Graduation season is upon us, which means that during the next several weeks, at high school and college campuses across the country, an indeterminate (but not insignificant) number of commencement speakers will be resurrecting a tired but handy old adage about the role of hard work in the formula for success.
Conveniently adapting Thomas Edison’s famous quote about genius, a diverse but predictable roster of keynoters, in a trite but well-meaning effort to sound motivational, will urge their respective graduating audiences to believe that success consists of 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
I, for one, never quite accepted the truth of that old bromide–to me, it always sounded more like a formula for body odor than for success. But while my doubts may at one time have seemed the predictably simple mindset of a lazy contrarian, recent studies at The Fresh Rhetoric Institute for Aphorismic Deconstruction and Formulaic Analysis have apparently validated my skepticism.
According to the Institute’s Director, the renowned professor Don Chubaleevit, a combination of 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration is not, in fact, a formula for success.
“In almost every case,” says Chubaleevit, “a 99% perspiration factor promoted failure instead of achievement. At that level of sweat, the overwhelming majority of people are either too overheated, too exhausted, or just too damn wet to succeed. It’s as simple as that.”
Interestingly, though, as Chubaleevit and his team dug deeper into their analysis, they discovered that while consistent, across-the-board success could not be concocted out of one simple, universally applicable recipe, nevertheless, certain carefully selected combinations of ingredients could, if properly calibrated, consistently produce success of a more narrowly defined sort.
They found, for instance, that lawyers achieved consistent success when they combined 56% lying with 44% keeping a straight face, and that pharmaceutical and insurance companies were most profitable when they combined 23% television advertising with 77% congressional lobbying.
Analyzing the political arena, Chubaleevit and his colleagues were able to determine that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s success derived from a formula of 16% simplification, 17% refudiation, and 67% Avon Moisture Seduction lipstick, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s success was the product of 100% sympathy (with Chubaleevit edifying the latter finding by noting, “I mean, really, just look at the guy.”).
Using a process that employs complex algorithms, sophisticated linguistic principles, and old-fashioned, hard-nosed detective work, Chubaleevit and his cadre of dedicated researchers expect to unlock dozens, if not hundreds, of additional specialized formulae for success in the coming weeks and months. “Just this morning,” Chubaleevit revealed, “we determined definitively that Donald Trump’s formula for business success consists of 66% daddy’s money, 7% licensing deals, and 27% liberal use of bankruptcy court.”
There is one success formula, though, that even Chubaleevit believes will never be decoded. Deemed the Holy Grail of the success formula research industry, it’s a success mystery that has baffled almost everyone, scientists and non-scientists alike, for the better part of three decades:
“That’s a success puzzle,” Chubaleevit insists, “that will never be solved.”