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Ability + Motivation + Attitude = Success-3 copy.jpg

Ability + Motivation + Attitude = Success


“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz


Our abilities are our skill sets, the things we are naturally able to do. Our motivation is our desire to achieve a goal. Our attitude is the way we approach what it is we are trying to achieve.


In the quotation above, Lou Holtz, a former American football player, coach, and analyst, is laying out the three components of the process of reaching a goal. When we read it, it is natural to take the quote one step farther and infer that putting them together could be a recipe for success. Inherent in the quote, however, is the implication that the degree to which we are motivated and the type of attitude we bring to the project determine the level of our success.


It is natural to pursue a career, whether it be in business, the arts, sports, or other field, that reflects our abilities. For example, someone who possesses an aptitude for public speaking, the ability to retain complicated factual material, and excellent analytical skills may decide to put those talents to use as a trial lawyer. The path to becoming a trial lawyer, however, is an arduous one entailing achieving multiple degrees and ultimately passing the bar exam.

Although the individual whose ultimate goal it is to become a trial lawyer may be an excellent communicator, possess a mind for details, and be adept at analysing complex problems, the degree to which they are motivated to become one will, in part, determine the degree to which they are successful at it. A highly motivated person will not see the educational journey to this particular goal as a hinderance. Instead, they will embrace it understanding its multiple steps will get them to where they want to be.


If we see Holtz’s quote as a recipe for success, our would-be trial lawyer, equipped with the necessary skills and a high degree of motivation, is two-thirds of the way to successfully achieving their goal. The final determination of success is the attitude they add to their motivation and ability. According to Holtz, one-third of our success in how well we achieve our goal depends on our attitude—the way we approach it. A genuinely good attitude, one that is based on believing in what we are doing and doing it in the right way, is necessary for doing it well. Possessing the last ingredient in the recipe, our example is well on their way to success.


A real-life representative of someone who embodies Holtz’s formula for success is gymnast Simone Biles. Possessing almost super-human gymnastic abilities, Biles became motivated at an early age to develop them and become an Olympic champion. Watching her perform, it is clear that her ebullient attitude is what has always taken her over the top.


What do our fictional trial lawyer and the real-life Simone Biles have in common? Both have exceptional abilities, are highly motivated, and approach their goal with enthusiasm. In short, they optimize the talents they were born with, with the desire to succeed coupled with the right attitude.

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