194. What Makes Successful People Successful & How to Copy Them

09 takeaways from this talk:

00:00:01 In 2010, a few university students were looking for investors for a ‘disruptive’ startup. During that time, rather than throw 100% of their time and resources into the project, the students worked on it around their internships, and even had full-time backup jobs lined up just in case their idea failed before their decided deadline.

The day before the company was scheduled to officially launch, they didn’t even have a workable website to present to the world, despite being an exclusively online company, and other companies had already started selling glasses online, meaning that these students had missed their first-mover’s advantage (FMA).

That startup went on to become Warby Parker: An American and mostly online prescription eye- and sunglasses store who has been named one of America’s most innovative companies. As of April 2015, Warby Parker is valued at $1.2 billion.

00:01:16 “Originals” are non-conformists who drive creativity and provoke change by not only coming up with good ideas, but by actively fostering and supporting them.

How to spot ‘originals’ & be more like them:

00:01:41 Originals are late to the party. But this isn’t the same as procrastinators or absent-minded people. Moderate procrastination is the perfect balance between pre-crastinators who finish all assignments ahead of schedule, and the procrastinators who push everything to the last minute. Moderate procrastinators have been found to be more creative in problem-solving than people who feel compelled to get projects finished ahead of time.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Seemingly contrary to this advice, recall in the book The Rules of Work by Richard Templar that one of the secrets to moving up quickly in your career is to under-promise and over-deliver your results, and secondly, that periodically you should aim to finish each assignment ahead of time – as a pleasant surprise to your boss. But not to make a habit of it, otherwise your boss will come to expect it.

Also, recall in Armin Trost’s lecture Managing Work Hour Models & Productivity at Hochschule Furtwangen University that ideas are crucial to competitive differenciation through innovation, yet studies show that people have their best ideas outside of their original workspace, namely in environments and situations where they are the most comfortable. It follows that employees should be paid for their ideas rather than paid for their working hours.]

BUT, in order for moderate procrastination to be used to its full advantage, you must receive your assignment, THEN go off and procrastinate, letting the idea marinate in your head.

  • It took Leonardo da Vinci 16 years to complete the Mona Lisa.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. was up until the early morning rewriting his ‘I have a dream’ speech the day of his speech, and even made last minute modifications while sitting on stage. The iconic words “I have a dream” weren’t even in his planned speech; he added them on the spot.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In all of the professional interviews with advertising & marketing creatives I have conducted so far, the one technique they all share is that they receive the creative brief – or the problem their client wants them to solve – and then they go off and do something they enjoy. This form of procrastination is what helps them come up with the best possible solutions to meet their clients needs.

Also, recall in my lecture Managing Age, Cultural & Personality Differences, Jerks & Assholes that conceptual people tend to emphasize ‘out of the box’ thinking and experimenting, focusing on the bigger picture and dislike too many details. They gather as much information on the subject as possible, and then go off and do other things until the solution ‘magically’ pops into their head.]

Moderate procrastination is another term for thinking because the important idea generation takes place unconsciously.

00:07:32 Originals are quick to start and slow to finish. The first mover’s advantage is largely a myth, and improver’s advantage builds upon the work of the first mover’s to much greater success.

When creating a new market, first mover’s tend to fail 47% of the time, while improvers tend – who introduce something unique and better – fail only 8% of the time.

“It’s much easier to improve on somebody else’s idea than it is to create something from scratch.” -Adam Grant

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recal in the Y combinator lecture Competition is for losers; aim for monopoly by Peter Thiel at Stanford University that first mover’s advantage can be valuable, but a better framing is you want to have the last mover’s advantage – the last company in a category. Consider that Microsoft was the last operating system – at least for many decades. Google is the last search engine, Facebook will be valuable it it turns out to be the last social networking site. The first move does give you a slight advantage, but it is the last move that wins.

Also, to learn of the legal consequences that come along with improving on somebody else’s idea, watch the talk Copy, cut paste by Andy Baio at Creative Mornings.]

“You don’t have to be first, you just have to be different and better.” -Adam Grant

00:08:41 Originals experience fear and doubt. Having a backup plan just in case your idea doesn’t work out mustn’t be misconstrued as not fully believing in your project. Everyone is afraid of failure; originals just cope with that fear and doubt in different ways.

There are two different kinds of doubt:

  1. Self-doubt fundamentally challenging youself and your competence in completing a task, thus preventing you from progressing.
  2. Idea-doubt invites you to challenge, improve and refine your idea.

00:10:11 Studies have shown a positive correlation between job performance and commitment and the internet browser you use, and Safari and Chrome users are found to stay in their jobs 15% longer.

Why? Because Windows Explorer and Internet Safari users blindly accept the browser which has been pre-installed into their computer, whereas Firefox and Google Chrome users had to go out of their way to compare options and download the different browsers until they settled on the one they prefer.

00:11:20 Vujade (not to be confused with the French word déja vu) refers to the ability to look at something that you see everyday and are thus accostumed to with fresh, new ideas and boundless possibilities.

00:13:00 Like everyone else, originals also have tons of bad ideas; but the greatest originals are the ones who fail the most because they are the ones who try the most. The more you output, the more variety you get.

Bad ideas, ideas that don’t work, and failure are a normal part of life. But originals are more afraid of failing to try than they are at trying and failing.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall my interview with Creative Director Dave Trott that real creativity is looking at what everybody else has already looked at, and seeing something nobody else has seen. Real creativity looks obvious after you see it, but you couldn’t have seen it coming beforehand.

Also, recall in my interview with Executive Creative Director Eric Holden that in advertising if you work 8 hours on a creative brief, you’ll have 8 hours of ideas.

If there’s another team working on same brief for 24 hours, they’ll have improbable ideas. It’s the difference between a lamb cooked for only 3 hours versus a lamb cooked for 9 hours. But you have to keep simplicity and never lose the scope of the question. If you work 24 hours you could lose the question you’re trying to answer.]