Qualities that Make you the “Real Winner” in Life

Awards and certificates have their place. But ultimately it is the process, the attitude, the willingness to learn and grow that determine what you ‘win’.

A wonderful art exhibition was going on, and Sudeshna was on cloud nine. After all, her painting had been put on display and hundreds of people had visited the art gallery so far. There were other paintings by other artists getting displayed as well.

Surabhi, a friend of Sudeshna was one of the visitors. They both greeted each other, but Sudeshna noticed that Surabhi had a somewhat troubled expression on her face. ‘Is everything all right, Surabhi?’

‘Sudeshna, I was walking up here, and outside I saw a list of names. They had all won various prizes for their pieces. Some even really big rewards. Your name was not there. I think you deserved a prize for this.’

‘Oh! Of course, that list! I know what you are talking about. I know some people on the list; some of my good friends and really talented people. I am happy for them.’

Surabhi was touched by Sudeshna’s ability to be happy for others but she was also a bit angry now. She asked, ‘But Sudeshna, don’t you feel even a little sad about not making the list?’ Surabhi wanted to ask her if it didn’t feel like a waste of effort that she didn’t win anything, but held back since she didn’t want to sound too harsh. But her expression, even if held only for a second before she put up a smile, was read by Sudeshna.

‘Oh, you think the painting here has been put up, but to no avail? That it’s all a wasted effort if there has been no prize? Childish consolation prize kind of thing?’

Surabhi couldn’t say anything but Sudeshna knew she had read Surabhi’s mind.

Sudeshna explained ‘See, I get your empathy, and I am grateful to have a friend who wants me to excel to the best of my abilities. But my primary goal in putting effort in this painting was to become the person that painting something like this would compel me to be. I feel like a changed person, and I think that’s a big enough win for me. For now.’

Surabhi looked a bit puzzled, so Sudeshna continued, ‘There are lots of people in the list who won by sheer good luck, no denying that. Some are genuinely talented. I wish them all well. I also wish that the winners have got a boost to keep developing their skills and upgrading their goals. I hope they don’t simply rest on their laurels. I see that a lot of the winners seem to have remained the same persons.

‘Their attitude before and after finishing their paintings remains the same. I on the other hand feel like a different person- I understood my capacity to work hard, I know what needs to be improved, I feel grateful and at peace that even when I didn’t technically ‘win’ I have so many people visiting me and congratulating, complimenting on my painting. Not having a name on the list is one minor negative to an otherwise very positive result.’

Surabhi was left an awe of Sudeshna’s attitude. Just then a major artist of the city, who Sudeshna had invited specially for the event, walked over to Sudeshna’s painting and started what looked like a fruitful discussion. This was a ‘win’.

What lessons do we have from Sudeshna’s ‘win’?

Attitude matters:

There is always a silver lining in everything. The bigger goal, the larger perspective is what matters. Winning prizes, awards and certificates is a good thing. But the larger goal should be to cultivate that attitude, that set of traits, skills, competence and enjoyment in the process that help you grow and move forward. Prizes, awards, and certificates will work short-term, but in the long run it’s the process of it all, the attitude and willingness to grow and adapt that matter.

Meaningful networking:

It takes only one influential person to notice your work and capability for your life to change. Endless networking with hundreds of people and hoping something fruitful to come out of it is leaving things to chance. But networking mindfully and meaningfully is taking control in your own hands. Both approaches have their place, and it is up to us which one we wish to take.

And finally, show up and start, the rest will fall into place. Sudeshna didn’t win the prize, and her name was not on the list of winners. However, she was still expected to be at the exhibition. She could have sulked and skipped it all, wondering what’s the point if she didn’t ‘win’. But she anyway decided to show up, be cheerful about it, and stand by her own sense of achievement. That confidence, that sense of self-assuredness, the sense that one knows where one stands, and one is willing to grow and learn shows. It all shows in one’s conduct and attitude. And that’s a big win.

The Magic of a Positive Attitude

In the past few months, the value of having and developing skills and expertise has been proven. There was a limited scope for providing training. With the need to go virtual, there was also a limited scope for conducting interviews as thorough as old school, offline interviews offered. The skills, the resume spoke for themselves. Be it a hard skill which reflected in the experience listed or a soft skill like the ability to communicate well virtually, it was all self-evident. Skills are self-evident.

No doubt, skills and competence speak for themselves. Organisations want people who can get stuff done, use their experience, get deals finalised and contribute to the company culture and prestige. There is one more key ingredient which determines how successful an individual is likely to be.

That key ingredient is attitude. And it almost works like magic.

The Magical Ingredient:

Let us take a look at this story shared by the noted author, cultural commentator and public intellectual at a keynote note at the Skillsoft Perspectives 2021 address. An article by People Matters has summed it all up really well.

The story is about an assistant security guard; he didn’t have much exposure. People might be thinking- what does an assistant security guard has to offer in terms of skills and expertise? Within six months of working on the night shift, he had managed to have a great influence on everyone- so much so that people started to work in late.

He was always eager and curious, and with that eagerness he started to improve upon his English, learnt to make tea and coffee. With his curiosity, he figured out a way to operate the company’s telephone system. Eventually from an assistant security guard, he became a telephone operator. He retired as a director.

He didn’t even have a college degree. But that didn’t stop him from advancing at work. The lack of a college degree, and the so called ‘lack’ of skills and expertise did not act as hindrances.

His biggest asset was his attitude. The eagerness to learn, the curiosity to explore. A willingness to keep learning and contribute in whatever way possible.

The More Difficult Acquisition:

It won’t be too far from truth to say that this attitude of willingness is even more difficult to cultivate than acquiring skills and expertise, as an article by Entrepreneur.com sums up:

 “With the right attitude and enough effort most new skills can be mastered quickly. Whereas improving attitude is often about changing behaviours which is always much more difficult to do, as people need to want to change and without the right attitude this is unlikely to happen.”

It is ultimately attitude which determines how well someone would fit into the company culture.

Skills determine how well the employee is likely to work on the job. Attitude determines how well the employee is likely to engage with the work. And that is the difference.

If you are an employee trying to find the edge amidst everyone who has similar skills and expertise, it is attitude that will help you stand out. If you are an employer looking for someone who not only works but engages with their work, it is the kind of attitude they have that you also want to look for along with the skills.