Are You Deluding Yourself About Your Chance of Success?

“The most common sort of lie is the one uttered to one’s self.” – Nietzsche (The Antichrist, 1888)

A study I saw in USA Today a few months ago said that most people rate themselves as “hard” to “very hard” workers. Yet any reference book of statistics will tell you that the average employee puts in fewer than 40 hours a week — including overtime and working at home — while the average domestic engineer works less than half that number of hours.

Please don’t send me your personal calendar. I’m sure you are an exception to the rule. But you must sometimes wonder — as I sometimes do — how you stack up against other workers.

Answering the following questions will give you a good idea of your personal productivity.

1. How many hours a week do you work on any one of your lifetime goals?

a. less than 10 (8 points)

b. 11 to 20 (7 points)

c. 21 to 30 (6 points)

d. 31 to 40 (5 points)

e. 41 to 50 (4 points)

f. 51 to 60 (3 points)

g. 61 to 70 (2 points)

h. 71 to 80 (1 point)

i. more than 80 (0 points)

2. Do you use a daily task list?

a. no (2 points)

b. yes (0 points)

If you do use a daily task list, what percentage of the tasks that you assign do you finish?

a. less than 20% (4 points)

b. 21% to 50% (3 points)

c. 51% to 75% (2 points)

d. 76% to 90% (1 point)

e. more than 90% (0 points) 

3. Does your daily task list tie into a weekly project list?

a. no (2 points)

b. yes (0 points)

4. Does your weekly project list tie into a monthly list of objectives?

a. no (2 points)

b. yes (0 points)

5. Does your monthly list of objectives tie into a yearly goal-and-project agenda?

a. no (2 points)

b. yes (0 points)

6. Is your yearly agenda tied into four primary life goals?

a. no. (2 points)

b. yes (0 points)

7. How many unscheduled interruptions take place in your typical day?

a. one or two (0 points)

b. three to five (1 point)

c. six to 10 (2 points)

d. more than 10 (3 points)

8. How would you define your normal work effort?

a. highly focused (0 points)

b. moderately focused (1 point)

c. mildly distracted (2 points)

d. wildly distracted (3 points)

9. During working hours, do you do any of the following? (Give yourself 1 point for each one that applies.)

a. listen to talk radio

b. make personal phone calls

c. take personal phone calls

d. cruise the Internet

e. read newspapers, magazines, or books

f. play computer or other games

g. chat with other employees

h. shop online or read catalogs

i. daydream

j. attend to personal business in any other way

Scoring: Add up your totals and compare them to the assessment below.

* Zero: If you scored a zero, you are a Work Maniac. You will definitely be successful and almost certainly unhappy.

* 1-5: You are a Very Serious Worker. You will be successful. You may also be happy. You already work hard to be successful. You may have to work harder to be happy.

* 6-10: You want to succeed but haven’t locked yourself into a serious working pattern. You push yourself to get the job done and try to please your boss — but deep down inside you know that you are not seriously committed. Your chances of success are about 50/50.

* 11-20: You are willing to work but you are not dedicated. You read about goal setting and successful habits, and you tell yourself you are going to get going “tomorrow.” But your performance is lackluster. Your chances of success are less than 50%.

* 21-30: You are showing up. Was it Woody Allen who said “Showing up is 90% of the game”? Well, he didn’t mean the kind of showing up you are doing. You think you are a good worker, but you are not. Your chances of success are probably less than 10%.

* More than 30: When it comes to work, you are a stone-cold loser. If you think you are a serious worker, you are delusional. Get real. Your chances of achieving your dreams — and for you they are mostly daydreams — are best measured in micrometers. Your best bet for success: Play the lottery.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]