Against All Odds: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage In Life

December 14, 2017 Business , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , OTHER

Samuel Zeller photo



Jillian Haslam



‘The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential…these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence’ – Confucius


Modern society places great emphasis on education. Formal education. But does it mean you are doomed in life if you didn’t set foot in college or you dropped out for whatever reason?


What if you lack the much touted job experience, don’t have any talent to call upon, or are not fortunate to have the financial backing to help in the pursuant of your dreams? Do you really stand any chance of making it in life?


The sad truth is, we live in a world where we are judged by good grades, and a person without education is deemed unworthy. Tertiary education has become a minimum academic requirement for most people the world over. The rationale is that in order to live a good life, good education is a must.


It is considered the ticket to success-ville.



Education is not bad


But we have attached too much importance to academic qualifications at the expense of everything else. Hard work. Creativity. Innovation. Persistence, for example.


So, in the mad rush to acquire college education, most countries are now faced with an incursion of graduates. Graduates, many with PhDs even, who cannot find work in a world where technology is replacing manpower.


And even if the jobs were available, a good number of graduates entering the market are half-baked.


And that’s because we have been conditioned to think passing exams and achieving good grades is what constitutes proper education – and not learning and building knowledge; knowledge that can be applied.


Don’t get me wrong. Education IS important.


In an increasingly competitive job market, having a college degree gives you a competitive edge over someone who lacks one.


And in the event you manage to land a high flying job, you stand a better chance of becoming more successful – success in this case denoting the majority’s interpretation of it: earning a good salary, buying a nice house, driving a decent car and so on.


Hence the extra significance attached to getting a proper formal education.



But education is not everything


In the midst of it all, however, we seem to forget that education is not everything. And good grades do not necessarily guarantee success, even in the job market itself.


Here is what I mean:


In the past, most employers used to hire based on academic excellence alone (some still do) only to later realise that the people with the rock-star resumes didn’t always deliver on all fronts. They fell short in some critical areas, especially to do with soft skills – communication skills; social skills; character traits; attitude and so on.


This is why the ‘hire for attitude, train for skills’ phrase has recently become quite the buzzword, as companies begin to establish the significance of attitude at the workplace.


I cannot break it down any better than Zig Ziglar:

Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude


The thinking is that your attitude – not your academic qualifications – determine how far you will go. It is a notion I, personally, strongly believe in.


Of course, skills are an essential component in the job market – as are training and experience. But the shiniest resume will count for naught if you do not have the right attitude for the job.


Things do not always work out within a business, and during such times, the kind of employees you want in your corner are those who look at the challenges with a glass-half-full lens, as opposed to the other way around.


People who can adapt to change, which is hard enough to do with a negative attitude. People who can think outside the box, and constantly come up with ways to move the business on to the next level.


It is the same case with talent.


If you simply rely on your talent, you won’t go too far without the right attitude and focus. Yes, that applies even to the most talented person in any field. True, talented people will accomplish things more successfully than their counterparts, sailing through with ease because of their innate talent.


But how many times have you heard of talent going to waste simply because a person failed to exploit that raw potential they always had – and with just a little more effort, coupled with the right attitude, they could have accomplished so much more?


Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard; heard the saying?



The key to success


Thomas Jefferson once said: ‘Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.’


You have heard many times before that maintaining a positive outlook can have profound effects on your life. It is true, a positive attitude can work wonders.


Just ask William James:


‘The greatest discovery of this generation is that a human being can alter their life by altering their attitude’


But there is a caveat. A good attitude is not as easy as flicking on a light switch any time you want to attune to positivity. It is not as easy as some self-help gurus, who lead comfortable lives, may have you believe.


It is hard for a person living in misery – in all its stripes – to maintain a positive outlook on life.


As much as a terrific attitude that comes naturally to some cannot be imparted on anyone, the good thing about a positive mindset is that with a bit of persistence, it can be cultivated. Not in a month, probably not in a year, but over the course of several years of focused effort.


This involves adopting a different perception in your view of the world and reaction to external events which, mind you, will not always be positive, no matter how rose-coloured a view you might want to take.


Because let’s face it, setbacks will often come your way every now and then. That is as certain as daylight. It is how you overcome them that matters, and a positive mindset alone will not see you through.


Enter resilience.



Rising up


Resilience is the ability to bend without breaking. That mental fortitude to find the strength within you to keep rising whenever challenges knock you down. How quickly you are able to respond to adversity, either to overcome it or persevere in the face of it.


‘Resilience is knowing that you are the only one that has the power and the responsibility to pick yourself up’ ~ Mary Holloway


I love to call it the irrepressible mind.


Your ability to weather the storm is the single-most important factor that determines how successful you will become. Not education. Not talent. Not ability. But resilience and the will to persevere through it all.


Just ask any successful person how they made it, and in one way or another, the issue of persistence and resilience will always crop up.



Here’s the deal


Of course, resilience alone will not get you to the promised land.


You need to have the desire to succeed. You need to set goals and have the focus to keep your eyes on the prize. You need to be patient because success will not happen overnight. And importantly, you need to have humility.


It is not the most glamorous of success traits, humility, but it is the X-factor. That intention to listen and learn. To take criticism on the chin. To accommodate divergent ideas. To acknowledge you are not the hub of the universe.


This blend of attitude, resilience and humility – in addition to hard work – tramples education and talent any day.


That is the ultimate competitive advantage anyone could have. Educated or not.





Jillian Haslam

Jillian is a qualified speaking coach with distinction, and has had a 20 year career in banking, including working with executives at board level. Barclays, Bank of America, and the Royal Bank of Scotland are some of the names on her impressive list of clients.

Born and raised in abject poverty in Calcutta – Jillian is a truly inspirational and professional keynote speaker. She uses her experience and motivational stories to inspire others to face their fears. With her motivational words and her warmth, she engages and empathises with you helping you to wake up, inspire you to do better and be more confident.

Aside from being a successful businesswoman, philanthropist, and conference speaker, she is a published author “Indian.English”, an inspirational story about her life, of finding the road to success, and how she utilises her wisdom and vision to help others.

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