Why Successful People In Early Life Fail Later On

As I reflect on my life experiences, I realize there are quite a few superstars I know in middle and high school that never went on to achieve great success in life (… yet).

Back in school, some of these classmates were academic superstars. They were exceptionally skilled at getting good grades. Similarly, some people I saw were state or national athletes. They were well ranked in the United States of America.

One possible explanation is sheer competitiveness. As they graduated and took on world competitors, they realized they weren’t that special anymore. When there are billions of humans, one-in-a-million doesn’t seem that great.

You can score godly numbers in athletic competitions on a regional scale, but still be easily put to shame as you step up.

I was reading a book by the “Fittest Man on Earth”, Rich Froning. He won the Crossfit Games four times in a row. In the book, he mentioned that what separates the winners from the losers is mental toughness. You have to be able to withstand a lot of suffering.

He saw a lot of high school athletes rely on their genetic talent to get ahead. But they were destroyed in college because they didn’t hone their work ethic or mental toughness.

Another may just be an emphasis on the wrong factors for success. What makes someone succeed in the academic school system on the regional level may not work on the collegiate level or the real world.

Warren Buffett has a thought exercise that illustrates this well. If you could get half the money that one of your classmates earns for the rest of his life, which would it be?

He argues that most of us wouldn’t choose the smartest guy or the guy who could throw a ball the farthest (though I feel some of us would because we’re kind of dumb). He says that the best person to choose would have characteristics that any of us can cultivate: honesty, perseverance, work ethic, politeness, promptness, and so on.

I’m sure we all know people who succeeded early on life without these traits. Maybe that’s what happened.