Anatomy of Success - Fixing the Guts Of Decision Making

Truly and significantly successful people are different from the rest, that’s a cliché, but what are these differences and can they be adopted by just about anyone so that true success can be replicated? That’s a question that drives many management thinkers, leaders and even the regular ambitious Joe. People have come out with their own interpretations ranging from ‘luck’ to‘ hard work ’,‘ focus’, ‘discipline’, ‘sense of judgment’ and so on. They are all correct from their own perspectives because people and the situations they encounter can be distinct and hence qualities required succeeding in one situation maybe different from the other – hard work may pay-off for a sportsman but an immediate requirement for a daily trader would be a keen sense of judgment. Thus, the qualities required for true success may be as varied as the goals that individuals follow. However, that does not mean it would take a complex process of analysis for every individual to discover what s/he needs to do to become truly and significantly successful. have three common differences from the rest:

1.      They Act Different
2.      They Think Different
3.      They Believe Different

This is the message from the research done by Porras, Emery, and Thompson in their best selling book "Success Built To Last", published by Wharton School Publishing.

As an expert in your field you know that one can have all the knowledge of the domain, even be a Professor of Marketing at Harvard, yet s/he may fail to grow profitably.  Why is it that Warren Buffet consistently succeeds where other often fail?  The knowledge is there for everybody to acquire but not the success.  Because most of us consistently get stuck in our own glass ceilings.

·        80% of all sales are won by less than 20% of sales people
·        80% of profits come from 20% of your customers.
·        80% of times we wear less than 20% of our clothes.
·        80% of marketing dollars bring less than 20% returns.
·        80% of all divorces are caused by less than 20% of all divorcees.
·        80% of a VC yield comes from less than 20% of investments.
·        80% of tasks in a give day bring less than 20% of the value.

The difference lies in recognizing the underlying structure of the decision making process.  The one single element that explains success is how we make decisions.  And we are constantly making decisions, even when we decide to stay focused in the moment of the action.  It is how we make decisions that set us apart.  Every moment is a decision point.  What we fail to understand though, is that decision is not an event but a series of events all linked into an intricate process.  Any misalignment at any time brings down the house of card.


According to Vedanta, an ancient philosophy on the art of masterful action, which is subscribed by some of the worlds most sought after F-500 CEO Coaches (review the business week article), it is the intellect's ability to manage the mind that is necessary for good decision making, success, and happiness.  Intelligence is the power behind the processing of information, mind is the seat of passion, and intellect is responsible for wisdom and understanding - making sense of the world.  Mind is wayward and responds to each stimulus with likes and dislikes and heightens certain stimulus while repressing others.  When the intellect is weak and mind strong incorrect assertions are made that contribute to erroneous tactile decisions and validation of incorrect assumptions.  We all have had experience with the words "I don't know what I was thinking".  Strong intellect recognizes minds true proclivities and guides the passion to rightful action. Mind, interferes with our intellect by constantly liking and disliking and making a mountain out of a mole and a mole out of a mountain.  Freeing the intellect from the clutches of the mind is necessary for lasting success through superior decision making.  As they say, an uncontrolled mind is the architect of our misfortunes.  Fear and greed are the two primary culprits that subtly or directly interfere with our latent intellects ability to make unimpaired decisions.

Psychologists call them inevitable distortions, deceptions, human biases, overpessimism, overoptimism, or even cognitive imperfections that they say are natural. They say that these biases distort the way people collect and process information.  I say, essentially, these are the result of greed and fear that lead the strongest of leaders astray in their strategic decisions from mergers and acquisitions to launching new products.

The choices we have are infinite and we can always make better decisions by training and by recognizing that the mind is clouding our better judgment. Let your mind not drive you insane.


Intellect is not intelligence.  Far from it, it is what we often call wisdom.  It is the latent and innate ability of a person to see patterns from a high point, while not being beguiled by noise and confounding thoughts.  This happens only when the mind is calm.  Intelligence on the other hand is the raw procession power of the brain.


A sound unhindered intellect allows us to discern our values and make core decisions consistent with them.  This is how the truly successful people in Porras's study have a different belief structure.  Almost as if it is their core competence, they focus their energies on what is meaningful for them, at the exclusion of all else.  A powerful intellect calms the mind and allows one to achieve concentration and consistency that are necessary for true success.  The alignment between values and core decision is critical to success and happiness.  Likewise, there has to be alignment between the core decisions and a series of tactile decisions that are required to be made.  These tactile decisions are usually the execution steps toward the accomplishment of the goals of the core decisions.  Misalignment causes execution error and resulting failure.  Here too, mind often is the culprit in impairing our judgment to act as needed.    When the mind is calm because of a powerful intellect such errors typically do not occur.  Lastly, the alignment between tactical decision and execution, where the need is for concentration at the exclusion of all else, is only possible when the mind is non cognizant of fear and greed.


Is this possible? How does one empower the intellect?  There are those who are born with a powerful intellect.  For the rest, there is training.  The mere awareness that we are slaves of our mind like children are to their whims is a sufficient start.  For a child the world is the plastic ring they so badly want enough to make everybody miserable for that hour but not to be thought about the next.  It is no different for the rest of us.  Decisions made under the influence (DUI) of the wayward mind explain why most investors fail but not Warren Buffet.  Yet most children get trained.  So can we.

It is important to note that even when we are seemingly calm we are driven by our mind.  In subtle ways we are influenced into not seeing things for what they are.  The intellect can be trained to recognize the fickle mind's influence over decision making.  Vedanta Academy provides such training programs to senior executives of Fortune 500 corporations.  We at the Value Forward Network have arranged for a tele-seminar same as one provided at Harvard Business School and Goldman Sachs.
"Success Is A Premeditated Choice."