The 5 universal laws of success

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5 laws of success
unsplash-logoRazvan Chisu

Do you ever wonder why some colleagues get that wanted promotion just a little easier? And is this not always linked to how well that person performed? You are fully right. And the great thing is, scientific research has now been done on how success works. You can use some of the findings in this research to become successful yourself. Here are the 5 universal laws of success, which you can use to your advantage. For more reading on this topic, I definitely recommend that you read “The Formula – the universal laws of success”.

5 universal laws of success

In his data-driven research, Barabasi found 5 universal laws of success. This data was obtained in several fields, such as sports, arts and academia. So, what is important for you to know? What are the laws and how can you apply these in your own field?

1. If performance cannot be measured, networks determine success

In fields such as professional sports, performance is very clearly linked to success. When you play better, you win more. Simple as that. However, when it is less clear what “performance” exactly is, like in art, networks come into play. So it’s not the work of art that will make the artist famous. Instead, the artist gets recognition because of his or her network with a great art gallery or is connected in another way with his or her tribe.

2. The sky is the limit

Performance is bounded, however success is unbounded, which means that the winner takes it all. This also explains the fact that 1 percent of the world population owns around 50 percent of the world’s capital (see this article). It makes sense. For instance, in Tennis the pro’s like Federer and Nadal are most popular. Because they are so popular, they get all the sponsor contracts or at least the majority of the contracts. On top of the price money of the grand slams. This also applies to soccer.

Another example is Google. Once everybody started using Google, it doesn’t make sense anymore to use another search engine. Especially because Google demonstrates superior search results. So why use another search engine? The consequence is that Google gets all the traffic and therefore most of the associated income.

3. Previous success very important for future success

Nothing builds success like… success. That’s kind of a bummer. This law describes the fact that when there is performance, or “fitness” and there is already previous success this tends to compound. That means that to become really successful, you should already have achieved some success. An example is when a writer wants to publish his or her book, a first good review will propel that book to success.

4. Individual will get the credit for team effort

For a team to succeed, you need a diverse team. Yet, although it is a team effort, only one or a few individuals will get the credits. This is what often happens with Nobel prizes. Also an interesting thing to note is that when women work with men on a research paper, the men generally get the credit. So there goes the emancipation. As a women, apparently, you’re better of working as a loner.

5. Success can come at later age if persistent

This law I really like. Although it is more likely that you gain success early in your career, it is still possible to become successful at a later age. The reason that people are more likely to succeed early in life, is because they also produce more. However, if you make sure that you keep on producing, this will actually still increase the likelihood that you will be successful. So having grit definitely helped to be successful.

Summary of the universal laws of success

So in summary, the laws of success are definitely not always fair. This is because in practice, performance between competitors is either almost equal (often because of (physical) limits), or the performance element is hard to distinguish, for instance with art. Networks definitely help in this case and so does having and developing grit.

The 5 universal laws of success are:

  1. If performance cannot be measured, networks determine success.
  2. Performance is bounded, success is unbounded.
  3. Previous success is important for future success (preferential attachment).
  4. One individual will get the credit for a team effort.
  5. Success can come at a later age if you are persistent.

Further reads

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