Look for Waves
Our culture is obsessed with individual greatness. We’ve so fully bought into this idea that we suspend disbelief to support this myth. Luck, genius, and gifted are all words we use to describe successful people. And since we don’t understand how success works, we treat those who’ve achieved it as magical—even believing the laws of nature don’t apply to these individuals.
As a result, many imitate the acts of these “great” people, hoping that by mirroring their actions, they’ll achieve the same victories. One of my friends works with a manager who read Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography, and now acts like an asshole—thinking that doing so will help him channel some of his hero’s genius. What a dipshit.
If you subscribe to this collective fallacy, you limit your ability to experience the wins you aspire to. Most notably, by thinking you need to be some self-contained genius, you fail to benefit from the one force that every great business success has leveraged: The Wave.
Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile; he rode the assembly-line wave.
Mary Kay Ash didn’t invent cosmetics; she rode the direct-sales wave.
Andrew Carnegie didn’t invent steel; he rode the building wave.
Steve Jobs didn’t invent computers; he rode the digital wave.
Anita Roddick didn’t invent soap; she rode the ethical business wave.
Larry and Sergey didn’t invent search; they rode internet wave.
Chip Wilson didn’t invent stretchy-pants; he rode the yoga wave.
Jeff Bezos didn’t invent book sales; he rode the ecommerce wave.
Does this sound a little repetitive? Good. This is my point: Business success isn’t dependent on one person possessing the Midas touch; instead, these achievements tend to go to those who harnessed some trend, force, or movement.
Yes, the people I mention are/were brilliant, but not because they possess some mystical gift you don’t. Instead, their smarts were in noticing an opportunity and having the wherewithal to act. If these people hadn’t done what they did, someone else would have. Nothing could have prevented these waves from happening—one way or another someone was going to ride them.
This principle is so simple it shouldn’t need to be stated; nevertheless, many hoping to achieve success as an entrepreneur talk more about what they’re wearing/driving than what waves they could ride. Or, they pine away for past waves and fantasize about how they should have acted at the time. They’d fare better by instead looking around and paying attention to new waves that might be forming.
Mobile is a wave that some got on in 2005, right as it was picking up. Crypto-currency is a wave that some started to ride a couple of years ago. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a wave that’s happening right now. Vegetarianism is a wave that’s rising slowly, but will be huge as we start to talking about speciesism and morality. Marijuana is a wave that’s just waiting to break. Graphene is one of those “oh my God” waves that’s going to blow our minds. These are just a few examples.
Waves don’t end. There will be lulls, but another is always on its way. You just need to be mindful enough to notice, and get in the water when the time is right.
Want more? Check out the full list of articles, learn about this blog, or grab a book. Here’s what I’m doing now, and what I don’t do. I hold free weekly office hours. Alternatively, you can hire me for more involved engagements, via smashLAB.