What are the characteristics of people of extraordinary achievement? Do we really want to be like them? Do we want to encourage our children to be extraordinary achievers?
There have been many books and studies about the characteristics required for achievement and success. Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich is a classic book about his observations from interviewing many successful people. Frederick Nietsche wrote his philosophical observations about the "superman" and the "will to power" in books like Beyond Good and Evil.
In Profiles of Power & Success, Gene Landrum compares psychological profiles of "fourteen geniuses who broke the rules." The individuals profiled had a profound impact for the areas they worked in, and in many cases on society at large. Some of the individuals profiled include Walt Disney, Napoleon Bonaparte, Howard Hughes, Adolf Hitler, Nikola Tesla and the Marquis de Sade.
When you read Landrum’s approach to selecting the individuals profiled, his conclusions are apparent. He selected individuals that support the conclusions he reached before his study, which doesn’t seem to be scientifically sound. Learning more about these individuals and what they had in common is still a worthwhile exercise.
It may seem self-evident, but people of extraordinary achievement aren’t "normal".
The individuals profiled almost all came from undistinguished families. There doesn’t seem to be a genetic explanation for achievement.
Of the individuals profiled, only Maria Montessori was academically distinguished. She was the first Italian woman to graduate from medical school. All of the individuals were voracious readers.
One thing all of these individuals had in common is a consuming interest in something, which they pursued with manic energy and passion. Since they accomplished phenomenal results during a lifetime that was sometimes cut short, they often had little time to sleep. With the phenomenal amounts of energy they expended in pursuit of their interests, some of them also collapsed from exhaustion or suffered nervous breakdowns. Some of them were manic depressives. These were not "well rounded" people. The same manic drive that was the foundation for their success also in many cases led to short or unhappy lives for these people.
All of these individuals had traumatic or disruptive events during their youth. Some were sent to boarding schools. Some lived in poverty. Some lived on the streets. Some had abusive parents. Providing a nurturing, stable home wasn’t the winning formula for these people.
After reading the mini-biographies in this book, my conclusion is I am grateful there are people like these in the world when their energy is put to constructive use. We are all the beneficiaries of their achievements. "Uncle Walt" Disney created a world of entertainment for our families to share and enjoy. Nicola Tesla discovered alternating current, which is the foundation of all of our electrical appliances and equipment that our society revolves around. We can also become the victims of the "achievements" of these individuals when their energy is directed to evil goals, like Adolf Hitler, whose vision of the Third Reich resulted in millions of deaths.
Although these people often lived fulfilling lives, they didn’t seem to be very happy. The only reason you would want to be married to one of these people is because you share their vision and want to help facilitate their activities. Otherwise, you won’t see much of them. Their energy and attention is devoted to their work, not their families.
I believe in nurturing my children’s interests, but wouldn’t encourage this extreme. I want to see them enjoy having families and smell the roses, the little pleasures, that life has to offer.
Profiles of Power and Success is well worth reading to gain some insight into our society’s leaders. If you are married to one of these people, it is compulsory reading to understand the psychology of this person and his or her role in our world.
Buy it on Amazon: Profiles of Power and Success.
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