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Success is most often achieved by those who don’t believe in failure


By Phil Hesketh

Those words of wisdom came from none other than the stylishly elegant and fabulously chic, Coco.

Not Coco the clown, of course, but the French fashion designer, Miss Coco Chanel. Her affirmation that anything is possible if you believe in it, is a view shared by many a successful business entrepreneur.

But just how powerful is the act of believing and what part does it really play in determining success or failure? The answer may lie in a study by Irving Kirsch of Harvard Medical School who conducted a series of trials featuring placebos. As I’m sure you know, placebos are nothing more than sugar pills with no active ingredient that researchers use to test the efficacy of real drugs.

How and why placebos work is still something of a mystery. Some patients taking them report an improvement in their condition, some even claim to be suffering from the drug’s side effects. I myself was once very sick after eating an entire packet of Haribos.

Nothing to do with the story really, I’m just saying, go easy.

In a recent study of Parkinson sufferers (that’s the illness not the ex chat show host) it was discovered that placebo patients who reported an improvement had changes in their brain identical to those caused by the actual medication, Levodopa (that’s the medicine not the Russian ballet dancer).

So why did these sufferers get better? Quite simply it was a case of mind over matter. They believed what they were taking would help and so it did. Sportsmen and women use the same psychology to help them run faster, jump further and last longer. Some football teams believe they will score a goal in the last few minutes of a game and they often do. Aided by their opponent’s belief in the very same outcome.

In his study, Kirsch reviewed the results from 35 clinical trials of modern antidepressant medication, such as Prozac, and concluded that placebos duplicated more than 80% of the improvement observed in the drug groups. In other words 80% of people’s improvement after taking a sugar pill they thought was Prozac was exactly the same as if they had actually taken Prozac. He also concluded that the effect of placebo on pain is about 50% of the response to pain medication.

So how does this phenomenon translate into the business world? Well, it seems to me that the vital ingredient is the expectation of benefit. In my work as a motivational speaker I talk about the seven psychological drivers that we all possess - and one of these is a need to believe. We all want to believe, we all need to believe. And it seems that if you believe enough, you’ll go a long way to achieving your goals.

It’s mid March and I’m towards the end of my fourteenth consecutive year speaking in the antipodes. I don’t like the weather in the UK in February and March so I come and work here.

So how did I start?

I knew no-one in Australia back in 2003.

I just believed I could do it.

And if it’s important ENOUGH you find a way. If it’s not important ENOUGH you find an excuse….