“When it is obvious that the goal cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.
Today I was listening to a podcast interview of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the interviewer brought up an interesting topic. He said that from looking at Arnold’s photographs from his first bodybuilding competition (that he won) as a teenager, he could actually assume that Arnold won that competition without looking at any of the competitors’ bodies – just by looking at the confidence in young Arnold’s face. Arnold went on to explain that from an early age, he always had a clear vision that he was going to be a world champion in bodybuilding. So when he stepped on stage, he competed as if he was already the best.
What makes people like Arnold so special? There are many factors, for sure, but we can all agree that successful people in any field have this innate characteristic that makes them stand out from the crowd. Especially in the startup world, most investors always invest in people first, idea second. They look for certain qualities that make an entrepreneur an outlier – someone that can get things done and make something happen in this world. Someone that doesn’t necessarily have a gift, but they’ve cultivated certain qualities within them over time for an investor to think, “Wow, I want to join this person on this ride.”
I have a maxim that I wrote on a sticky note and have up on a wall in my room. It reads:
YOU HAVE TO BE CRAZY TO DO CRAZY.
Put in another way, if you want to do extraordinary things within your lifetime, you have to be willing to break away from the thought and actions patterns of the average. I was masterminding this morning on this topic with a close friend of mine, and he brought up a great point – when we think of these outliers that we admire and emulate (Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Muhammad Ali, Barack Obama, Gandhi, etc. etc), it’s very natural to think that these figures are/were gifted with character traits that only the 1% have (i.e. the “I can never be like them” mindset). I thought about it for a moment, and I took the opposite point of view – it’s actually not as hard as we think to stand out.
It doesn’t take a lot to stand out and be “special” actually. The threshold is so low. Even in the classroom for example, raising your hand puts you in the top 50%. Going to office hours puts you in the top 10%. Researching what the professor worked on in the past and cares about puts you in the top 1%. By nature, most people in groups will conform to the actions of the majority. So it doesn’t take a whole lot to stand out.
So try a thought exercise: think about what it would take to stand out in a current situation in your life that could have a positive impact. What would it take to stand out in your company? To be noticed by that investor? To impress that girl?
All highly successful people treat life, business, and success just like a nightclub. There are always three ways in.
There’s the First Door, where 99% of people wait in line, hoping to get in.
There’s the Second Door, where billionaires and royalty slip through.
But then there is always, always…the Third Door. It’s the entrance where you have to jump out of line, run down the alley, climb over the dumpster, bang on the door a hundred times, crack open the window, and sneak through the kitchen. But there’s always a way in.
Whether it’s how Bill Gates sold his first piece of software, or how Steven Spielberg became the youngest director at a major studio in Hollywood — they all took the Third Door.
– Alex Banayan
I’m currently reading Ray Dalio’s new book, Principles, which outlines his principles that he’s followed throughout his life to create one of the most successful hedge funds in the world and within the top 100 wealthiest people in the world. He has a simple 5-step process that he says, “if you can do these 5 things well, you will almost certainly be successful.”
- Have clear goals.
- Identify and don’t tolerate the problems that stand in the way of your achieving those goals.
- Accurately diagnose the problems to get at their root causes.
- Design plans that will get you around them.
- Do what’s necessary to push these designs through to results
While I was listening to a guided meditation this morning on controlling your emotions to not be so quick to judge what may be “good” or “bad,” I was told a Zen parable about an old farmer. Take a read below:
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.
This short parable shows us how nothing in life is ever static, so we must avoid to be so quick to judge anything as good or bad. Learn to accept things as they are, for something that you may consider “bad fortune” today might be a blessing in disguise tomorrow.
How to spot intelligent people:
They ask you questions.
When you answer, they ask you more.
When you start using big words, they ask for clarification.
When they can’t understand anything you’re saying, they ask you to explain it to them as if they were a five-year-old.
When you say something intriguing, they write it down in their notebook or phone.
These people are not naturally more intelligent.
They’re better learners which makes them more intelligent.
They’re genuinely curious and ask questions from a humble standpoint.
I’ve met billionaires who’ve said, “explain it to me as if I were a five-year-old.”
This simple phrase has changed my life when it comes to learning.
It comes back to the famous Confucius quote:
“The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.”
As soon as you stop asking questions, you stop learning.
As soon as you stop writing down ideas, you forget them.
The hardest part of becoming intelligent is not lying yourself about what you know; it’s being humble enough to ask questions.
If you can do this, then people will see you as intelligent, too.