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Don’t Just Dream About Success: Stack the Odds in Your Favor

By Ramon Fernandez —

I just finished reading a new book by Joe Ben Hoyle entitled Don’t Just Dream About Success: Stack the Odds in Your Favor. It’s a motivational advice book about how to achieve success and attain the goals that you set for yourself. The author writes from experience as a successful CPA, a long-time accounting professor at the University of Richmond, an Advanced Accounting textbook author (the book we use at UST for that course), and a CPA Review course founder and instructor who now has a popular website

In the book, Prof. Hoyle identifies three types of goals: levels 1, level 2, and level 3 goals. Level 1 goals are unrealistic fantasies that we may have — like the retiree who dreams of being a pro football player. It’s not going to happen but it makes for a nice dream. Level 2 goals are goals about things that are really not that important to us, where we would like a B but will settle for a C effort. We may want to learn how to cook in order not to spend so much money eating out every day. We may learn the basics of cooking at a B or C level but we are not looking to become master chefs. Finally, there are level 3 goals, those difficult challenges that mean so much to us and burn in our hearts so intensely that they push us to do whatever it takes to attain them. We need to always have level 3 goals in life to excite and motivate us. They make life fun and worth living to the fullest.

Level 3 Goals

In terms of how to achieve your level 3 goals, Hoyle gives lots of advice in his book. Here are some of his words of wisdom:

  •   Take it one step at a time
  •   Persevere, never give up
  •   Get the word failure out of your vocabulary — always be positive
  •   Have no fear
  •   Manage your time well –write down every morning what you want to accomplish that day and don’t stop until you have accomplished them
  •  Perfection is not necessary but constant progress and improvement is
  •  Push yourself beyond your comfort zone
  •  Monitor and assess your progress on a regular basis
  •  Get mentally ready to succeed — mental visualization of an upcoming challenge will help you gain confidence
  •  Practice make perfect — hours of work are necessary to achieve your goals
  •  Get organized: write down what steps you will take to get the job done
  •  Plan and organize your execution of tasks in order to help you achieve them
  •  But most of all you need passion and inspiration, an obsession with achieving the level 3 goals that you have set for yourself.

Ingredients for Success

The author has 4 words that he feels are key ingredients to having success:

1. Journey — Success is a journey, a philosophy of life, like breathing

2. Believe — Believe in yourself is key to success. Develop a confidence grounded in the reality of your abilities and the hard work that you are willing to put in.

3. Urgency — Today! You can avoid sacrifice today but then you will miss the benefits from that sacrifice come tomorrow. You can study today or you can fail the exam tomorrow. Don’t be a procrastinator!

4. Grit — The path to success is not an easy one to tread. You will need lots of grit to make it. What is grit? How about all of the following — determination, perseverance, tenacity, self-discipline, passion, stamina, rock solid work on a consistent basis

Hoyle points out in his book that a recent research study by Angela Lee Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania found that the factor that contributes the most to a person’s success is — not IQ, not physical traits, not social traits, but grit, having stamina and sticking with it to its completion. Grit is the number 1 predictor of success!

Categories of Students

Because the author is a long-time college professor, many of his examples revolve around being successful as a student. Prof. Hoyle identifies three categories of students:

1. Shooting Stars — These are the students who are super excited on day 1 of the semester but quit within a week or two. They love the idea of success but as soon as they face the lectures, books, notes, assignments and the hours of work required they flame out like a shooting star. They have no grit and their goals are probably at level 1.

2. Yo-Yos — One week they are wonderful students, well prepared and engaged. The next week they seem lost and confused. They skip class when there is something better going on. They have grit at times and their goals are probably at level 2. They will likely complete the class with a B or C grade.

3. Rock Solid — Always present in class, always prepared, always engaged. They want to understand the material, not just memorize it. They ask lots of relevant questions. They may not be the smartest students in the room but they have the most grit and have set goals at level 3. They will likely be the most successful students in the class, in their careers, and in life in general.
As a long-time professor, I can relate to Hoyle’s categorization of students. I hope all of my students turn out to be rock solid and not shooting stars or yo-yos. And I hope they all have level 3 goals, like earning As in their courses, passing the CPA Exam, getting their desired job at graduation, and launching a successful accounting career. This book should be required reading for all students who want to stack the odds in their favor in achieving their level 3 goals.

Ramon Fernandez, MBA, CPA, CFP, CMA, CIA
Assistant Professor of Accounting

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