I interviewed 7 celebrities and they all had this in common

Courtesy of Bobby Hoffman

Cheryl Hines with Bobby Hoffman

Source: Courtesy of Bobby Hoffman

What’s the difference between you and a successful celebrity? Actually not so much because you can use the same strategies as the rich and famous to be successful. When I wrote my motivational textbook (Hoffman, 2015), I interviewed people from different disciplines who shared how they reached the pinnacle of prominence in their chosen professions. During my search, I met an illustrious group of people, including Emmy-winning actress Cheryl Hines, Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame kicker Nick Lowery, US Congressman Darren Soto, disgraced financier Bernie Madoff, and professional poker player and coach Alec Torelli, who makes millions before age 23). Surprisingly, despite the diversity of their careers, they had significant similarities in the ways they achieved success.

Success is planned

Everyone I interviewed had an intentional plan. Her career path was not random or dependent on knowing the right people. Each put tremendous effort into a roadmap of how they would turn their ambitions into reality. A plan serves as a personal blueprint and a constant reminder, giving the individual focus while reinforcing the idea that successful people orchestrate their destiny. The people I interviewed were masters at it self-regulationwho have consciously monitored and reflected on their goal progress. Individuals who regulate themselves perform better, achieve better results, and have higher self-confidence than those who are spontaneous and intuitive (Vohs & Baumeister, 2016).

Luck doesn’t matter

Second, each individual had what psychologists call to make their dreams come true internal attributions accompanied by strong locus of control (Weiner, 2018). People with inner attributions believe they can control their destiny. They reject the mystique of luck because they feel that opportunities are maximized through prior preparation and effort. Increased locus of control does not imply the ability to control others, but the ability to control one’s own success. While some people see external events like macroeconomic conditions or discrimination as obstacles, people like entrepreneur Robert E. Knowling, Jr. used adversity as a motivational tool for growth. He started a landscaping business at age 12 en route to owning multiple businesses and eventually received recognition from President Bill Clinton for his efforts in developing a national workplace agenda for inclusion and opportunity for women and people of color in business and industry.

Expect setbacks

Steve Jobs was once fired from Apple, the Beatles were dropped from their first record deal, Stephen Spielberg was expelled from film school three times and Walt Disney was jailed as a newspaper reporter for lack of imagination. Every person I interviewed dealt with rejection positively and expected setbacks as a mechanism to improve their skills. During my interview with Cheryl Hines, she said she was denied dozens of roles before getting her first acting job. Former NFL star Nick Lowery has missed over 100 field goals in his career, despite retiring with the best field goal completion rate in NFL history. Defeat or rejection were not seen by Hines or Lowery as failure, but as an opportunity to do things differently, use different strategies, and learn from the agony of defeat. It’s no surprise that some of our best learning occurs when we’re making our biggest mistakes (Mathan, & Koedinger, 2005).

Perfectionism is a myth

Every person I met told me they strived for excellence but realized they could never be perfect. Poker expert Alec Torelli stated that he rarely plays a questionable hand to completion because he knows that spotting situational failure is a big part of his ultimate success. Despite their different abilities, they all set challenging goals with a conscious focus on improving their past performance as a measure of their personal success. Becoming your best self doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. There are at least two ways of looking at perfectionism. You can have either adaptive Perfectionist striving where your main goal is to improve past performance or very critical, self-destructive Perfectionist reviews where negative performance reviews are holding you back. Perfectionist striving focuses on continuous improvement and promotes greater conscientiousness, positive emotions, and complacency (Stober & Otto, 2006).

Get a trainer

Another common theme between individuals was a willingness to do things differently by taking advice from others. Everyone acknowledged that part of their success was due to having a well-respected advisor and coach. Even the much-maligned financier Bernie Madoff told me he sought advice during his advisory escapades, but sadly Madoff turned down the advice that could have prevented his monumental downfall and eventual 150-year imprisonment. Feedback from others helps guide us through the motivation gaps we all encounter at some point. If it weren’t for Cheryl Hines’ sister Rebecca, she might have given up show business after being turned down three times for the same role. Activist Amanda Boxtel, who spent 22 years in a wheelchair, might never have walked unaided again without the support and guidance of friends and family who helped her come to terms with her disability. We learn faster and progress more efficiently when we receive external and unbiased feedback on our efforts (Burgers et al., 2015). Just as a map helps us efficiently reach a goal, the coaches we choose help us with our responsibilities and navigate the often treacherous path to success.

can you be a celebrity

Of course you can become your best self, but more importantly, are you ready to change? Self-awareness is the first step to growth. After recognition, set goals, monitor progress, set milestones, and reflect on results either by rewarding yourself for achievement or by making changes. Above all, remember that sustained motivation requires an unrelenting fixation on achieving your cherished goal. Celebrities wouldn’t and won’t accept anything less, and so can you.

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