Transcript

Richard St. John on TED.com

Why do people succeed? Is it because they’re smart? Or are they just lucky? Neither. Analyst Richard St. John condenses years of interviews into an unmissable 3-minute slideshow on the real secrets of success.

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This is really a two hour presentation I give to high school students, cut down to three minutes. And it all started one day on a plane, on my way to TED, seven years ago. And in the seat next to me was a high school student, a teenager, and she came from a really poor family. And she wanted to make something of her life, and she asked me a simple little question. She said “What leads to success?” And I felt really badly, because I couldn’t give her a good answer.

So I get off the plane, and I come to TED. And I think, jeez, I’m in the middle of a room of successful people!

(slide: group of people at TED with an outline of a person drawn in the middle)

So why don’t I ask them what helped them succeed, and pass it on to kids?

(slide: “What leads to success? 7 years of research, 500 interviews”)

So here we are, seven years, 500 interviews later, and I’m gonna tell you what really leads to success and makes TED-sters tick. And the first thing is passion.

(slide: word “Passion” with figure standing on the ‘A’ holding a heart. “I’m driven by my passion”- Freeman Thomas, car designer, Daimler Chrysler)

Freeman Thomas says “I’m driven by my passion.” TED-sters do it for love, they don’t do it for money.

(slide: “Do it for LOVE, not MONEY”, figure moving from money bag to heart- “I would pay someone to do what I do.”- Carol Colleta, radio producer, Smart City)

Carol Coletta said “I would pay someone to do what I do.”

And the interesting thing is, if you do it for love, the money comes anyway.

(slide: “Work”, figure on hammer. “It’s all hard work. Nothing comes easily. But I have a lot of fun.”- Rupert Murdoch, big cheese CEO)

Work! Rupert Murdoch said to me, “It’s all hard work. Nothing comes easily. But I have a lot of fun.” Did he say “fun?” Rupert? Yes! TED-sters do have fun working. And they work hard. I figured, they’re not workaholics. They’re worka-‘frolics’.

(slide: “GOOD”- figure holding star. “To be successful put your nose down in something and get damn good at it.”- Alex Garden, game developer)

Good! Alex Garden says “To be successful put your nose down in something and get damn good at it.”

(slide: sign saying “Practice Practice Practice”)

There’s no magic, it’s “Practice, practice, practice.”

(slide: “FOCUS”- figure with spyglass. “I think it all has to do with focusing yourself to one thing.”- Norman Jewison, filmmaker)

And it’s focus. Norman Jewison said to me “I think it all has to do with focusing yourself on (sic) one thing.”

(slide: “PUSH”- one figure pushing another- “Push yourself. Physically, mentally, you gotta push, push, push.”- David Gallo, marine scientist)

And push! David Gallo says “Push yourself. Physically, mentally, you’ve gotta push, push, push.” You gotta push through shyness and self-doubt.

(slide: “Shyness” and “Self-Doubt”- more figures pushing. “I always had self-doubts. I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t smart enough. I didn’t think I’d make it.”- Goldie Hawn, actor)

Goldie Hawn says “I always had self-doubts. I wasn’t good enough, I (sic) wasn’t smart enough. I didn’t think I’d make it.”

Now it’s not always easy to push yourself, and that’s why they invented mothers.

(slide: “It’s not always easy to push yourself”- Tow truck with “MOM” on side, pushing a figure- “My mother pushed me”- Frank Gehry)

(laughter) Frank Gehry- Frank Gehry said to me “My mother pushed me.”

Serve!

(slide: “SERVE”, two figures holding box- “It was a privilege to serve as a doctor.”- Sherwin Nuland, professor of surgery, Yale)

Sherwin Nuland says “It was a privilege to serve as a doctor.”

Now a lot of kids tell me they want to be millionaires. And the first thing I say to them is “OK, well you can’t serve yourself, you gotta serve others something of value.”

(slide: “Millionaires serve others something of value”- figure holding box labeled “value”- another figure moves in and swaps “value” box for a money bag)

Because that’s the way people really get rich.

(slide: “IDEAS”- figure with big lightbulb over head- “I had an idea- founding the first micro-computer software company.”- Bill Gates, software guy)

Ideas. TED-ster Bill Gates says “I had an idea- founding the first micro-computer software company.” I’d say it was a pretty good idea.

And there’s no magic to creativity in coming up with ideas, it’s just doing some very simple things.

(slide: “Listen/ Observe/ Be Curious/ Ask Questions/ Problem Solve/ Make Connections/ IDEAS” figure w/ lightbulb again)

-And I give lots of evidence.

(slide: “PERSIST”- figure pushing ball up stairs- “Persistence is the number one reason for our success.”- Joe Kraus, Excite)

Persist. Joe Kraus says “Persistence is the number one reason for our success.” You gotta persist through failure.

(slide: figure falls from stairs onto word “Failure”, word “CRAP” appears, followed by key to the acronym: “Criticism, Rejection, Assholes, and Pressure.”)

You gotta persist through crap! Which of course means “Criticism, Rejection, Assholes, and Pressure.” (laughter)

So, the big app- the answer to this question is simple. Pay 4,000 bucks and come to TED. Or, failing that, do the 8 things-

(slide: “What leads to success? Passion, work, focus, persist, ideas, good, push, serve”)

-and trust me, these are the big eight things that lead to success.

Thank you TED-sters for all your interviews!