Emotion, not logic, drives success

Emotion, not logic, drives success

History demonstrates that it is rarely the logical, dispassionate thinker that achieves great things. Instead, the majority of profound changes have almost always been led by emotionally driven, hot-blooded youth.


Because emotion is the driver of action, and action—some noninsignificant portion of the time—leads to success. A poor basketball player may miss ninety nine throws out of a hundred, but they'll sink one more than the person that never got off the couch.

It is easy to think, hard to do; and, as animals in love with energy conservation, the only way we have consistently done hard things is by emotionally brainwashing ourselves to believe that those things are worth it. Rationally, though they rarely are.

Consider the statistical probability of achieving incredible success: billionaire status, for example. There are 614 billionaires in the United States, and the nation has a population of over 328,000,000 people. Statistically, your gross odds of achieving billionaire status are less than 1 in 534200. You can stratify the population based on your income level, background, and IQ, each of which improve the accuracy of these odds, but those unfortunate odds will always be next to inconsequential.

Yet if you took a random sample of the population and asked how many of them thought that they would become billionaires, the number would be much higher than 1 in 534200. In fact, I suspect the number would be closer to 1 in 100. And the leading driver of this five-thousandfold difference in ambition is our capacity, and willingness to engage in, emotionally-driven decision making.

This notion is baked into the very etymology of the word. Derived from Latin (emovere), emotion literally means to 'move out'—to act, rather than think. When you're overcome with a particularly striking event, and your heart begins pumping, and your muscles begin filling with adrenaline, the last thing you want to do is stand still and ponder life's questions; instead, you move. You make that phone call, apply for that job, or start that business.

There is a certain subset of people that have the capacity to incite this motivation at will. Whenever they lack the desire to do something; to run that extra mile, to work that extra hour, to write that extra page; they make themselves feel, and suddenly the barriers to their work crumble and they start moving. These are the ones that go on to accomplish great things: the Elon Musks, Oprah Winfreys, and Jan Koums of the world. We often pride them for their intellect alone, but their ability to act emotionally lies at the heart of many of their decisions.

Your capacity for rationality and dispassionate logic is certainly a virtue. However, little ever gets done by sitting at a round table and debating what to do next. It is the ones that act emotionally, in many cases irrationally, that end up accomplishing the things we later read about in grand books. Don't ignore or disregard your emotions—use them as fuel to help you rise higher.