Have you ever wondered what makes someone a world-renowned musician or a critically acclaimed novelist? In 1997, Gary McPherson decided to study musicians—namely, what exactly contributed to a successful musician. Was it practice? Genetics? Environment? He studied 157 randomly selected kids as they picked and learned a musical instrument. Some went on to be professional musicians and others quit playing after they left school. He was looking for patterns. Were there traits or characteristics that all of the successful musicians had?

Amazingly, it was not the obvious ones. It was not IQ, aural sensitivity, math skills, natural rhythm or even their parents that dictated success. There was only one question that provided a clue to indicate which students would be successful and which wouldn’t. He asked each participant before they even selected their instrument one question:

“How long do you think you will play the instrument you choose?”

The answer to this question predicted whether or not a student would be successful. If they thought they would play an instrument their whole life, they did better. If they thought they would only play temporarily, they did not play as well. Their success had nothing to do with skills—it was all about their attitude!

We do not need any inherent skills to be able to be good at what we do. We only need an attitude that we are going to stick with it.

Try for yourself
Leaders have decided that they are and will be awesome. Throw away unhelpful mindsets like “I wouldn’t be good at,” or “I could never.” Decide to be awesome at what you do–because you are! Try to tell yourself this at least three times today.


Vanessa Van Edwards, Science of People