A 2014 Psychology Today article highlighted sociologist Arnout van de Rijt’s experiments at the State University of New York to determine the validity of the adage “success breeds success.”

Based on the experiment’s results, van de Rijt described what he called a “winning cascade” phenomenon:

“two individuals can be equally motivated to succeed, equally talented, equally well-positioned. And yet one of them may get a lucky head start over the other, and this advantage may then beget further advantage, producing an arbitrary and growing disparity in success between the two”

His experiment involved “seeding” the success of the test subjects and observing and documenting their subsequent success. The significantly positive results beg the question: what, in general – and in sales specifically – qualifies as van der Rijt’s “lucky head start”?

Anyone who has been in the sales industry more than 5 years has seen a new salesperson explode on the scene only to have their flame extinguished after a year. Conversely, many salespeople have gone on to become sales superstars after having stumbled out of the gate.

Since initial sales aren’t the “jump start” for the so-called winning cascade, some other input must be responsible for the primary success. I submit that we must consider “confidence” as the “lucky head start” needed to begin the Upward Spiral of Success™.

Success breeds success

Confidence is defined as trust in or belief in oneself. It comes from the knowledge and recognition that one is prepared for a given situation. This knowledge and recognition comes from hours spent studying and practicing, rehearsing and role-play. Researching, experimenting, even all the lifetime experiences leading up to an event create the confidence needed for initial success!

We see this play out time and time again, regardless of the age or industry. After any successful action – a game, a surgery, a sale, etc. – confidence is high, which creates a positive environment for future success. The next opportunity seems much less daunting given the confidence of the prior success. This confidence is reflected in the approach, execution and (again) successful completion of a subsequent acts.

“Success breeds success” is more than an adage, it is a fact we can replicate. In order to have a win to build upon, you must first gain the confidence to effectively compete. This confidence comes from the time and effort spent preparing for the given task. Build the confidence and the success will come


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