Were You Most Likely To Succeed?

Last Updated May 15, 2011 3:05 PM EDT

Over at the Wall Street Journal last week, Sue Shellenbarger wrote a fascinating piece about people who were voted "most likely to succeed.”

According to Shellenbarger, academic research shows that people who won that designation in high school did, in fact, earn 12% more than their classmates 10 years later. The traits that correspond with being named "most likely to succeed" in high school -- popularity, good grades -- are often rewarded in the labor market.

On the other hand, many people found the award to be a curse. Feeling like one is floundering in a career is miserable enough. If you feel that way and you know that all your high school classmates expected you to be rich and famous, this just extends the misery. And unfortunately, in the Facebook era, it's harder to fade into obscurity where no one will hear of your run-of-the-mill job and potential family woes.

So what should those who win this award do? The most confident define success on their own terms: living a happy life, making time to pursue what interests them, and building meaningful relationships. Sometimes this results in a life lived on a large stage and sometimes it doesn't, but it's a good plan to follow in either case. Some people view the award as an inspiration or, perhaps like many parts of high school, something we forget soon after its over.

Were you voted most likely to succeed? Have you kept track of the person in your high school class who was? What happened to him or her?


Photo courtesy flickr user, Shorts and Longs | The Both And