I have had the privilege of meeting a lot of successful people over the last 6 years.
They tend to break into 3 categories:
1) Visionaries - Some people call this group “lucky” or sometimes even “opportunists.” For me, these are all the same people, but depending on whom is painting the picture you can get a different perspective. Think about startups like Instagram. How many times have you heard, “$1 billion , all they did is put some filters in a phone app!” People never understand what it takes to see the market so clearly and execute that vision correctly at major scale, and what that means. So these people all get lumped together, because the guy that you just think is lucky, likely has a vision and understanding of things you simply don’t.
2) Networkers- These people are masters of politics. You can make an entire career out of simply knowing whom to say what to, and whom to connect that person too. People that know how to play the politics game can go far. You would think it would only work in a large corporate structure, but the skills to raise funding are similar to those used to gain ascension in a corporate setting, so these types find legs in the startup scene as well.
3) Unstoppable forces of nature – These are the folks that move heaven and earth, not the other way around. They are made of steel, and they seem to will things into existence. This is the rarest of type of successful person I have ever met, like a startup unicorn or leprichaun. If you find this guy or gal you just join their team.
I am not one for absolutes, so the reality is that most people I meet, that have been a success, fall into a mix of these three. The uber success icons can seemingly mix all three, and that is why people study them.
Here is the rub, if you don’t fall into one of these areas clearly, or a few, you likely won’t be the kind of success that people will write about one day. I can easily say that very few people that I have ever met fall into these areas.
My story is still being written, and I am not sure if it will ever be read. What I do know is that I find it difficult to place myself in one or a few of these areas from time to time. I have had my hand in creating a few companies over the last 6 years, but only CopyPress remains, and while it is growing rapidly, and in a hot space, we are literally in the infancy of our corporate lifecycle.
I am not a success today. I don’t have any of the trappings of success. No nice car. I don’t own my house. I am a part, not the whole, of a growing company. This post is as much about self reflection as it is my thoughts on success and what it takes to achieve its highest levels.
People use the term “luck” far to often. People that are really good at what they do can seemingly look into the future and stay well ahead of their competition. This doesn’t mean when they side step disaster or step into fortune they simply have fate on their side. It takes a ton of knowledge and skill to have this type of predictive capability.
Real visionaries don’t just see how their market is going to move, they understand how to capitalize on this intuition. This is where “ideas” and “execution” go in two distinct directions, and where guys like Mark Zuckerberg get labeled as opportunists. The reality is that the vision is takes to execute what you see coming is what separates truly successful people from people that crete startups that will fade into history, or people that will excel at their chosen profession while others will flounder in mediocrity.
These success types make me tired. They are always moving. Always talking. Always connecting.
This isn’t to say they are the most liked people in a room. Being skilled at networking or politicking isn’t about being well liked, it is about knowing what two people need, and how to make sure you can benefit from connecting them long term.
This may seem like a negative viewpoint of this type of successful person, however this in my opinion may be the most valuable of skillsets. People that can network efficiently, and leverage their networks effectively, can effect not only their only success but that of those around them.
Unstoppable Forces of Nature
Let me first say that this person is not merely “driven.” Lot’s of “driven” people have failed and failed miserably. Being “driven” to me is like making a New Years resolution you keep until June.
I gave my staff a tangible example of what I mean by being an unstoppable force of nature that brought me to tears. My thought process is based on this video, which you should watch:
A dear friend, Dana Lookadoo, was recently in a traumatic accident which took the use of her legs. She posted a video to a group Facebook page showing the physical therapy routine she is undergoing to walk again.
Dana wants to walk more than anything I have ever wanted to do in my whole life. That is fact. I can’t even understand how much she wants to walk because I have never faced this level of adversity.
Unstoppable forces of nature want success as bad as Dana wants to walk.
Unstoppable forces of nature want success as bad as someone drowning wants to breathe.
Most of us can’t understand this level of determination, because it probably isn’t natural. We aren’t evolutionarily wired to care this much about modern conventions of success. We are wired to care this much about things like starving, keeping warm, wanting to live.
Incredibly successful people have figured out how to take those evolutionary needs to survive and put them in overdrive as it relates to their chosen profession or project.
If you have read Good to Great, you will recognize that corporate leaders with this personality type may actually be a negative, because once a corporation loses this type of figure, it often loses its identity.
Honestly, I don’t know where I fit most days.
I have a pretty good understanding of the marketing space, and have been able to stay ahead of the pack, but I don’t think I have done anything near large enough to prove I am a visionary in the field.
I am an extrovert, and pretty good with people, but I don’t have the energy level to be a pure networker.
Am I an unstoppable force of nature? I am stubborn, but I don’t have a notch in my win column yet to really claim this one either.
I think time will tell for me, and for most of us.
The positive is that you can grasp differing levels of success based on having differing amounts of these attributes. This isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Just as promising, many of these attributes can be learned to some extent.
For most of you however, this all spells doom. Because it means success, real success just won’t come to you. The American* Dream (fill in your own wild card here) isn’t just going to be yours because.
You have to be DAMN SUPERHERO
You have to be able to see things other can’t.
You have to be able to bring people together in ways they never though possible.
You have to be willing to destroy anything in your way, and desire success as much as most people desire living.
Most of you aren’t cut out for it. You feel you deserve it, because you have “drive”, and you do what is asked of you. Here is a brutal wake-up call, that’s the bare minimum. If that is all you have, you should accept your mediocrity now. Being mediocre isn’t as bad as pretending to care about success, but then putting forth effort that isn’t on par with the goal.
If you are offended, then I am talking to you. If you are offended you have a decision to make.
I know I do.