More specifially, on books about “how to succeed”:
It is perfectly obvious that in any decent occupation (such as bricklaying or writing books) there are only two ways (in any special sense) of succeeding. One is by doing very good work, the other is by cheating. Both are much too simple to require any literary explanation.
The Fallacy Of Success – G. K. Chesterton
This is a surprisingly great interview with Jason Segel (via Austin). My favorite bit:
I had two friends in high school who sort of showed me how a piano works. And I just spent two years being terrible at it until I was good at it. That’s just me. There’s no way I’m actually intrinsically talented at writing, acting, playing music, puppeteering. It’s that I’m willing to be shit at them for a while, until I’m good at them.
Rankings of 19 predictors of work performance. At the top of the list are “general mental ability” (as in IQ and related measures) and “work sample tests” (e.g., Can you type?).
I agree with Arnold Kling: “I love it that ‘years of education’ just barely beats out handwriting analysis.” Age is the worst predictor.
Bob Sutton: Selecting Talent: The Upshot from 85 Years of Research
Bookselling This Week: What has been the most satisfying part about all your success?
David Foster Wallace: What do you mean by success?
BTW: Being accepted by a major publisher, all the acclaim.
DFW: Well there’s no better feeling than working hard at something and having it come out good, even before you put the stamp on it. But with all the public stuff… it’s sort of how you like people to be nice to your child. There’s so much bullshit to trying to get accepted – reading a mean letter from someone you don’t even know, getting rejected. I think you need to invest way more into how it feels when you are in a room writing by yourself.
Full DFW interview with American Booksellers Association