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What Drives Success?

Amy Chua, this time with her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, strikes again. In their just released book, THE TRIPLE PACKAGE, they assert that

“the strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.”

Should we listen to what Chua and Rubenfeld are telling us? Who are they? What have they done? Why should we pay attention to them?

Check their credentials, then you tell me.

After graduating from El Cerrito High School in NorCal’s East Bay, Chua went to Harvard and then Harvard Law. Now she’s a professor at the Yale Law School.

Rubenfeld, also a professor at Yale Law, went to Princeton, Harvard Law and, just to rub it in to us mere mortals, Juilliard.


I’m impressed. Jealous. But impressed. And after 30 years in the classroom, I agree with what they write.

Their obvious point is impulse control. Kids who can check their urges are not only more successful than those who can’t, they end up being better humans.

Their (seemingly) bewildering idea that high achievers believe they are simultaneously exceptional and inadequate is, on deeper inspection, not that difficult to understand. They’ve had it ingrained that there is no reason why they shouldn’t achieve. So, when they aren’t excelling – and who excels ALL the time (ask Peyton Manning) – they think they’re underachieving.

We want to instill an “I can succeed” attitude while, at the same time, remind our children and students that they are never completely “there.” New trials constantly loom. Life demands that we continue to get better.

Confidence, when it’s not extreme, is an asset. But so are those feelings of inferiority that push us to improve.

The ever-present challenge is balance.

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