Harvard's Todd Rose: Success Comes From Fulfillment, Not Money

October 12, 2018

By Madison Alworth

Todd Rose, a high-school dropout who ascended to director of the Mind, Brain, and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, may have taken an unlikely path to success, but he knows he’s not the only one.

“I was interested in my own background ー I took a different path to success, and I figured there must be more people like this, and no one had ever studied them," Rose said Thursday in an interview on Cheddar on Thursday.

Rose, who once supported a family of four on minimum wage, was seriously unhappy before he made a change.

“I’m a professor now, but I started off on kind of rocky terms. I failed out of school with a 0.9 GPA, ended up getting married and working a bunch of minimum wage jobs and relying on welfare to support my wife and two kids," he said.

Rose is also the author of a new book, "Dark Horse," a study of individuals who, like him, triumphed over the odds and found fulfillment in their lives.

"I studied hundreds of people who had their own unique paths, and I was just interested if they had anything in common," he said of his research. "I thought that maybe they would all be like Steve Jobs or Richard Branson ー kind of buck the system. Not at all."

"The reason they end up being dark horses is because they prioritize personal fulfillment over traditional views of success, and that puts them on an individual path. Ultimately, [that's] what makes them successful and happy.”

For Rose, it was a piece of advice from a trustworthy source that inspired him to shift course.

“My dad gave me a piece of advice that completely changed the course of my life," he said.

“'If you want something better, you have to figure out what truly motivates you and stay really close to that.' And that small piece of advice put me on a completely different path. I got a GED, went to college, ultimately ended up at Harvard where I get to spend my time studying what makes people tick.”

Eventually, Rose learned the difference between fulfillment and financial success. While the two can coexist, financial success alone can't create real happiness, he said.

“Money’s great, we all like money. It’s really about being consistent with who you are and what you really value.”

His main piece of advice to hopefuls?

“Actually stepping back and figuring out what truly motivates you. It sounds simple, but we actually don't spend a lot of time on that. Maybe it doesn’t require a huge career break, it sometimes can be as simple as expanding the hobbies you have or the social activities you engage in or spending more time at home. But it’s just aligning what you do with what truly matters to you.”

"Dark Horse: Achieving Success Through the Pursuit of Fulfillment" is available in stores and online.

For full interview click here.