Washington Post: On Success with Michael Berland: It's hard work

It’s hard work
By Michael Berland
Published January 26, 2010

Q: How often do achievements like that of the newly elected Republican senator from Massachusetts seem to materialize out of thin air? Do you believe in the concept of overnight success?

The media can seize on something all of a sudden –a candidate, a cause, a consumer product — and then it seems like overnight success, but it’s not.

My fellow “On Success” panelists Misti Burmeister and Seth Kahan are absolutely right to emphasize that Scott Brown’s success only appears to be made “overnight.”

I’ve worked for two decades on political campaigns large and small. I know first hand that a successful campaign is like any business success: It’s about good people, teamwork, a nimble but effective decision-making process and good communication both internally and externally. And that is not something you can do overnight, though you can do it fast, especially if you have some seasoned people at the top.

I also know that “momentum candidates” can seem unstoppable, like Scott Brown last week and like President Obama himself became starting in mid-2008. They catch a wave. Then, it seems like there’s nothing that other candidates can do.

But that momentum usually gets going only after a long time of dong a lot of hard work, thinking and planning — in the dark and unnoticed. Malcolm Gladwell’s most recent bestseller Outliers explores this, turning the old “How to you get to Carnegie Hall?” joke (“Practice, practice practice!) into an in-depth examination of success in a lot of fields outside of politics as well.

In my book, What Makes You Tick?: How Successful People Do It – And What You Can Learn from Them, my co-author Doug Schoen and I examine success by analyzing super-successful people using five archetypes.

I think that Scott Brown’s career fits our success archetype of the Independence Seeker. Independence seekers are all about seeing an opportunity and positioning themselves in the right way to seize on it and make the most of it. When you look at his accomplishments, it’s all about his success and achieving it on his terms; it’s not about having a larger vision and leading a body of people there as with the kind of person we call a Natural Born Leader, like President Obama.

An effective career in politics, especially in the Senate, demands collaboration, vision, teamwork. The Independence Seeker is goal oriented but doesn’t have a lot of patience for process. George W. Bush fit that category too — lots of interest in winning, but little interest in governing. In Scott Brown’s case too, the election was his goal, and whether he can “win” at legislating too remains to be seen.

Brown will have to work hard to morph himself, yet again, to attain a new level of success among his peers at the Capitol. One thing is sure: it’s not something likely to happen overnight.