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Book Review: The Psychology of Success: Secrets of Serial Achievement by Judith Leary-Joyce

Book Review: The Psychology of Success: Secrets of Serial Achievement by Judith Leary-Joyce

Book Review: The Psychology of Success: Secrets of Serial Achievement by Judith Leary-Joyce

PsychologyofSuccessJLJIn The Psychology of Success: Secrets of Serial Achievement, Judith Leary-Joyce offers some interesting techniques, case studies and observations. Success is, apparently, a matter of aligning with 5 fundamental principles and employing 7 basic behaviours.



Part 1 – Five Fundamentals

First Fundamental – Know your style

There are 3 elements that influence your personal style:

  • What success means to you
  • Your relationship with risk and dissatisfaction
  • What sort of achiever you are

Leary-Joyce suggests you use the equation:

Security + Challenge + Fulfilment = Success

Have some personal security, some challenge, a level of fulfilment and you can consider yourself successful…How much you need of each is up to you.

What is your relationship to risk?

If you avoid risk you will achieve nothing. If you embrace too much risk and it doesn’t payoff then you are fail spectacularly. How much you are prepared to risk is again up to you.

What sort of achiever are you?

One time? Consistent? Frequent? Serial?

The aim here is to look for the opportunity all the time. Embrace change and achieve all you can.

Second Fundamental – Get a grip of your personal gravity

Our personal gravity is what drives us:

  • Our mindsets and mottos
  • What we are familiar with
  • Life’s pressures

Mindset and mottos

Our mindset defines the way we look at the world. Aim for a positive open mindset and the  world will look to be happy and full of opportunities.

Mottos allow us to reframe our thoughts in a more positive way. Like little mission statements that tell us how to act. eg. If you are going to do it, you might as well do it as well as you can.


This defines what we are comfortable with…Our comfort zone. Make what you do routinely something that makes a difference rather than something that makes no difference.

Life pressure

Life’s events will have an emotional impact on you. Decide how you are going to react and take charge of your responses rather than having life take charge of you.

Third Fundamental – Harness your life alignment curve

Your life alignment curve is a graph of the major life events and how you react to them.

For example, a motivating event will make you feel high. A bad event will make you feel low. Each peak helps you explore your potential, each low gives you the chance to fight your way back up again.

The key stages are:

  • Restlessness – when you know you need a change
  • Incubation – recognising that we need to change, introspection to see the changes and deciding which path to take
  • Epiphany – realising what you need to do next
  • Drive – motivating and concentrated effort to achieve the goal
  • Stability – reaping the rewards until you become restless again

Fourth Fundamental – Discover your core talent

Your skills are supported by core talents. You can find your core talents by identifying when you where successful in the past. When did you:

  • Feel delight in an activity
  • Become absorbed and lost track of time
  • Began looking for the next similar task
  • Want to tell others of you success
  • Have lots of ideas about what else could be done

Leary-Joyce has a process that helps you identify your core talent

1. Answer the following questions:

  • Name 2 things you are naturally good at.
  • What skills have you developed that you do well?
  • What makes you good at them?
  • What do you do effortless that other people comment on?
  • What do you do effortless that other people donʼt see?
  • What do other people say you are good at?
  • What would it be difficult for you to life without?
  • What is your downfall?
  • What frustrates you about others?

2. Take the negative things and frame them on a positive manner. eg. I donʼt like people who talk too much…Therefore, i will learn to listen more.

3. Group the answers into 3 areas:

  • Outputs
  • Skills
  • Natural talents

4. Group your natural talents into similar groups

5. Join up your core talents with your outputs and skills to see how your talents support your activities.

These are your core talents

There are 3 needs central to success:

  • Courage and deep honesty
  • Back up and support
  • Ongoing stimulus and challenge

Courage and Deep Honesty

The issues that you need to consider with deep honesty are:

  • Level of commitment
  • How much dies it matter?
  • What will I give up?
  • What will it give me?
  • How committed are you?
  • Relationships involved
  • How are they now?
  • What are the potential problems?
  • What are the probable outcomes?
  • Costs and Benefits
  • Will it be better of worse?
  • Will it impact work life balance?
  • What are the financial implications?
  • Opportunities
  • Immediate
  • Future?
  • What is the change in direction?
  • How will it expand your reach
  • How will it improve your situation?
  • Impact
  • Will it improve?
  • Will it make things worse?

Back up and Support

It is always helpful to have support. Common choices are:

  • Partner
  • Close Friend
  • Mentor
  • Coach
  • Parent
  • Sibling
  • Teacher

The key point being the level of trust you have with the person.

Part 2 – Seven behaviours

Behaviour 1 – Take responsibility

You can’t control life, but you can control how you life it.

You can take control of:

  • Your life and how you choose to use it
  • Your personal reactions
  • Your perceptions of others
  • Your mistakes and failures
  • Your actions and your decisions

Behaviour 2 – Build relationships

Relationships allow us to move forward together, supporting each other and thriving together.

Good relationships revolve around common interests, good intentions and trust. This requires you to:

  • Listen well
  • Show empathy
  • Be appropriately honest
  • Show interest
  • Offer Support
  • Resist jumping to conclusions

Behaviour 3 – Embrace change

Change is where the opportunities are.

Use your values to find opportunities for change.

Embrace the change a look for where you can add value.

Behaviour 4 – Invite opportunity

Look for the open doors and be ready to walk through them.

Keep your options open. Take the opportunities as they arrive.

To recognise them:

  • Focus on your core talent
  • Make contact with interesting people
  • Keep your mind open to new possibilities
  • Be helpful
  • Let personal experiences introduce you to ideas and possibilities
  • Say ‘Yes’ when you get the chance

Behaviour 5 – Be passionate

Restlessness is often caused by lack of or loss of passion.

Do work that matters, for as long as it matters and then move on.

You are likely to get passionate about:

  • Doing work that makes you feel good
  • A cause that matters to you
  • Supporting people that matter

Passion links to your core talent.

It also follows a set path:

  • A flush of excitement
  • You get going and sometimes feel daunted
  • Total absorption
  • Normalising the process
  • Over familiarity

If you are committed to take action, it helps if you:

  • Define the specific area you want to act on – ensure you can do it?
  • Work out a first level plan of action to start moving forward
  • Think through your networks
  • Get support to think through your plan

Then act with passion

Behaviour 6 – Be conscious

Be alert to your surroundings and learn from experience.

Great learning comes from:

  • Mistakes and frustration
  • Teachers
  • Life experience
  • Negative examples
  • Challenges

You learn from experience by:

  • Understanding the positives so you can repeat and improve
  • Accepting the mistakes and analyse them to spot mistakes
  • Spotting business as usual for the value it brings in the long term

Challenges create enormous potential for learning:

  • New skills as you master the challenge
  • See how far your core talent can take you
  • How you are able to manage risk and demanding situations

Joyce-Leary recommends you generate the habit of reviewing.

Ask yourself:

  • What went well and why?
  • What didnʼt go well and why?
  • Learning Actions?
  • Was I prepared for the event?
  • Did I use my skills and core talent?
  • Did I communicate as I wanted?
  • What was the state of the relationship?
  • Did I have the effect I wanted?
  • How well did I understand the situation?
  • How honest was I with myself and others?
  • What did I do well?
  • What could I have done better?

Look for ways to learn more:

  • Find a mentor who is willing to share knowledge
  • Ask for a secondment to try new areas
  • Work alongside someone who is doing what you want to do
  • Volunteer
  • Try out new friends
  • Join new groups

Behaviour 7 – Get focused

To be successful, get focused and know where to concentrate your efforts.

Apply focus to your life alignment curve:

  • Incubation – Maintain your current situation and explore all the options that come to mind.
  • Epiphany – recognising where to spent effort is a most wonderful moment worth focusingon.
  • Drive – what makes the difference? Focus on it and achieve.

Maintain motivation and focus by:

  • Setting yourself clear goals
  • Taking time to assimilate the learning you can gain
  • Asking for feedback from those you work with
  • Look for support
  • Devote time to your network


The Psychology of Success: Secrets of Serial Achievement captures some interesting techniques and observations about success and developing the psychology of success. Her life alignment curve suggests that we have stages in our life where we overcome boredom with a degree of self searching until we reach an epiphany. She suggests that we achieve most when exploiting our core talents and offers seven behaviours that can improve our performance and move us towards success.

An entertaining read with a few interesting techniques. The take aways are the identifying of core talents and a variety of techniques for introspection.

Useful but nothing revolutionary.

Dare to Aspire


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