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Does Literacy Define Success?

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Does literacy determine success?
The interior of Stockholm Library

Does Literacy Determine Success?

Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker and millionaire salesman, has studied and practiced success for nearly an entire generation. In a recent seminar, he stated that the way we are perceived by others is often a determining factor of success. Ben Franklin also knew this, as he made it a point to always be seen working in his early print-shop. Clearly appearance has something to do with success. The good news is, in this case, our image is learnable and controllable.

“One way we can demonstrate worthiness for a high-paying job is to increase our vocabulary,” he said.

Of course this is likely also a strategic tactic when attracting investors or salesmanship. His claim was based on a university study that tested a group of employees in low-paying, low ranking positions. The group was taught a few new words every day for 1 year. By the end of this test, more than 80% of them received promotions, raises, or honorable recognition.

One notable example of this might be Malcom X. Malcom was imprisoned for a long time before his rise to activist. During that time in prison he made the most of it, and read a dictionary. He received the equivalent of a master’s degree in this way, and I need not convince many of his oratory mastery. He is still, to this day, revered as a compelling orator and activist long after his death. In fact, there are many people who know of his role in society more than his stint in jail.

So What Does This Mean For People With Poor Vocabularies?

The lack of vocabulary is also important to consider, as it effects success in the opposite end of the spectrum. In fact, the state of California partially bases how many prison cells it needs to build based on how many people cannot read at a 3rd grade level by 8th grade.

Another study noted that effective speakers and orators are judged and received best when they are able to articulate their message well. This is a mixture of vocabulary and timing – the effective use of words. Put simply, if you sound smart by talking smart, you will be treated successfully and respectfully.

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