The most important predictor of long-term success

by Frank Muller

So often I am asked about how to best prepare a young person for college (or getting into a great school) and deep down I have always known the real answer but have been reticent to share it. Today, I will break that silence so as to benefit parents at the moment in a persons’ life that matters.

Linked above is the most extensive set of studies even done with regards to long term success. Researchers wanted to test a hypothesis that people who learn how to deny their impulses develop complex neuro networks that have a myriad of intellectual, physical and emotional benefits.

The experiment is remarkably simply (and parents can do it today with their own children). Researchers bring in a four-year child. They offer the child a deal.

On the table is a marshmallow. They are told that if do not eat the marshmallow while they are out of the room, then when they return, they will be given more marshmallows to eat. They also tell them that is quite alright though that if they really want the marshmallow then they can go ahead eat it and will not get into trouble.

As you might expect, most of those four-year old children simply eat the marshmallow. But, that precious successful minority did something extraordinary. They made the mental calculation of denying their impulses in order to receive a greater future reward. Voila – success!

This denial of self, this voluntary mortification, this choice of free will to avoid short term pleasure for long term gain determines everything. Think about it, this child possesses the trait that says they will study more (play less) in order to earn good grades that lead to greater success.

This young future athlete will put in more sufferings (workouts, extra practice, extra coaching, less computer games) in order to be a better player that leads to greater success.

This young man denies himself sexual affairs with other young women (clearly that would be enjoyable) in order to learn commitment to the one who will be his wife, and which leads to a happier and lasting marriage.

This young woman seeking to advance her career puts in the extra hours at work, seeks proactively constructive criticism on how to get better in order to advance more quickly in the corporate world.

People who choose to follow the moral law (the ten commandments and what they mean) versus choosing materialism, rationalizations, lies, comfort, lusts, gluttony, selfishness in order to gain the blessings of a joyful life freed from sin.

There it is. This is the Truth. This is the Truth of Love. Denial of self in service of others through our gifts applied in excellence. There is no other way that leads to success in the temporal world and ultimately success in the spiritual world.

How do we create more of these type people? By being parents who demonstrate those traits to their children by their example. These parents turn off the TV and read their children books. These parents push back from the dinner table once they have eaten enough to meet their minimum needs. These parents exercise instead of taking a nap. These parents teach their children the benefit of denying immediate gratification.

This philosophy means that we can tell our children we love them but words or other such professions mean nothing if not backed by actions that demonstrate self-denial and mortification for that child and spouse and friends and community. Everything else begins to fall into place.

From the first moment the child looks at their parents they should see sacrifice in love for that child and for each other. Smiles, tenderness, affection, control of emotions, fortitude and persistence…. Simply put, virtue.

So, you are thinking to yourself I am 60 what do I do now with regards to me becoming more successful and happier? So, you are thinking my child is 16 and what do I do now with regards to helping them become more successful and ultimately happy.

If starts with admitting that we are personally is wrong and it needs to stop. We start choosing to deny ourselves (we are not animals solely governed by instinct). We are free and sentient creations that can choose between good and evil, right or easy.

Repentance means accepting responsibility for what we are and resolving to change and that change is sacrifice for a good purpose. Yes, we will stumble but yes, we can get up again. We fix our children by fixing ourselves and telling our children what we are doing wrong (not them) and we begin to live sacrifice in the pursuit of good in order to live virtuously now. We do not need any praise for doing the right thing, we derive praise to ourselves by completing the sacrifice. Selflessness does not demand a compliment as the act itself is the praise.

We stop arguing, we stop making excuses, we stop blaming, we stop creating conspiracy theories. We just get to work. If we are in debt, we stop spending money on anything but the bare essentials to live. Cancel Netflix, no more pizza delivery, we turn thermostat up to 80, we sacrifice and blame no one. We come to love sacrifice because we grow in control and grow in strength.

We grow in Love. There, I said it. Now, go unto the world and proclaim to all that the path to success and true happiness is paved on the road of suffering and sacrifice in love for our Creator and others. We are now rightly ordered, and we will become whatever our unique gifts and abilities were designed to become.

When is that moment that change can occur? Right now. Right up to our last breath we choose to offer up a sacrifice for others and deny ourselves.

May Peace be with us all.

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