What helped propel their careers before they had track records?
For the past year I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some of the world’s most successful people to find the answers to these very questions. Below are just a few of the traits I’ve noticed that have stood out in the personalities of people who have truly made it big:
In his early twenties, Tim Ferriss, bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek, was running an online sports nutrition company and realized that he would be risking his businesses’ survival if he followed the industry standard of accepting payment up to twelve months after the product was shipped.
“Everyone followed those rules,” Ferriss revealed to me. “I realized I was inviting disaster and financial ruins if I risked my cash flow that way by following the standard protocol, so I insisted on prepayment. Nobody had ever done prepayment. I think that is one of the reasons why my sports nutrition company succeeded where a lot of other startups of that type failed.”
Straying from the norm isn’t easy when you’ve spent your whole life following rules laid out for you at school and at home. It takes a major cognitive shift to understand that the way things are, and have been, can be challenged.
Ask yourself what rules in your industry you accept as fact. Why do you follow them? If the excuse is “that’s the way it’s always been,” it’s time to consider pulling a Tim Ferriss.
Growing up, Sugar Ray Leonard would wake up, get dressed for school, and walk with his siblings to the bus stop. As the yellow bus would pull to the curb, his friends and siblings would step up into the school bus, but young Sugar Ray Leonard, who is now a six-time world champion boxer, would refuse to get on. As the bus drove away, Leonard tightened up his sneakers and ran behind the bus all the way to school.
“The other kids thought I was crazy,” Leonard said, “because I would run in the rain, snow—it didn’t matter. I did it because I didn’t just want to be better than the next guy, I wanted to be better than all the guys.”
My generation is used to instant gratification. But Sugar Ray Leonard demonstrated the necessity to be able to buckle down for the long haul and accept that you won’t see any return on investment for years. You have to be able to stay passionately committed even when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. And remember, Sugar Ray Leonard, now one of the greatest boxers in history, was running behind that yellow school bus at a time when others thought he wasn’t “boxing material.”
Sugar Ray Leonard kept at it, to the point that others thought was irrational. Turns out irrational commitment leads to irrational success.