5 Traits You Think You Control (But Totally Don't)

#2. Your Confidence

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Have you ever noticed that the world seems to be full of very dimwitted people who think they're God's gift to mankind? And, even worse, that a lot of these people turn out to be really successful? You see it in people like Donald Trump, some professional athletes, and many if not most politicians. No matter how stupid the shit that falls out of their mouth is, others cling to their every word purely because they seem so goddamned sure of themselves. Hell, Adolf Hitler was a bumbling dipshit, but goddamn did he spew his bullshit with conviction.

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"Seriously, how cold could Russia really be?"

So here's a question: If these people's confidence doesn't come from actual accomplishments, where do they get it? According to the latest research, they're born with it. They did a study on 3,700 pairs of twins (which is how you do a study when you want to weed out factors like parenting techniques and upbringing) and found that some kids come out of the womb assuming that they're awesome. They can hear the same feedback as their siblings, but how they interpret it depends on what kind of brain they were born with.

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"Hey, Doc, before you close her up, I think I left my copy of The Tipping Point in there."

And this is huge in terms of your probability of success in life -- confidence is everything when it comes to things like performing under pressure, when lingering doubts can derail you at the worst times. In fact, this natural confidence is actually a greater predictor of school performance than IQ.

That's right -- the world will think you're smarter, as long as you have the magical ability to be stupidly oblivious to your own faults. So while the rest of us are struggling to find the confidence to order a pizza from that place with the delivery guy who has that scary tattoo, these people feast on their never-ending supply of self-belief, happily waltzing their way to great social skills, good jobs, and fat bank accounts.

And while we're on the subject ...

#1. Your Talent for Leadership

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Yeah, you're starting to see a pattern here, aren't you?

You've been hearing the term "born leader" your whole life, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. After all, there's a whole stew of indefinable traits that go into being a good leader, above and beyond the aforementioned confidence: intelligence, aggressiveness, charisma, experience, even physical attractiveness. Yet, once again, researchers found one DNA sequence that turned up again and again in people who (in this case) wound up in supervisor roles at their jobs.

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"G-E-N-E-S! To get this promotion, I said I'll need to see what's in your genes!"

Now, just because an infant is destined to be 7 feet tall, that doesn't automatically mean he'll play in the NBA, and the presence of this gene doesn't mean you don't have to work at building leadership skills. But it does appear to mean that some people are born with a certain raw talent for taking control. And, as every RPG enthusiast knows, the game is a hell of a lot easier if your base attributes amount to more than a sackful of rat turds.

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"Careful with those. That sack represents a pretty big time investment."

In another study, scientists found that leadership ability comes down to how well your brain is wired for adaptability and prioritization of tasks. That came from a study of the brain activity of West Point cadets, which found profound differences in the way the brains of "leaders" and "non-leaders" operate under duress. These variations not only mean that "leader" brains are more adaptable and better adjust to new situations, but also give scientists hope that they can one day manipulate our leaders' brains with neurofeedback techniques in order to "make them work better."

In other news, there's no way you'll ever convince us that the founder of that particular research doesn't wear a monocle and call himself Professor Murder.


You can read more of Hossey's work at his blog here or Twitter here. Dennis is the creator of LemonVibe, an anonymous relationship advice site for singles and couples. He blogs and tweets, too.

Related Reading: Some traits are set right at infancy. Feeding a baby on-demand makes it smarter. It's a shame we didn't wind up evolving any cooler survival traits, like this solar-powered Salamander. And as an aside, did you know some chickens have teeth?

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