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Welcome and Why I Created this Course

Welcome and Why I Created this Course
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Hi there, I’m Paula Caproni. And I want to welcome you to this course,
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The Science of Success: What Researchers Know that You Should Know. I’m teaching this course from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a town that’s also known by its ancient name, the land of 1,000 coffee shops. In this session you’ll learn about, the specific goals of this course and how it will help you achieve the success that you desire and deserve. And let me start by asking you a few questions. Have you ever wondered, why do some people achieve their life goals while others muddle through and never reach the success that they desire? And why do some people who excel in school and they seem destined for success stall early in their careers?
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While others who demonstrate less than stellar academic ability end up enjoying meaningful and productive careers, often exceeding the expectations of others. Have you ever wondered, why do some people bounce back from failure while others fall apart? And what are some of the most important lessons that children should learn early in life? To help them lead happy fulfilling and productive lives? Fortunately, researchers have asked the same questions. And they’ve come up with answers. Answers that you will learn right here in this course. Specifically, this course will give you answers to the following question. What do the most successful people do differently than others? Can these characteristics and behaviors be learned? Thankfully, the answer to this one is yes.
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And what can you do to increase the possibility that you will achieve your goals throughout your life?
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In the following sessions you’ll learn strategies for achieving success, strategies that I wish I knew when I was younger. Like most people, I learned about success through the school of hard knocks. Taking two steps forward and one step backward. I don’t come from a family that talked about success. For the first 25 years of my life, I never even thought about, what success would look like or feel like, never mind how to achieve it. Born in the United States, I’m the daughter of an Italian immigrant father and a Polish American mother. Neither of my parents finished high school.
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And my Italian grandmother, my nonna, my only grandparent who lived long enough for me to get to know and, who helped raised me, never finished elementary school. We lived in an apartment upstairs from the family luncheonette until I was 12 years old. My two sisters and I were first-generation highschool students, as well as, first-generation college students. I’m very proud of my family background. In our homes my siblings and I learned many precious lessons about relationships, respect and responsibility. And this lessons continue to serve me well, and as you’ll hear later in this course they are significant predictors of success.
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Well, we had plenty of conversations at home, we didn’t talk about our hopes and dreams for the future, and we certainly didn’t talk about meaningful jobs or career paths. We lived very much in the moment, managing to pay the bills during the week. And on weekends meeting at the Italian grove, where we watched the old men play bocce and the old women play cards. Now let’s fast forward to today. After making my way through community college, a part-time undergraduate program while I worked full time, an MBA program, and a PhD program in organizational behavior at Yale University, I joined the faculty of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
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For close to 30 years I have been teaching courses about, leadership and high performing teams to MBA students, as well as to graduate students from public policy, public health, engineering, the medical school, information technology, education, social work and more. I have coached over 500 executives to help them discover pathways to their short and long-term goals. I’ve had several leadership roles, including academic director with the full and part time MBA programs. And I’ve consulted with several organizations as well. Now, I’ve also written two books, one that I wrote to compliment this course.
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It’s called, The Science of Success: What Researchers Know that You Should Know. And it’s a practical book that provides all the materials from this course, as well as, several additional self-assessments and additional information that compliment what you’re learning in this course. Given my early background, it’s no surprise that I often wondered, how on earth did I get here? Working at this wonderful job at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Throughout my years at the Ross School of Business, and through my own consulting work, I’ve had many conversations with graduate students and executives about their life goals, and their progress toward achieving those goals.
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Many were heading towards the success that they desire, and some weren’t, some came from privileged backgrounds, but many didn’t. Some already had the external makers of success, a high status job, a big house, a new car, but they weren’t happy. Some didn’t want or have many of the external markers of success, and they were delighted with their lives. Some knew at a young age what they wanted to be when they grew up. Others, like me, didn’t find their way until they were much older. And some were still finding their way. Through these conversations, my interest grew from, how did I get here?, to How do people, all kinds of people, become successful?
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Fortunately, the University of Michigan is a world renowned research university. I have access to decades of top quality academic research about, why some people achieve and exceed their dreams, while others don’t come close. I’ve learned that the secret to success are hiding in plain sight in academic journals, and books, many that can be found easily online. But few people ever read these studies, because they don’t know they exist. And even if everyone knew about the existence of this abundant and valuable research, who would have the time and patience to read the thousands of pages of research articles, and books in which academics often use obscure and uninspiring language, written primarily for other academics? Well, I do.
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That’s what I’m trained to do. That’s what I get paid to do. And most importantly, that’s what I want to do, because it’s my way of contributing to others through my work. Now, although this course is based on the science of success, my goal is first and foremost to help you achieve personal and professional success, however, you define success. Of course taking this course won’t get you where you want to go in life, unless you implement what you learn. So, this is a practical course. And I will provide you with concrete strategies, that you can use for moving step by step towards your goals.
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You’ll also have the opportunity to write a personal action plan in the last session of this course. Be forewarned that this course is likely to challenge some of your taken for granted beliefs about what predicts success. So, you’ll want to take this course with an open mind. You’ll need to unlearn limiting beliefs and behaviors that can hold you back, as well as, learn new beliefs and behaviors that will propel you forward towards your goals. Now, you may be asking yourself whether the lessons in this course are universal. And that’s a very good question.
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In addition to my work in the US, I’ve traveled to many different parts of the world, and I’ve worked with executives on their leadership development in the for profit, nonprofit, and government sectors. I’ve worked with people who work in business, manufacturing, telecommunications, education, medicine, global health, sports management, the arts, and more. Based on years of working with people in many different jobs around the world, I’ve found that the lessons about success are indeed universal. After all, regardless of where we come from, we’re all members of the same human species. And from Rio to Riyadh, we share similar hopes and dreams. We want to believe that our lives are meaningful. We want to make a difference in the lives of others.
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We want to love and be loved. We want to be competent at something that matters. We want a sense of control over our lives, and our future. And we want to have grace and resilience as we ride the inevitable ups and downs of every day life. I realize that some of you are taking this course not for yourself, but to help others achieve their life goals. Your students, your employees, or your children. If you’re taking this course to help others, you will learn strategies for success that you can teach to others, and by doing so, you can help others get closer to achieving their dreams and living a good life.
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Regardless of where you live and work, and regardless of your reasons for taking this course, I hope you find this course to be inspiring as well as useful. By the time you finish this course, you will know more than most people know about what predicts success. And you will have had the opportunity to start implementing what you learn. And you will be closer to achieving your goals, and helping others achieve their goals, than when you started this course. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share the exciting findings from the science of success with you. And I wish you the very best on your journey.
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The Science of Success: What Researchers Know that You Should Know

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