Think You're Special? You Just Might Be.
Millennials have definitely gotten a bad rap as a generation of narcissistic brats. While I don’t think it makes any sense to label entire groups of people based on age or any other criteria for that matter, even if it were true, that’s not as bad as it sounds.
Truth is, self-importance can be a powerful motivator in life.
If you truly believe you’re special, have a desperate need to be important, and work hard to prove it, there’s a decent chance you’ll succeed. It’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy and it happens all the time … under certain conditions, that is.
As a boy, Steve Jobs once told a girl from across the street that he was adopted. When she asked if that meant his real parents didn’t want him, he freaked out and ran into the house crying. That’s when his adopted mom told him that they specifically chose him. From then on, he knew he was special.
Nevertheless, the path to the prophecy’s fulfillment is a bit more circuitous than you’d think. While his adopted parents did choose him, Jobs was still aware on some level that his biological parents gave him up. He likely spent his life resolving that conflict by proving he was indeed special and therefore fulfilling the prophecy.
That sort of mechanism is quite common in highly accomplished people. Don’t ask me how I know that; I just do. And guess what? Believing you're special is a good start but it’s still just a beginning. Motivation alone won’t get you there. There are several necessary conditions to fulfill the prophecy and reach your potential.
You’ve got to have the talent to back it up.
I don’t care if it’s smarts, skills, instincts, perfectionism, or some combination thereof, you either need to be born with talent or use that powerful drive inside you to develop it. Of course you can try to BS your way through life but I doubt you’ll be happy living with yourself if you do.
You can’t just think positive thoughts.
People often get confused on this point. Childhood trauma lights a fire under you to get out and prove yourself. Focusing only on the positive in adulthood, on the other hand, just creates a false sense of reality in your mind. It does not translate into anything good in the material world.
You have to work your tail off.
You can be as self-important as Donald Trump or Mark Cuban if you like, it won’t count for beans if you just sit on your butt and expect all good things to come to you. The combination of narcissism and a sense of entitlement never ends well. You still have to do the work. Period.
Related: The True Meaning of 'Entrepreneur'
You must make smart decisions.
Even if you are motivated, have the talent, and work your butt off, there will still be thousands of choices to make over the course of your life. Each one plays a role in determining your path and has the potential to shift the outcome for better or worse. Success always depends on making smart decisions throughout your life.
You still have to persevere.
This sort of mechanism is usually self-perpetuating. In other words, you can achieve and achieve and it’s never enough. That can be a gift or a curse depending on how you look at it and the affect it has on your life. On a positive note, that often provides the strength and resilience to persevere through tough times.
Look, if whatever makes you believe you’re special also motivates you to do all that’s necessary to accomplish great things, then you’ll no doubt fulfill your destiny. If not – if you lack the drive and ability to make it happen – then you might want to lighten up on the self-importance and try a little humility.
Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at stevetobak.com, where you can contact him and learn more.