The following notes are on the Real Science of Success program – Stephen J Kraus

A starting point for any discussion of success is to look at failure rates. In any area where people strive for success, the majority of people fail: weight-loss, entrepreneurship, keeping new years resolutions, stopping smoking. Most people fail to do these things.

The bright side, of course is that some people do succeed and by looking at the common traits of success we can increase our chances of succeeding

Krause identifies 2 master traits of successful people.

1) Successful people take action. Most people don’t take sufficient action to achieve their goals. Even though they know exactly what they need to do. Almost everybody is guilty of this in some areas of life. For example, only 3% of Americans live a healthy lifestyles meaning that they do 30 minutes of exercise per day, eat the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables, avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy weight. Only 3% of Americans are doing what those four things.

A great general point: most people are great at coming up with excuses for avoiding action. If you ask people why they don’t eat healthy, they might say "I’d like to but I’m so confused. So many different diets saying so many different things." That’s a bullshit excuse. Everybody knows that to eat healthy, you eat more fruits and vegetables and less junk; you eat more salad and less potato chips.

The same pattern holds true in just about any area.

You will get great results by going in the right direction even if you don’t know the exact steps. Go the right direction with healthy eating and you will get good results. Even if you’re not doing it completely optimally. There is no excuse to continue going in the wrong direction if you truly want to achieve your desired result

One of the easiest traps to fall into to avoid taking action is paralysis by analysis. The feeling that you continually need more information before you can take action. Truly successful people take action that puts them in the right direction and then augment that action with additional information. They don’t overload on information and then take action.

Probably the most powerful thing that you can do to increase your chances of success in anything are to develop the outlook, the mindset, and the habit of being able to take action, being able to start doing something rather than finding reasons to avoid action.

Master trait of successful people #2: taking effective action.

Krause contends that true success in life is rare because most people try to use flawed strategies to achieve success.

Successful people develop more techniques for change and achievement in sheer numbers.

They also craft more effective techniques for change and achievement and they use these effective techniques more consistently for longer periods of time and are able to use different techniques for different circumstances.

Unsuccessful people on the other hand use ineffective strategies and techniques like willpower.

Will power on its own is not effective in order to create change. As Krause says "if you want to make changes in your life you have to make changes in your life."

What this means is that you need to develop new strategies and actions for change. You can’t simply say to yourself "I’m going to stop doing my bad habit." You need to instead change the ways you deal with stress, change your recreational settings, change the people you associate with, change your daily routine, change your internal dialogue etc.

These are all techniques that you can implement to increase your chances of achieving lasting change in your life.

To make a big change in your life you also have to rearrange many of the small areas of your life.

The first area that Krause identifies as a key to a successful life is a strong vision. A clearer vision of what you want and a set of clear noncompeting goals.

Krause’s 6 genius guidelines:

1) Successful people are a little crazy. This isn’t just a cute line, in fact, successful people in all areas have a much greater likelihood of being diagnosed with a mental illness. Now this doesn’t mean that there is a very high percentage of schizophrenia or whatnot, but it like the initial point said, a little crazy.

Successful people are a little crazy in that they can come up with ideas that many others would not and have the confidence to act on them when many others would not.

2) Successful people are overly optimistic. Highly successful people are often less accurate in terms of their perception of themselves and the world than their less successful counterparts. Successful people have unrealistically positive views of themselves, they remember compliments better than criticisms, they remember their successes as greater than they were.

In group situations they take too much credit for their own success, they’re more likely to deny responsibility for the failures, they perceive the events as more controllable than they are. In other words, successful people employ very selective memory and perception to perpetuate their overly optimistic view of the world

3) Successful people are flexible thinkers. The more rigid your beliefs are the less likely you are to be flexible. For example, consider the two major beliefs of clinically depressed people: 1) "I must get love and approval from everybody at all times" and 2) “I must achieve all of my goals perfectly." These are very rigid beliefs that don’t leave a lot of room for successful interpretation and leave a lot of ways to have them unfulfilled or not met.

It’s like the anecdote about the messy desk. There are many ways for a desk to be messy, almost infinite. There is only one for a desk to be perfectly ordered so the chances of it being out of order are almost infinitely greater than the chances of it being in order.

4) Successful people look to mentors and role models. Trial and error is a very inefficient way to learn life lessons. One trait that many highly successful people share is a love of reading biographies to study the lives of other successful people or consider that almost half of all Nobel Prize winners have studied with another Nobel Prize winner. The ability to cut and paste qualities and habits and success systems from a variety of mentors and role models will serve you very well.

5) Successful people take risks. Most often people avoid risk because of fear; fear of failure or fear of loss, etc. Fear is one of the main drivers of passivity.

6) Successful people ask questions. Socratic questioning is an extremely powerful tool across many many fields. Asking questions of your self and others in a way that’s open to any answer and viewpoint is a very powerful success strategy.

Krause’s 5 rules for the vision questioning process:

1) Be alone. Being around others is not only very distracting, but it will also focus you on the expectations of others rather than what you may truly want for yourself.

2) Choose the right time. You want to go through the vision questioning process when you have a lot of energy and focus. The only times that Krause recommends to avoid completely are 3-5 a.m. and 3-5 p.m., which is when most people typically go into a rest cycle and have the least energy or focus.

3) Be happy. You want to be in a good mood when you go through this process. When you’re under stress, it’s very difficult to think about the big picture. The more stress we are under the more we tend to focus on very low-level low-importance items. This is a strategy to avoid thinking about the stressful issue. Notice the link here to time management and productivity; checking off low or no importance items while leaving important items undone.

The better your mood, the more likely you are to think about positive future states.

Research has shown that you can temperately affect your state with just 12 minutes of either positive or negative thinking. Spending just 12 minutes focusing on happy memories or past victories will put you in a much better state. Similarly, 12 minutes focusing on negative past experiences will put you in a more pessimistic state. The effects of this are temporary, but you can use them for a quick boost whenever you need one

What he’s talking about here is very reminiscent of NLP techniques for changing moods.

He’s talking about being associated or disassociated with memories, he is even talking about levels of detail; in other words, some modalities. The more specific your memories, the more effect they will have.

4) Choose a stimulating environment. Ideally a place of great natural beauty can be very inspiring, but the more important thing is to have a change of scenery. In general, if you stay in the same environment you’re going to have the same types of thoughts that you always have and the purpose of this is to break out of those patterns.

The workbook includes seven groupings of vision questions. Krause says you get the best effect when you write at least a page answer for each of the scenarios.

An interesting note on the "write your own obituary" exercise. This actually happened to Alfred Nobel. His brother died and a newspaper accidentally ran his obituary rather than his brother’s and the first entry in it was "Alfred Nobel invented dynamite the most destructive force the world has ever known." Seeing this he determined that would not be his legacy and began to work towards promoting positive forces like those that are rewarded with the Nobel Prize.

Vision is the foundation of all of the other steps of success. It’s what will push us to take effective action throughout our lives.

So the two homework steps for this session are: 1) Complete the vision questions, write at least one page for each of the seven scenarios; and 2) Begin to take action; identify at least one area in your life where you know what to do and haven’t taken action yet and take at least one action in that area to advance you.

THE QUESTIONS (The notes above are MyNoteTakingNerd Notes..We have pulled the questions directly from the book)

1. The Ideal Life Scenario. Take a few moments and envision the ideal life you would like to have ten years from now.

  • What will I be doing?
  • Where will I be living?
  • Will I still have a job? If so, what would it be? How much will I be making?
  • Who do I want to be? What roles do I want to have in ten years? (such as entrepreneur, athlete, parent, etc.)
  • If I had three wishes today, what would they be?
  • What makes me laugh? How would those things be part of my daily life in ten years?
  • What celebrities or historical figures do I most admire? In what ways would my ideal life be like theirs?
  • Try writing a resume that reflects your accomplishments over the next ten years.

2. The Lottery Scenario. Take a few moments and envision your life if you won the lottery.

  • If I had enough money to retire today, what would I do with the rest of my life?
  • Near-term: What would I buy? Where would I travel? Who would I visit?
  • Longer-term: After buying “stuff” gets boring, what would I do?
  • What kind of job would I be so happy in that I would do it even if I didn’t need money?

3. The Ideal Day Scenario. Maybe ideal lives and winning the lottery are a little hard for you to imagine. Try imagining that you have the day off tomorrow with no responsibilities. What would you do? (If you said “Sleep,” then write about what you would do the next day).

  • What would the day be like for me to wake up totally excited?
  • What time would I wake up?
  • What would I do?
  • Who would I spend time with?
  • What kinds of experiences do I find totally engrossing? In other words, when I am engaged in them, I forget everything around me?

4. The Forgotten Dreams Scenario. Take a few moments and remember the dreams and ambitions of your youth.

  • When I was young, what did I want to be when I grew up?
  • When I was young, who were my heroes and role models?
  • When I was young, what were my favorite subjects in school?
  • How did I end up in my current profession?
  • If things had been different, what other careers might I have ended up in?

5. The Deathbed Scenario. Imagine that you are on your deathbed, and you are looking back over your life.

  • If I could live my life over, what would I do differently?
  • Knowing what I know now, would I have chosen different goals and ambitions?
  • What were my happiest moments in life? The saddest?
  • At what point was I most excited about my future?
  • What did I really want to do in life, but didn’t try to accomplish, because I lacked confidence or someone talked me out of trying?
  • What was my best decision? My biggest missed opportunity?
  • What remains on my “things to do before I die” list?

6. The Beyond the Grave Scenario. Now imagine that you have passed away.

  • How would I like my family and friends to remember me after I have passed away?
  • How will my family and friends remember me after I have passed away?
  • Try writing two obituaries for yourself: a “likely” obituary as if you were to pass away today, and an “ideal” obituary as you would like it to be.

7. The Road-Not-Taken Scenario. Consider the following list of values. Now rank them, with 1 being the value that has been most important to you in the past, and 10 being the value that has been least important to you.

_____ Family

_____ Success

_____ Contribution

_____ Wealth

_____ Love

_____ Security

_____ Variety

_____ Contentment

_____ Excitement

_____ Growth

Now consider how your life would have been different if you had different patterns of values.

  • What if my least important values had been my most important?
  • What career would I be in today?
  • Would I be married?
  • Would I have the same friends?
  • Would I be more financially secure or less?
  • Would I be happier?

8. The Brutal Honesty Scenario. This one is a little different. Try being brutally honest about your life. At its core, what is your life really about? What is your job really about? Recall Steve Jobs asking John Sculley if he wanted to change the world or sell sugared water. Is your life about selling sugared water? If it is, what do you really want your life and your job to be about?

9. Targeted Vision Questions. The Vision Quest-ions above are useful for helping clarify a Vision for your life as a whole. That’s obviously a big task. In seminars with limited time, I often ask people to focus just on one area of life, and answer the questions below.

  • What: In this area of your life, what do you want to accomplish? In this aspect of your life, what would you try if you knew you could not fail?74
  • Who: In this aspect of your life, who do you want to be? What is your ideal future self? What roles and identities do you want to have? Who do you admire?
  • Why: Why do you want this? In this aspect of your life, at what point were you most excited about your future?


Amazing stuff isn’t it?

I’ll be back with Part Two of these notes in just a few days.

Let me know what you think in the comment section below.