Jackie Gingrich Cushman

The superiority complex provides the belief that success is possible, and insecurity is the engine that drives the behavior to work harder than others. The combination of the two is powerful. Impulse control allows for continued focus on the end result (whether completion of a task, a project or achievement of a goal) rather than being distracted into doing something frivolous and unimportant.

The authors point out that these traits not only drive success in individuals and groups, but also in nations. "The United States itself was born a Triple Package nation, with an outsize belief in its own exceptionality, a goading desire to prove itself to aristocratic Europe (Thomas Jefferson sent a giant moose carcass to Paris to prove that America's animals were bigger than Europe's) and a Puritan inheritance of impulse control."

It's not only our heritage as a nation, but our continued belief in our exceptionalism as a nation, that propels us forward. Every generation has it's own form of insecurity based on the external threats from other nations.

The one trait that seems to be the most useful is the ability to control impulses. Impulse control is a self-reinforcing mechanism, if hard work is actually rewarded with a good outcome. It's harder to acquire this trait if hard work is not rewarded or if a reward is given for no work at all.

If these traits are important to driving success, then how might they be instilled in more people? Is it possible for multiple groups to believe that they each are superior to the other? Instead of instilling a sense of fairness and equality, and ensuring a confident child, should we intentionally instill a little doubt, to make sure that the feeling of insecurity drives them to work a little harder?


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.