Ruth Gotian has devoted her life and career to finding out what makes Nobel laureates, astronauts, CEOs, and Olympic champions tick. Now she’s sharing her knowledge with the world— and, fortunately for us, with the Perspectives from the Top audience.
What makes astronauts and athletes so successful— and how you can unlock that same power?
That clearly was not my calling. Clearly, I was not passionate about it. And that was really my first inkling that you can be good at something and not enjoy it. And that’s okay.
Ruth Gotian is the Chief Learning Officer, Assistant Professor of Education in anesthesiology, and former Executive Director of the mentoring academy at Weill Cornell Medicine. After starting her career in university residency management at NY State and Cornell, she took a brief foray into international banking before moving into academic medical administration. She’s led the transformation of learning and development for thousands of students during her 26 years at Weill Cornell. During this period, Ruth earned her Ph.D. in Education from Columbia. She now studies what makes people successful high-performers so she can help others do the same.
Ruth’s book, The Success Factor, covers this very topic— as do her writings in popular journals such as Nature, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Forbes, and Harvard Business Review. She’s recognized on the Thinkers50 Radar List, arguably the most prestigious honor for management thinkers.
CORE TOPICS + DETAILS:
[3:05] – “Do Something Important, Not Just Interesting”
Transformative words from a mentor
After decades of witnessing a lack of progress on pervasive problems, a mentor told Ruth: “Do something important, not just interesting.” This inspired Ruth to begin pursuing the qualitative idea of what drives great achievers to achieve their greatest.
[13:41] – Embracing Collaboration
From finance to academia
Ruth speaks fondly of the collaborative mindset that defines academia. There’s less of a dog-eat-dog mentally than there is in other industries. Instead, many people recognize that the more we work together, the more our efforts will be duplicated and expanded upon in creative ways, leading to greater progress for ourselves and others.
[28:08] – Protective of Your Passions
Embracing your desire to do work you care about
Ruth has often approached highly respected scientists and researchers, including Nobel Prize winners, about taking on dean roles. The most common response? “No, thank you. I’m happy in the lab.” It can be easy to fall into the trap of accepting every ‘promotion’ or step up that comes along. But if it’s a step away from what you love, then is it really a step up?
[38:10] – The Four Traits of High Achievers
From Olympians to astronauts
In Ruth’s research, and her book The Success Factor, she’s found that nearly all high achievers have four main traits: they identify their passions, they strategize on how to achieve them, they build and reinforce a strong foundation, and they’re constantly learning— even through informal means. Now the question is: How can you tap into those traits within yourself, starting today?
[50:29] – The Importance of Mentorship
Finding the right ones with the right mindset
As powerful as a great mentor can be, a poor one can be equally damaging. Find mentors you gel with, with whom you can form strong relationships. Who will be willing to put in the time? These relationships can’t be forced, only built organically.