Your attitude determines your success

This may sound like a cliche your dad used to tell, but after many years of going through new areas, ventures, and careers, I find this to be the most underrated career advice. This is the number one advice I would like my kids to internalize as they grow up. This is the most important idea I would like every one undertaking a new venture to know. 

If you think you are not good enough, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you think you are not enjoying something, you start to hate it. 

I gave examples of this several times before. Let's suffice with this one:

In graduate school, I had read "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution" from Steven Levy and enjoyed it a lot. (I still keep the dog eared paper copy with affection.) So, I should have read Steven Levy's Crypto book a long time ago. But for some reason, I didn't...even though I was aware of the book. I guess that was due to a stupid quirk of mine; I had some aversion to the security/cryptography research. I don't know why. Maybe it was because I had sat through a couple of bad security/cryptography talks (a similar aversion happened to me after a bad networking course). Another reason, I regret to admit, may be that I had some distributed systems snobbery going on that time. I was so into the distributed systems/algorithms area that I was quick to label AI, security, and this, and that as uninteresting or useless *to me*. I wish I could have been more open minded. I am sure reading this book then would have changed my outlook toward security and cryptography.

Success depends on emotion management

“It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe."  --Muhammad Ali

It is important to always be mindful of your emotions and manage them well if you want to succeed in your journey. Your emotions determine your attitude, and your attitude determines your progress, resilience, and eventually your success. 

For any failed venture, there is often a critical point after which things start to turn sour which eventually leads you to quit. With hindsight of several months and with a cooler head, you can identify that point. But it is important to keep a constant check on your emotions and attitude and catch these moments, so you don't stop digging only feets from gold. To manage your emotions well, it helps to be deliberate about how you manage and replenish your energy as well.

I am not saying everything will be pinky-rosy. You will need to be prepared for failures. But you can frame your failures better if you cultivate a growth mindset, and even derive motivation and energy from them. Often things aren't going that bad, and most of the bleak perception is in your head. And even when things are challenging, you can roll up your sleeves and say, "I knew challenges would arise, I love a good challenge", and get after it.  It all depends on what stories you are telling yourself.

Manage the stories you tell yourself

The stories we tell ourselves (knowingly or unknowingly) are very important, because they determine how we manage our emotions, which in turn determine our success. 

I wrote about how you can fool yourself for good purpose earlier. You should cherish your small successes, to build motivation. You might get demoralized from failures, but you can reframe them to learn from them, and use them as leverage to drive to your next small success. You can even change the narrative on failures as a setback in your hero's journey.

Finally, being informed about the process helps. As I talked about earlier, there are many false starts in research. You feel high one day, low another day. This doesn't change even as you get experience. But as you get experience, you know that this is part of the terrain, and you don't let this get you down. 


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