The Biggest Mistake That Accomplished People Make
This year I listened to commencement speeches at a niece’s, nephew’s, and daughter’s graduation. The speeches were all inspirational and made me curious to know what other luminaries gave commencement speeches this year and what they had to say to future leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs. The one that I liked best was one by Daniel Pink at Georgetown’s graduation. Instead of rambling, his speech was focused and provided some very direct advice that, if taken to heart, would almost certainly change the trajectory of a young professional’s career. Hint, it has to with the mistake of thinking you are the smartest person in the room and how that changes everything. I can’t say more without spoiling his 15 minute talk.
If you want to know more, check out his speech here. He unveils his insight in the first five minutes with a simple exercise and then spends ten more minutes rounding out his argument. It might just be the best return you have ever received for an investment of 5 minutes.
Hear Mark on Radio One
I recently had a wonderful one hour talk with Steven on the Steven Spierer Show. We had a chance to talk about the big picture concept of the Shortcut to Prosperity and then cover each of the 10 shortcuts one by one.
Steve is a great interviewer and his questions get to the heart of many of our shared beliefs. You can listen to some or all of it and fast forward to the shortcuts that are of the most interest to you. Check it out here!
Personal Vision Worksheet
Someone just sent me a request to post the link to the Personal Vision Worksheet that I reference on page 78 of the book. You can find it here or with the other downloads on the right side of the book page. Good luck!
If you use the contact link to send me a note, please remember to include your email address so that I can reply to you.
Have a great day! Mark
Desire Trumps Lineage
The Sunday NYT had an interesting article this week, Your Ancestors, Your Fate http://nyti.ms/NlDTSt in which the author argues that your success in life was set long ago by the genes inherited from your great-great-great-grandfather. What rubbish. My first instinct was to write a blog that poked a few holes in the argument and then throw a rock through its windshield. But then I thought a little longer.
I found I had to agree with the author’s contention that success requires traits like a compulsion to strive and an ability to overcome failure, and that, like any traits, you can inherit a stronger or weaker inclination toward behaviors that spring from these traits. When I thought about why I found the article so disagreeable I realized that my problem was with the author’s contention that your genes absolutely dictate your abilities. And I don’t think they do. Yes, you might not be blessed with a inbred compulsion to strive, for example, but if you choose to, you can develop whatever you are born with to a whole new level.
I think that beneficial behaviors can, like your body’s muscles, be strengthened through something I call the Prosperity Cycle. This cycle leverages the satisfaction that all of us experience when we achieve—or learn—something that we have worked hard to master. It is a reinforcing cycle that motivates us to navigate it again and again with bigger and bigger goals and corresponding results. The challenge, I believe, is in finding that first spark that motivates you to begin the process of striving and redefining failure as learning.
I’ve included a diagram of the Prosperity Cycle below and you can go here to read one of my earlier blogs about how hardship or a personal vision can be used to kick off the Prosperity Cycle in your own life.
So, no, I don’t think your great-great-great-grandfather has predetermined how much success comes your way. His genes might impact how many potholes there are in your road to prosperity, but the road is there for you to pursue if you are willing to take the first step down it. In his day there were some real factors, like sketchy property rights, an uneven application of law, and unequal access to information and knowledge that would have been a real deterrent to changing your social status—but not today. Today, you just need to provide yourself with the right environment and your humanity will take care of the rest.
The Culture at Moosejaw is Nuts—Perfectly Nuts!
I’ve always been a sucker for great customer service. Amazon Prime gets my vote for great service without a human being involved, but Moosejaw is now setting the standard for service when I need to talk to someone about an order. Why does this matter? Because in a world where differentiation means life or death for an organization, I will go out of my way to do business with one that acts like it wants to help me.
Jenny had a birthday this week and had been coveting my Hestra leather ski/work gloves. Amazon didn’t have what I wanted but Moosejaw did. I ordered the gloves but received an email the next day that the gloves were on back order. I called the customer service # and talked to a guy (Dan) in Detroit whose handling of the situation was amazing. I had already received a discount for being a first time customer but he added another discount because he wouldn’t be able to get them to me before Jen’s birthday and upgraded (at no charge) my shipping to 2 day because he thought he might be able to get them to me in time. They did end up getting to me before her birthday and she loved them.
I asked Dan how he ended up answering phones for Moosejaw and he told me a story that shed some light on the intentionality that ensured that my experience was no accident. Dan is an economics professor at a Michigan community college that was closed from mid December to mid January. As Dan was thinking about making some extra money during the break, he drove by a bowling alley that was having a hiring fair that day. On a lark he went in to see what was up.
He was greeted by a Moosejaw recruiter in a cow costume who gave him an electronic form to fill out that poked fun at the company and Dan. When Dan entered that he had a master’s degree, the system responded with “Show Off !”. The system must have liked his answers to some of their off-the-wall questions because he was told to interview right away with the guy in the potato sack. He did, and his own sense of humor and passion for customer service earned him a job that started immediately. Why the costumes? It’s consistent with their slightly wacky culture and, well, why not?
It’s beautiful. Moosejaw gets to put a headset on a fresh face who is well educated, customer service oriented, and doesn’t need benefits. I’ll bet that Dan will be back with them this summer and I can guarantee that I’ll look at Moosejaw the next time I need outdoor gear. It’s this kind of off-the-wall yet synergistic approach that is required in order to create prosperity in the hyper competitive world we live in.
Women in STEM—Be the Girl Who Doesn’t Give a Crap!
I recently came across this NY Times article outlining the still-existing biases that make it harder for women to pursue a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). You can check out the whole article here. It’s quite long and if you are pressed for time, read the conclusion on the last page. After ten pages of background, presentation of fact, and disbelief that this level of bias can still exist today, the final insight is as simple as it is dead on right.
If you are a young woman considering a career in STEM or are in a position to influence someone who is, please share this article and insight with them. Tell them to adopt the attitude of the few women who have ascended to the top of the STEM pyramid in a University environment. When asked why they were the ones who had been successful in Yale University’s male dominated Physics Department, one of them offered this:
“Oh, that’s easy,” one of them said. “We’re the women who don’t give a crap.”
Don’t give a crap about — ?
“What people expect us to do.”
“Or not do.”
Some people, like these women, figure out early that life is a lot more fun, and rewarding, when you realize that taking your own advice frees you up to achieve just about anything—assuming you want it badly enough to do what it takes to make it happen. It’s my Shortcut 6, Earn an “I Can Do Anything Attitude”. In this case it means women developing an attitude that enables them to ignore the naysayers and succeed in an arena dominated by men.
The side benefit of succeeding where others dare not tread is that you become one of the most valuable of commodities—rare and differentiated. As the father of two daughters who have both followed a STEM educational path, I can tell you that it is worth the effort. The oldest has a really cool job in Chicago and the other, a senior in mechanical engineering, is entertaining offers that are exceeding her wildest expectations. Send me an email if you want to know more and/or learn from their experience in STEM. The world is only getting more complex and there is a incredibly rewarding life awaiting those who choose to figure out how to make it simpler for the rest of us.
Twitter—Just the Result of One Kid’s Natural Curiosity
With all the hype surrounding Twitter’s IPO, I thought it would be fun to revisit a blog I wrote about Jack Dorsey’s past and how his curiosity as a young man led to the founding of this hugely successful company.
Jack Dorsey was nuts about maps as a kid. He couldn’t get enough of them. But static maps weren’t enough. He wanted to see what was happening on those pictured streets. So he bought a scanner and built software that would allow him to map the movement of ambulances and police cars. He soon realized that he was just showing what had happened, when what he really wanted to know was what was happening. So using these ideas, he landed a job developing real-time emergency dispatch software. But Jack’s passion was for real-time data, and so he was dissatisfied with his software “maps” of the city. They didn’t have any people in them—the generators of real-time data.
And that is when Jack Dorsey began working on the prototype that would eventually evolve into Twitter. The cofounder of Twitter told this story in a talk at Stanford University titled, “The Power of Curiosity and Inspiration.” http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2594
I love this speech because it confirms what I know to be true. The most successful people I know are still trying to figure out how their world works, whether their world involves engines, computers, advertising, or medicine. This is why I believe curiosity is one of the most potent shortcuts to prosperity. Every person that I interviewed for my book, Shortcut to Prosperity, has it.
Curiosity motivates the hard work of innovation
When you are following your curiosity and exploring an idea or discipline that you are passionate about, it’s not work. It becomes effortless, inspired. You find yourself pushing past frontiers, until one day, you are so deep that there’s nobody else to turn to for answers. When that happens, you know that you’ve successfully pursued your passion—and had fun doing it. Along the way, you will have advanced through the Prosperity Cycle and moved closer to your life goal.
Need a way to start feeding your curiosity? Choose a subject that you are curious about and spend a month learning about it. By all means, scour the Internet and put a good book on your nightstand, but also find a living, breathing person who is an expert on the subject and interview them over coffee or lunch. Don’t worry, experts love talking about their expertise, and the majority of people are willing to take the time to guide someone with a genuine interest. The dynamic nature of interacting with a person will deepen the learning immensely. Look for a niche within the subject that you are especially interested in and follow up. It may just influence your next career move.
10 Habits for A Successful & Satisfying Career
I have recently been asked to reprint a summary of the 10 shortcuts that I write about in Shortcut to Prosperity. So here they are!
How often is the status quo really what you want? Most of us find ourselves on a career path determined largely by the influential people in our lives (parents, friends, colleagues) and by a market space that we have become familiar with. If this process has resulted in a life experience that finds you jumping out of bed because you can’t wait to get to work, you’re in the minority. A recent survey found that 60% of the 26,000 Americans they asked claimed that they would like to choose a new career.
I’ve spent the last two years looking for and interviewing the other 40%, the people that are happy with where their careers have taken them. I isolated the happiest, most prosperous people in this group and looked for the common career paths and behaviors that help explain their success.
I actually struck out on identifying the best career paths; it turns out that there are happy and prosperous people everywhere. What I did find, however, was a common set of habits that were exhibited by the most satisfied individuals. They tended to be people who enjoy learning and who had developed a high level of expertise within an area that they were passionate about. And whether they work in small or large organizations, they utilize an entrepreneur’s approach to their work. In other words, they aren’t satisfied by the status quo, bring a high level of energy to their work, and attract highly competent people to help them explore new ideas for better serving the markets they are passionate about.
What follows is a description of the 10 habits that I believe has enabled these individuals to experience highly satisfying, prosperous lives.
Build Your Own Prosperity Cycle. Pursuing prosperity means breaking trail rather than following the crowd, and this approach requires self-confidence and an abundance of personal motivation. The prosperity cycle helps you build both by harnessing the energy generated by successive cycles of focused effort and exhilarating personal achievement.
Exploit Your Natural Curiosity. Successful entrepreneurs as well as intrapreneurs exploit opportunities that most others don’t see, using solutions based on insight that others don’t have. Where does the superior insight come from? From delving into the minutiae that determine the effectiveness of a solution. Indulging your natural curiosity makes it possible to effortlessly get deep enough into a subject of interest to build valuable insight.
Know Thyself. Prosperity is an existence that enables you to apply your passions, personal strengths, and values to work that is personally satisfying and fun while providing the financial resources to experience your envisioned life. Taking the time to understand your unique strengths, values, and passions is key to finding prosperity. Doing work that you love and are pre-wired to excel at usually leads to financial success as well.
Build Creative Tension. Creative tension is an extremely productive force created within anyone who has undertaken an honest assessment of their own current reality and compared it to a personal vision of the life of their dreams. It works in the background of our daily activities to motivate actions that help move us toward our personal vision.
Learn From The Best People And Organizations. Malcolm Gladwell nailed it when he said it takes 10,000 hours to develop a differentiating level of skill in anything. But it only works if you’re learning the right skills from the right instructors. Confirm your life’s passion and accelerate your development of world-class skills by going to work for an organization that will teach you the essence of what it has invested hundreds of thousands of hours to understand.
Earn An “I Can Do Anything Attitude.” Being a pioneer is scary. Doing something that may or may not be successful is scary. But that’s where you are going if you’re pursuing prosperity. Gain the confidence that you need by looking behind the wizard’s curtain and learning the tricks that allow him to appear gifted. Then find the coach that will help you do the same.
Recognize And Quickly Analyze Opportunities. Successful entrepreneurs have learned to see and analyze the opportunities that stream by all of us every day. And they do it in real time. I call this being an entrepreneurial actuary. The trick to doing it is to embrace your inner rebel by throwing conventional thinking out the window so that opportunities can be seen, and then learning to quickly estimate market sizes and the rough costs of products and services that address the need.
Genuinely Care About Other People. Pursuing prosperity is a team sport, because not much worth achieving can be accomplished by yourself. Care about others because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it builds a very rare commodity — trust. Teams built on a foundation of trust have much higher levels of productivity and are more fun to work in. In the book, I give details on a concept I call carefrontation and how it leads to personal growth for everyone involved.
Partner Wisely and Broadly. Your choice regarding a life partner or business partner can put you on the fast track to achieving your personal vision or make it a virtual impossibility. The right partner is an enabler who helps you to hone your vision, offset your weaknesses, and give you the confidence that you might just get this damn thing done. The wrong partner’s attitude and negative forays into the irrelevant will suck the energy from the room, and your mojo with it.
Find A Mentor, Or Three. An experienced mentor can take the pie-in-the-sky vision that you are hesitant to even say out loud and, through experience and personal example, lead you to the point where you can see yourself making it happen. In addition, build a database of guides who don’t need to know you as well as a mentor, but can effortlessly provide advice within specific areas of expertise.
Can a motivated individual develop these habits? Absolutely. Every one of the people I talked to managed to do it, and they had to figure it out on their own. In all of them, it started with a decision to make a change. That change led to the next, and the next, and the next. In fact, I think a lot of their satisfaction comes from the fact that their quest is never over; it’s just the end of one learning cycle and the beginning of another. The happy accident in all of this is that many of their prosperity cycles come with financial rewards from employers and consumers eager to make use of their better ideas. What’s your next quest?
(Source: Written by Mark Hopkins and first published in Business News Daily, January 8, 2013)
Entrepreneurs Use the Prosperity Cycle to Make Dreams Come True
Motivation equals success. Guaranteed. It might not equal immediate success. It might not equal success in everything you try. But strong motivation breeds inspired effort, and that will always lead to triumph eventually, even if it wasn’t the triumph you were expecting. Passion is the source of motivation. How does passion get translated into prosperity? Through the Prosperity Cycle.
The Prosperity Cycle is a self-reinforcing cycle that will set you on your chosen path, keep you moving forward, and provide you with the vast amount of energy that you’ll need to get where you want to go. It offers a structured process for personal development and for achieving prosperity. It creates a perpetual feedback loop between your passions and your actions, propelling you forward down the path of your choice. Passion helps you get the cycle started, but the cycle itself reinforces your passion, powering your imagination and inspiring you to dream bigger and do bigger—“do” being the operative word.
The most successful people, particularly entrepreneurs, use this cycle to their advantage every day, even if only intuitively. They are inspired by a hardship or a vision to step off the beaten track, where others are consistently telling them what is and is not possible. That first step, though, is prompted by a decision to do something, to embark on a new path toward a different goal. Whether your initial spark comes from being mad as hell or incredibly inspired, it’s your ticket to ride. That energy and passion powers the self-discipline required to get started and fuels the focused effort required to move forward. Effort always yields progress, even if it doesn’t quite turn out the way you had envisioned. A win is fantastic, but a learning moment can sometimes be even more rewarding. Either can lead to increased confidence and self-esteem, which, in turn, motivates you to make the decision to do it again, only bigger.
Each success you rack up builds your capability and gives you the confidence to keep going bigger. Personal achievement is the human equivalent of nuclear fusion, releasing vast amounts of energy to tackle the next challenge in your path. The cycle never ends for those who continue to fuel their internal fire, because even if they achieve their goals, life is full of new challenges and opportunities that renew the cycle.
Right now, you may not feel very passionate about any one thing in your life. Or you may have been persuaded that the thing you feel most passionate about isn’t worth your energy, dampening the flames. You may not think of yourself as somebody who is inherently motivated. Many of us aren’t. The Prosperity Cycle can help.
Decide to start using the Prosperity Cycle today! Identify something that you would like to make happen at work or at home. Make it something fairly simple. What is the very first step you need to make to achieve the goal? Make it granular, such as setting up a meeting or asking a colleague for help. Don’t worry about the next steps for now, just take the very first step. You will know what the next cycle is once you’ve completed the first one. DO SOMETHING!
Pursuing Prosperity Means Caring
On Sunday afternoon Jenny decided to make homemade tomato soup and sent me to the grocery to pick up the ingredients. It was a hot afternoon, over 90°F, and as I entered the store I passed a middle aged blind woman standing on the hot sidewalk with her groceries neatly packed away in a rolling cart. I didn’t think much of it until I noted that she was still there when I came out with my haul of tomatoes and other goodies 20 minutes later.
I politely asked her if she needed a ride home and she replied that she had called a cab a half an hour ago but that they hadn’t shown up. She asked me a few casual, but clearly qualifying, questions to help her confirm that I was just a guy concerned about her, and her groceries, melting on the sidewalk and accepted a ride. It made my day to help her out and I hope it made hers a little easier.
Technology may have eliminated many daily interactions that used to require face-to-face communication, but it has also had the unintended consequence of making the human interaction that remains all that more important. We are all social animals with a need to share, a need to be appreciated, and a desire to work with people who care about us. Check out David Brook’s TedEx talk here to hear more about this and to be able to use “interpenetrated” in a sentence!
With regard to your pursuit of prosperity, some of the best advice I can offer is that caring about other people—a process that I call Carefrontation—will help you build a team that will help you achieve your vision and make the journey a whole lot more fun. For a full explanation of the concept and the ways that a team full of people who care about each other outperform a team that doesn’t, check out a guest blog I wrote on Carefrontation here.
If you still want to know more, send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll send you the full text to the Chapter that explains why genuinely caring about other people is a shortcut to prosperity.
Have a great day!