than blind guesses. But while they never mastered the key for predicting a soldier’s success as a sergeant, they — and other psychologists — learned a lot from this test about what makes a successful person.

The Smart Way to Start

You can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going. Setting a goal is the first step toward success; as baseball player Yogi Berra put it, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

Say you’re dreaming of launching a business. “The first step in having a goal is knowing your product or service — what you have to offer, and how you’re going to offer it,” says Harley (Zvi) Goldstone, a Jerusalem-based business consultant with 32 years of coaching experience. If Mindy is about to open a children’s clothing store, she should ask herself the following: What’s the strength of my store? How much demand is there for children’s clothing? How much competition is there? What type of clothing am I selling? What am I aiming for and how am I going to get there? How are people going to find out about my store?

Mindy has to consider all these things in order to realize her business’s potential and limitations.

Harley uses the SMART acronym for analyzing goals. A smart goal is:

Specific The goal has to be specific. “I want to open a small business” is vague. “I want to sell affordable children’s clothing” is clearer.

Measurable “If you have a goal you can’t measure, it’s not a goal,” says Harley. “I want to be successful in business” doesn’t help because it’s not clear what you mean by “successful.” A measurable goal could be the number of items sold.

Achievable If there are 100 families, living in the area with an average family size of five children and one other store like hers, a shopkeeper might reasonably expect to sell 250 items in Elul.

Realistic or Relevant If a small business owner has to borrow $5,000 to open the business, and she expects to earn $1,000 from it every month, a realistic goal might be to pay back $500 a month. If the store earns more, she could pay back more, but it might be more relevant to her business to use the extra cash for more inventory.

Timed Time is part of measuring. Selling 250 items a month is completely different than selling 250 items in a year.

Good goals should scare you a little and excite you a lot.

Don’t Think It — Ink It

Having formed a plan, write it down; you’ll be 42 percent more likely to accomplish it. A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action becomes reality.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 672)

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