Time for A Success Reality Check

Two of the most brilliant — and wealthy — persons on the planet are hardly ever in the news. If you mentioned their names — Larry Page and Sergei Brin — most people would not recognize them at all. And yet the quiet genius of these two men is responsible for most of modern life as we know it. So many of us use Gmail, navigate with Google Maps, use Google Translate to get around in strange cultures, store our data on Google Drive and would be lost without Google Search. Yes, these two low-profile men are the founders of the mega-giant corporation Google.

How did they get there? What is the secret of their remarkable success? It turns out their parents and genes had quite a lot to do with it.

The parents of Larry Page were brilliant computer scientists already. His father, Carl Victor Page, has been described as a “pioneer in computer science and artificial intelligence” while his mother, Gloria, was an instructor in computer programming. Thee parents of Sergei Brin, Google’s co-founder, were Eugenia and Mikhail Brin, both graduates of Moscow State University. His father was a mathematics professor at the University of Maryland and his mother a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

In other words, Page and Brin had a head start in their careers because of their parents and what they inherited from them.

It is no coincidence that the children of highly successful people have a much stronger shot at being successful than those born into challenging environments in impoverished families. Look at these telling examples —

Warren Buffett’s father, Howard Homan Buffett, was an American businessman, investor and politician. His mother was said to be a math whiz who could calculate faster than calculators.

Bill Gates father was a highly successful attorney and a partner at his firm, while his mother had a powerful social and political network. Bill Gates had a head-start.

In fact, you might start wondering if all your hard work and hopes are going to be in vain. Is success pre-determined? Is that why so few people are super-successful?

In this chapter, we will explore the impact of genetics and environment — both physical and psychological — on your success. We will acknowledge your present reality in all the 11 areas of life, and thus understand where our challenges lies and where the main work of self-improvement lies ahead of us. You will learn that the most thing that makes you who you are and determines your success are your experiences and your choices. And they are completely in your hands.

By the end of the chapter your will know that the #1 factor in your success is actually — you. When you determination is mixed with gratitude, magic and miracles will come into your life, bringing success with them.

Some cold hard facts

The Source Code To Success is an irrepressibly optimistic book and energetically advocates taking charge of your life and making it go according to your plan. However, unlike most self-help books in the market, I do not want to mislead you into believing that they are magic bullets and special buttons that will make everything happen exactly as you planned it. The most consistent quality of life is it unpredictability — unprotected opportunities come as often as unforeseen challenges and pitfalls. This chapter helps you take a clear, hard reality check of your realities in the 11 areas of life and go forward with your eyes wide open and your expectations grounded firmly in reality. Life is seldom a fairy tale.

As someone said once, “Plan A is what you make. Plan B is what actually happens.”

Self-help books could create a false confidence and hope that anyone can become a millionaire with a fantastically successful and luxurious life and great happiness. However statistics paint a very different reality — if you define success by money alone, then you will be disappointed.

1. Only 0.8% of the world’s population have net worths over $1 million. Only 2,208 people out of the world’s population of 7.7 billion were listed as billionaires in Forbes magazine ranking of the world’s billionaires. Their average net worth came in at US$4.1 billion, and only 63 people on the list were under 40 in the list. Cumulatively, the total net worth for 2018’s billionaires was US$9.1 trillion. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos stood at the top for the first time, becoming the first centibillionaire included in the ranking.Mark Zuckerberg is the only person under 50 in the top 10 billionaires list.

Oxfam’s 2019 report on global inequality, Public Good or Private Wealth (mentioned in the chapter on the Pareto Principle), noted that the 26 richest people on earth in 2018 had the same net worth as the poorest 50% on the planet. Through a different filter, 42 million people, or 0.8% of the world’s population, have net worths in excess of $1 million. That group — roughly the global 1% — controls 44.8% of the world’s wealth.

Your genes influence your ability to succeed

Growing scientific, genetic, and neurological evidence evidence indicates that some people are born with genetically inherited qualities that make them inherently more likely to succeed the others. While all people should be treated as though they were equal in terms of rights and opportunities, science is indicating that all people are not created equal in terms of capability, intelligence or potential.

The link between genetics and upward social mobility was investigated by scientists from the Duke University School of Medicine in a recent study, using data obtained from the so-called Dundenin study, in which 1,000 individuals in New Zealand were tracked over four decades, during which they were regularly assessed on psychological, behavioral and life outcomes.

When the researchers analyzed genetic variation and educational attainment, they found that a high polygenic score—an aggregate measure of variation across a person’s genome—predicted not only educational attainment, but other forms of success as well. Individuals with higher polygenic scores were more likely to leave home for professional opportunities, land more prestigious jobs, make more money and managing their finances better. Children with higher polygenic scores tended to become more economically successful—even if they had grown up in families that were relatively poor.

Intelligence was one factor that partially accounted for the relationship between genes and professional success but other characteristics like self-control and interpersonal skills were also important.

“Getting a good education requires many of the same skills and abilities needed to get ahead in life more generally, so we hypothesized that the same genetics that predicted success in schooling would predict success in life,” says Belsky, who led the team.

Another recent study, led by Wei Chi of Tsinghua University, took a look at how genes influence traits like self-control and motivation that play such a big role in a person’s career success. The so-called DRD4 gene and its variations are associated with differences in people’s motivation, their responses to rewards and their ability to regulate themselves. One variation of this gene has been linked to difficulty in focussing and concentration. On the positive side, however, the same variant has also been associated with positive traits such as a penchant for exploration and leadership qualities.

To summarize, your genetic make-up, inherited from your parents, strongly determines the basic toolbox of characteristics, skills, traits, strengths and weaknesses that you are born with. We will soon see, later in this chapter, that these are not written in stone.

You cannot choose the environment in which you’re raised

Just as you have no control over who your parents are and the genes you will inherit from them, in your formative years — from birth to about age 7 — you have little say or control over the physical, psychological and social environment in which you are brought up. Scientists are discovering that the environment works together with your genes and influence your trajectory towards success — for better or for worse.

Chi and colleagues in the Tsinghua university study used data from the Add Health project, a nationally representative American study, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) project, in which 15,000 American adolescents from 13-18 years of age were tracked till ages 24-32. Participants regularly provided information on their educational achievement, job change frequency as well as a saliva sample for genetic analysis.

The results showed that the child’s environment interacted with genetics to influence the course of a person’s career — both positively and negatively.

Children raised in high socio-economic status households in low-poverty neighborhoods, tended to change jobs voluntarily, and this trait was even stronger among individuals with DRD4-7R gene variant.

In contrast, children who had grown up in a relatively high-poverty neighborhoods obtained less education and later, a higher frequency of involuntary job changes ( such as getting laid off or fired). Again, this negative career outcome was more pronounced among individuals with the DRD4-7R variation.

Your life experiences: the magic bullet

This chapter is to reassure you that success comes only when it is built on a foundation of reality. You know now that two important factors — your genes and your childhood environment — were out of your control. Let me tell you now about the magic bullet, the third factor that is entirely within your control.

Who you are is a compound of your genetics, the environment of your upbringing — and the experiences that come your way, with your responses to them. To illustrate this, imagine two brothers, both born into a lower middle class family. One day, a fire breaks out and destroys their home and livelihood, leaving them orphaned and broke. One brother goes into a deep depression, unable to do anything. But the other one decides that life is inviting him to start on a clean slate. He borrows money from a bank, rebuilds the house, and starts cooking gas dealership. He builds on this and soon has a provisions store, and then a chain of them. Pretty soon, he is reasonably wealthy and well off.

The fire and its destruction were out of both brothers’ control — but their responses to it were completely in their hands.

You are shaped by your experiences — and by deliberately choosing most of the experiences you want to bring into your life, you will shape who you become, building on the best gifts you have received from your genes and your environment.

Here are some examples of psychological, behavioral and social environments that you can choose to both build upon and mitigate the good and the bad you inherited in life —

1. Analyze your heritage and understand it: The first step to changing and mastering your environment is to understand it. True, you cannot analyze your genetic code but you can certainly identify factors that influence you positively and those that work against you. Examine the key areas of life —

— Family history up to present

— The health issues around you and how they will develop and change your lives

— Your family’s hopes and aspirations in life, success, upbringing and society

— Your schooling and college and the main life lessons you have beeb given

— Your home environment — relatives, elders, routines, home culture

— Your colony, its effect on you, what you have learnt from it

— Your friends — how they influence you for better or worse

— The habits you have acquired — or not — through your upbringing.

— Any other areas unique to you and your life

Let’s do a reality check

From time to time, good business leaders conduct a reality check of their company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, or SWOT analysis. When you do a reality check of your life, I want you to look at each of the life areas and briefly reflect on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats you find there. Use something like the table below, where I have provided illustrative examples.



From my earliest days, I have enjoyed good health. I do know that many of my uncles have developed diabetes in later life, so it probably runs in the family. I am prone to cold, and I tend to be careless with tools and instruments so cut myself easily. My parents immunized me against all the important diseases.



Like many middle class families, we are not wealthy and money has always been a challenge. There is some money, about 100,000 rupees in the bank, and about the same amount in cash at home. We live in a rented house but my father plans to use his provident fund money the it comes to buy a house in his children’s name.

I don’t think I will inherit any wealth.



We are by and large a loving family. But economic hardships have led to many arguments between my parents, especially when there was not enough money for paying school fees and so on.

My father is a shy and retiring man so we do not often have guests and visitors or throw parties.

He does not like boys and girls to mix, so I do not have many female friends.


Personal Development

In our family and as a child, personal development was never a topic of discussion. Our parents taught us rules of behavior and we were expected to follow them. It was only after I joined college that I realized that we are masters of our destinies and that everything we did and learnt in our formative and teenage years could be reviewed — and changed if necessary



We have a normal middle class life, celebrating festivals and special events, going on outings, occasionally eating out.

Our house is in a slum area, surrounded by poor people. The streets are not safe at night, with drunkards and gamblers. I just want to get out of this place.

My father bought a car when I was 6 and he has never changed it since then.



I don’t yet have a career but everyone in my family has been in some service job. My father has always thought it important that only jobs with good prospects should be considered. He wanted his children to be either accountants or engineers. I want to be a scientist and inventor and run my own biotechnology company.



No one in my family have any business experience. But I am very passionate for business and will do so.We are not a business family. My brothers and sisters are either in the service industries or in the government. I want to be a businessman — I know that I will be doing something brand new, and I will on my own.


Financial Independence

I am not financially independent, yet. It may be a long time before I can be. Even if I successful in business, a lot of my money will go first in supporting my parents and my siblings. I will have to be significantly wealthy to have financial independence after meeting my duties and responsibilities



I am shy, like my father and tend to be focussed or work, duties and studies. I have a small circle of devoted friends who I am loyal to, but I would not say I either have a network, or believe I will be very good at creating a network.


Giving Back

My family has always been generous, even when they were at their poorest. My father also taught us that gifts are burdens and one should never oblige others with acts that make them feel inadequate to compensate you.

I have grown up believing that one should give only when one has taken care of one’s own needs. A bit like fastening your own seat belt before strapping in your baby.

The one thing you can change: your experiences

Your reality check will give you a deep look at where you have to try harder — but even more importantly, it will reveal the areas where you are blessed and fortunate. It will reveal your innate gifts, your inherited gifts, your assets, your good fortune, your potential, and yes, your uniqueness. Based on the reality you will know where you need to try harder, and where you might find it pretty easy going.

The truth that is indeed written in stone is that while you have no control or choice over your genes or your upbringing, you have complete control over both the experiences you choose to bring into your life and the way you respond to events that befall you. Here are some examples of psychological, behavioral and social environments that you can choose to both build upon and mitigate the good and the bad you inherited in life —

1. Re-educate yourself: If you could not complete college because of poverty, join the Khan Academy on the Internet and re-educate yourself — fro free. Go to an Internet cafe if you don’t have a computer. There you will meet and be inspired by others who are also trying to learn despite great odds.

2. Learn new languages. Expand your mind my learning new languages — and if you learn a world language like French or Spanish, even better. Remember the compounding effect? Learning diverse languages rapidly expands your brain’s ability to reframe thoughts in different terms — your think grows sharper.

3. Keep the company of people who wish the best for you: Don’t waste time in the company of complainers, lazy people, cynics and pessimists. Choose people who are working with optimism, hope and dedication to reshape their lives.

4. Build your network: Join new societies and groups, meet new people, build a network, learn new skills. As you have learned in a previous chapter, you influence networks and they influence you back. Networks bring entire worlds of new experiences and learning into your life.

5. Hang out with people who can teach you something: Warren Buffett learned about the corporate world and investing by spending time with as many corporations as he could, reading their annual reports and asking hundreds of probing questions. Once you know the direction you want your life to take, cultivate people who are leaders in that area, and with humility, begin learning from the masters.

6. Practice daily gratitude: Your genes and your environment make you who you are. Like any of life’s gifts, they include gifts and chains. The gifts are your unique advantages; be grateful for them. The curses are your challenges; you must consciously work to mitigate, reverse and overcome them. The first step is to be grateful continuously for what you have, rather than be embittered about others have.

Gratitude not just changes your own soul, but it changes the universe’s response to you. It starts a chain of magic and miracles that compound each other into an avalanche of fortune and happiness. Gratefulness begets miracles. In the next chapter, we will focus on gratefulness by itself and how to practice it.

I’d like to end with the example of a remarkable man called Steven Paul, born on February 24, 1955, to Abdulfattah Jandali and Joanne Schieble, and put up for adoption. His new parents were Paul and Clara Jobs. His biological father, Abdulfattah “John” (al-)Jandali had been born into an Arab Muslim family in Syria and grew up in Homs, Syria.

Jobs was raised in California and dropped out of college within a year to travel through India in 1974 seeking enlightenment and studying Zen Buddhism. If you’d met him then you would not have thought a fellow like him would have much of a future.

Yet when Jobs died at age 56, the whole world mourned his death. He died a much revered and loved man. He was also the genius behind the Apple brand, the man who gave the world the Macintosh computer, the iPhone and the iPad. He was the CEO and co-founder of Apple Inc.; chairman and majority shareholder of Pixar; a member of The Walt Disney Company’s board of directors following its acquisition of Pixar; and the founder, chairman, and CEO of NeXT. He is widely recognized as a pioneer of the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s.

Jobs was living proof that genetics and upbringing are not destiny, but your choices are.



The world’s billionaires https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World%27s_Billionaires

Is success in our genes https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/minds-business/is-success-in-our-genes.html

Parental genes influence their children through genetic culture https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_96340

Genes are key to academic success, study shows https://news.utexas.edu/2018/09/05/genes-are-key-to-academic-success-study-shows/

Being rich and successful really is in your DNA http://tinyurl.com/yxhodkw7

Serenity Prayer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer

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