The Mindset for Success Is Critical and Overlooked

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Ego Is the Enemy" by Ryan Holiday. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How important is a mindset for success? How can you increase your chances of achieving success by changing the way you think about your goals?

A mindset for success is a set of attitudes, beliefs, and tendencies that you have around effort, achievement, and failure. There are multiple factors at play in achieving success, but the mindset is often overlooked.

Read about the importance of mindset for success.

How Important Is a Mindset for Success?

There is no single most important factor that determines one’s likelihood of achieving success. Every situation is different and what drives success for some has little bearing on the progress of others. However, there is one factor that is absolutely crucial and fundamental: a mindset for success.

Focus on Efforts, Not Outcomes

Your ego wants other people to recognize your work in a positive way. In fact, sometimes your ego defines success based entirely on how much or how little others give you such recognition, through honors, praise, awards, job titles, raises, and so on. Unfortunately, if you let your ego define success for you in this way, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, because you can’t control how the world receives, judges, or acts upon your work. 

If, instead, you view recognition, rewards, and rejections as peripheral elements of success, you’ll continue to work on your important projects for the sake of putting them out into the world, even when they’re ignored or poorly received, simply because you feel the world needs them. Because you can only control your own actions, you should evaluate success by judging those actions alone, regardless of how your audience receives them: Focus on efforts, not outcomes

Cut Your Losses

When a project that you’ve invested considerable time and energy into doesn’t go as planned, it may be tempting to keep investing into it in an attempt to justify the costs. This is called the sunk cost fallacy.

When faced with failure, determine honestly whether or not your errors are redeemable and ask yourself: Should I keep fighting for this? If I do, will I make it worse? Or should I let this go? If I do, can I emerge from this with my dignity intact, so that I can fight for something else another day?  

Learn From Your Mistakes

You need to examine your mistakes even when they don’t end up tripping you up; sometimes things might work out for you despite the fact that you made poor choices. In these situations, it’s tempting to ignore those poor choices and convince yourself that your success is well-earned, even though in truth you merely got lucky. But when things go well for you despite your mistakes, you need to honestly acknowledge the role luck played in your success, and work to correct your errors so they don’t trip you up next time—because luck will always run out.

The Mindset for Success Is Critical and Overlooked

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Here's what you'll find in our full Ego Is the Enemy summary:

  • How to resist your emotions so you can keep thinking clearly
  • Why your passion may be preventing you from achieving your goals
  • How to apply the philosophy of Stoicism for success as a leader

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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