Madison Maxey — a very insightful multi-discipline designer/technologist/entrepreneur/fashioner/etc briefly dialoged on this question with me, and graciously gave permission to share her to —
"How do you evaluate people to see whose "got it" and who hasn't?"
What a great question! I'm going to assume that "having it" means having some sort of promise for success (whatever one's definition of success may be). With that in mind, I've found that people who I've seen do really well live loosely by the same guiding mantras:
"I am putting small (or large), consistent amounts of effort into achieving my long term goal of X" (seeing success as a marathon or adventure rather than a sprint)
"I am going to work harder than anyone else to achieve X" (an inner locus of control)
"I am intellectually curious and want to understand everything about X non-X" (these people are generally charming and engaging since they're curious about the world and others)
"I am committed to maintaining important relationships with people who also do X"
"I am capable and willing to execute and achieve X "( a growth mindset)
Of course, I'm sampling for people in my general community, so there are probably mantras that are conflicting, but also lead to successful people!
Personally, I think humility and gratitude are really important components of success and generally being a good human being, but I think we've seen lots of people be "successful" without these so I don't want to lump them in.
I think that's a very sharp set of heuristics. Consistent incremental effort, commitment to working harder than anyone else, curious to know everything on a topic, commitment to associating with other people doing things in a space, and capability and willingness to execute in the area.
Very sharp thinking, a really good set of acid tests there.
I just posted a new article at Less Wrong - "Steps to Achievement: The Pitfalls, Costs, Requirements, and Timelines." This is a little bit longer and more dry than I write for my blog, but I think there's some very important things in here.
If you're interested in goals and achievement, there's quite a lot of meat here. I'm putting the full version up here and please feel very welcome to comment here on this topic, but also consider heading over to Less Wrong, grab a free account, and start participating there. As I described in "You Should Probably Study Rationality," it's a wonderful community.
Reply to: Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic
In "Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic," Anna Salamon outlined some ways that people could take action to be more successful and achieve goals, but do not:
Back when I was gambling professionally, it seemed like everyone had an opinion on which casino was rigged. I never really thought that, but I also didn't really think that I was winning as much as I was supposed to. To test this, I recorded every single session I played for over a year. Guess what? I was within a fraction of one percent from where I was supposed to be statistically. I learned that not only were the casinos not rigged, I wasn't very good at mentally aggregating lots of independent events.
I think that in real life, we all have a natural inability or unwillingness to accept that we generally receive what we deserve. Before I get into this, though, I'll say that it definitely isn't true all of the time. I offer the idea here just a useful tool and framework, not to pass judgement. For example, I know people who have lost close family members, people who have been raped, and people who have been affected by other horrible things. I don't think that they deserve those things or earned them in some way. I think they're an unfortunate side effect of the chaos and variance of life, which is otherwise a good thing.
When I was around twenty, I knew for a fact that I would become rich by the age of twenty-five. Twenty five was really old and I knew that I was special, so it made perfect sense to me that I'd be rich by then. I put in a moderate amount of effort, and made moderate progress towards my goal, but didn't really even close. When I turned twenty five, I was at least a little bit surprised that I wasn't a millionaire yet.
I'm still not a millionaire, but I'm not surprised about it anymore. I've seen people work harder than me and work smarter than me and become rich. I've seen the dedication it takes, and I've seen how that compares to what I have typically put in.