People Who Believe They Can Control Their Future Are More Successful — Case Study Of Jason Chen (YouTuber)
Today I saw the Q&A video below of singer Jason Chen who is 5'4" and his girlfriend Lucia Liu who is 5'6". And Jason’s mentality really reminded me of the notion that those who believe they can control their future have more success.
Starting around 11:26, Jason says, “There are girls out there who are going to be like, ‘No matter what, if you’re shorter than me, I’m not going to date you.’ There are. ’Cause I’ve met girls who are just like that. But it doesn’t faze me. And I always feel like I can change their mind.”
To which Lucia responded, “Well, he changed my mind.”
There are several articles and YouTube videos about studies showing that those who believe that hard work can yield control and influence over the outcomes of their lives are more successful (“believers”). This is opposed to those who think their success is based on natural talent or that external factors determine success.
While some may attribute this correlation to something spiritual (ie. faith, and I’m not saying they’re wrong; I’m Christian after all), scientifically speaking, those who think their behavior can influence outcomes are more likely to take action. And while they may fail at times, such a belief will motivate them to continue.
Some endeavors may actually not lead to success. Not all activities and their outcomes are equally dependent on internal (in your control) and external (outside of your control) factors — I don’t see a lot of sources laying out this premise. However, over time on average, believers will have more success as a result of the endeavors that do depend more on hard work.
In Jason Chen’s example, his chances of dating actually are limited due to his height. The different girls out there can represent the different kinds of situations we may encounter. Some girls are less able to be convinced and influenced to change their minds. Other girls may be more impressionable or not even care about height.
Culturally speaking, I think it’s safe to say that it is a strong belief that shorter guys are worse off in the dating world. But most humans are impressionable. And for a non-coercive guy like Jason who also believes he can change a girl’s mind (by being nice, worked out, and talented I assume), his confidence, persistence, worked out body, and advances as a result of this belief will actually cause his odds at dating to change in his favor.
Now let’s extrapolate this some more. On a social scale, group leaders probably have this kind of self-esteem and belief that they can effect change in others (not only themselves). As such, they will be the ones to step up, try to change people’s minds, and carry out an agenda. But again, a premise of mine is that humans are impressionable and easily influenced. So, the fact that such leaders take these kinds of herding actions will cause them to become leaders — a self-fulfilling prophecy. This belief translates into action that tends to lead to the outcomes believers think they can achieve. Therefore, they are more likely to achieve these outcomes.
Okay, enough of that. What about my personal takeaway?
I see both the believer and doubter in myself. In high school, I believed my hard work could get me somewhere, and it did. My belief was reinforced by learning piano (Asian parents say a kid who learns piano can’t go bad). I would practice a piece for months, and the outcome was a polished piece ready for performance. All the little bits of hard work translated into a grand “tangible” outcome. Piano, student leadership, public speaking, academics, plus my mom’s selfless sacrifices got me into Ivy League schools.
But I was also a doubter. In college, I felt like no matter what I did, I wouldn’t be able to do well because people in my intro class already knew the material. Honestly, I still believe this was rational. And I believed I could still do decently if I quit extracurriculars and focused on school. So I did. (I also focused on church because I believed God would remember me.) And my grades improved.
So I’m a rational optimist.
What about now?
I think it’s time for me to brainstorm some things I want to achieve. Before that, there are key things holding me back:
- Always moving on to new ideas: I know that I’m an ideas person and I need help (either a partner or a mechanism in place) to carry out ideas. I get bored or lazy easily and itch to move on the next interesting idea. I’m aware of this, so I don’t want to launch an endeavor until I’m more sure about it.
- Burning out easily: This is both mental and physical. I get obsessed over one idea and try to master it. In the process, I physically exhaust myself and burn out. After the burn out phase, I move on to the next idea. I’m also quite physically frail, and I wouldn’t be able to handle a demanding work life (back problems, skin problems, etc). If I was more naturally fit, I could, but I know this is a limitation, and I need to work around it.
- I’m not the best: When I do something, I often feel like there needs to be a reason I should do it. Am I an expert? Am I above average? Is there a shortage of experts? Is there demand? Could someone better squash my chances (competition)? When I think large scale, I always feel there are people better (ie. more athletic musicians who can practice difficult pieces), so I don’t think it’s worth it to try.
These rational points definitely influence the belief in myself and decide whether or not I will even put in effort. But they’ve also directed me to realistic investments that work for me, like stocks/index funds and real estate. I do think this is an area of growth though. What is something I want very badly? How do I change my mentality so that I can achieve it?
5 years ago I was already blogging about not knowing what I really want or care about. At the end of the day, I concluded I wanted deep, meaningful connection with a person/people. I agree on that still, but is there anything else?
Lastly, when we talk about the future, determining outcomes, and such, I can’t help but feel I shouldn’t leave God out of the picture. I believe He determines outcomes. Both passivists (Isaacs) and activists (Jacob) receive blessings if God wants to bless them. And I can’t achieve anything without God allowing and/or helping.
Jason Chen is gifted with a good voice, good looks, and strong determination. However, I don’t think he’s that artistic. His singing style is a bit one-dimensional (not much change in phrasing, musicality, crafting artistic moments, etc) and he is NOT poetic at all (his English versions of things are so cringey).
But he still has 1.85M subscribers on YouTube.
And that’s because of hardwork.
Like me, he’s not the best, and he has limitations in his abilities. But his belief that he can “change their mind” is what makes the difference.