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Super Successful Underachievers

I read a study yesterday that highlights the one real difference between underachievers and overachievers.

It also answers one of the most baffling questions in the business world, which is:

Why do the ‘A’ and ‘B’ students usually end up working for the ‘C’ students?

The overachievers in school are obviously the best and brightest. They’re smart and ambitious, and it only makes sense that they’ll be the ones to dominate in their career field and quickly rise to the top.

Or does it?

It turns out the dividing line between underachievers and overachievers isn’t what most people would guess.

It isn’t intelligence.

It isn’t ambition.

It isn’t anything physical or mental.

It’s completely emotional.

Specifically, it’s a difference in what motivates them.

Overachievers are motivated by serious, practical goals.

And underachievers are motivated by…

Fun and games.

That’s it.

That’s the difference.

In this study, there were several tests devised to measure all sorts of cognitive abilities: math skills, problem solving skills, reading comprehension, etc.

When a mixed group of self-described overachievers and underachievers were given these tests, of course, the overachievers outperformed the underachievers by a long shot.

These were serious tests, after all. And overachievers are always motivated to perform well on serious tests. And, since the goal of school is to perform well on tests and get the best grades possible, they always do very well in school.


When another mixed group was given the exact same tests, and told that the tests were actually games, and they were just meant to be fun…

The underachievers dominated.

Their motivation was aroused by the idea that they were playing a game. It’s fun to learn new games and win at them, and so they did.

But the overachievers? Obviously, games are for children and not to be taken seriously, so they didn’t.

So how does this translate to the business world?

Well, the overachievers are motivated by getting good grades, so they find jobs that provide them with clear performance metrics. Most of them end up being managers, since their performance can be broken down into a series of tests that they must pass.

And the underachievers? The successful ones see business as a game – a competitive sport that they want to play for fun and hopefully win. So they become business owners and entrepreneurs, competing with other business owners for fun and profit, while leaving all the boring parts of running the business to the ‘A’ students.

This doesn’t just apply to business though.

You can start motivating yourself towards any goal you want, right now, if you just understand which type of motivation drives you the most.

1. Are you motivated to get good grades? Then treat your goals like tests. Make them very specific, break them down into measurable performance metrics, and then work to ace your tests.


2. Was school too boring for you? Then make your goals fun. Treat them as games that you can break down into daily ‘quests’ and then just have fun completing each quest.

And, whether you’re motivated by good grades or by fun, throw on some extra determination and you’ll become unstoppable at achieving any goal you set.

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