Everyone knows about the X factor, that “Je ne sais quoi” that leads to desirability, fame and fortune. But what of the other attributes that lead to success (in those of us that are not blessed with the looks of Zac Efron or the appeal of Kylie)?
I can’t claim to know the answer, but I think I have spotted 2 new factors: “Y” possessed by Big Sis and “Z” possessed by Lil Bro. They are both of course bound for success, so I might as well spill their secrets now.
Big Sis is the oldest in her school year. This meant that in her reception class, she was often given a prominent role in class assemblies due to her relative maturity (in one class assembly she played Little Red Riding Hood, Mummy Bear and led the closing prayer). By Year 1, the other children in the class had gained in maturity and confidence and so the lines became more evenly distributed, as I would have expected. Big Sis came home from school upset. Here is our conversation:
Big Sis: I have only been given one line in the class assembly.
Me: [With a knowing smile and having perused the script] Everyone has only one line. It’s got to be fair. Everyone needs a chance to perform.
Big Sis: But I want more lines.
Me: Well, maybe in the rehearsals if you say your line really, really well, the teacher will give you some more lines.
Big Sis nodded. I felt smug that I had handled the situation well, given sensible advice which had been taken in. That’s why I was surprised the next day when we had this conversation:
Big Sis: I didn’t get given any more lines.
Me: Oh dear, what a shame. Sometimes that happens even if you do a really good job. What happened?
Big Sis: The teacher asked if there was anyone that didn’t want to say their lines, but everyone wanted to say their lines so I didn’t get given any more lines.
Me: Hang on, why did the teacher ask the whole class if there was anyone that didn’t want to say their lines?
Big Sis: Because I asked the teacher if I could have some more lines.
Me: [incredulous at the gall] What? What happened to our plan to do your line nicely then see if the teacher will give you some more lines?
Big Sis: No. I just asked the teacher for more lines instead.
That my friends, is what I call the “Y” factor. Not least appropriate because for the most part this type of self-assurance and audacity is currently found mainly in men (Y chromosome). I bowed to Big Sis’s superior nature after this conversation and vowed never to give her any more of my rubbish advice. I realised that although the advice that I had given her was genuinely how I would have dealt with things, and was probably inherited from my parents – “Work hard, do a good job and you will be rewarded”, it was actually total BS. It reminded me of the reasons given for the gender pay-gap: women never ask for a pay rise or a bigger bonus, women don’t put themselves up for promotion, women beaver away at their work thinking that good work will eventually pay dividends, meanwhile being stepped over by male colleagues that push themselves forward, that step up to the plate. I wondered if these women had been told by their mothers to “keep quiet, say their lines nicely and maybe the teacher would give them some more lines” when they were six years old. I’m so glad that Big Sis took no notice of me, and in fact has taught me a great lesson in what my genuine and well-meant advice might do to my children. Inflict them with my own weaknesses and foibles.
Here’s to Big Sis becoming that woman that will ask for that pay-rise.
Self-assurance, confidence, self-worth, balls, gall, the “Y”- factor; whatever you want to call it. It’s great, but for those that are not in possession of it, there is another way.
Lil Bro had his nursery sports day recently. He came home from practice despondent. Here is our conversation:
Lil Bro: We had practice for our sports day today.
Me: That’s good. How did it go?
Lil Bro: [in hushed tone as if it were top secret] Mummy, I am not the fastest runner in my class.
Me: That doesn’t matter!
Lil Bro: But I want to win!
Later that week, I was reminiscing with Big Sis about her nursery sports day.
Me: Big Sis, remember that boy Adam that won all the races at the sports day?
Big Sis: Yes, he was really fast.
Lil Bro: [Quietly contemplative, then in serious tone] Mummy, how did he do it?
Lil Bro: How did Adam win all the races? Can you call his mummy? I want to ask him.
We never got to ask Adam the secret to his success, but his mother told me this: once on holiday, he ran twice around a 400m track. On the second lap around, he was extremely tired (being only 6 years old!), but kept going to the finish saying to himself “If Mo Farah can do it; Adam can do it”.
So it turned out that Adam, like Lil Bro, had a desire to win and a determination to work to this endeavour. I was totally impressed that 4 year old Lil Bro could not only articulate a desire to win, but was also self-aware of his own capabilities and had devised a strategy to help himself improve. He was not afraid to ask for help and saw opportunities to gain mentorship. This self-awareness linked to drive for self-improvement, perseverance, determination and a desire to succeed is what I call the “Z” factor. This silent but steely, and oft-over-looked factor is the one that lets the slow and steady tortoise win the race against the brash and overtly talented hare.
I have no doubt that Lil Bro will succeed in bounds, not least because he wants to. Sadly, I wasn’t articulate enough to be able to convey these thoughts to Lil Bro. The best I could muster was:
“Just move your legs really, really fast…”