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Smart or Lucky

Lucky or Smart?

Secrets to an Entrepreneurial life - Bo Peabody

When smart, inspired people gather around a fundamentally innovative, morally compelling and philosophically positive company, they work very hard.  And when smart, inspired people work very hard, serendipity ensues.  Serendipity – the faculty of making fortuitous discoveries by chance – causes lots of unexpected things to happen to a company.  Some of these unexpected things are good.  Some are bad.  But because no one planned for the good things to happen, they appear as luck.  In other words, the best way to ensure that lucky things happen is to make sure that a lot of things happen.  It’s really that simple. 

In applying this formula, the entrepreneur has two tasks: 
1)   Create an environment where smart people will gather and
2)   Be smart enough to stay out of the way and let luck happen.
 Good entrepreneurs are not, per se, lucky or smart.  They are just smart enough to realize when they are getting lucky.  It’s a subtle but very important distinction.

Entrepreneurs are B-Students.

Managers are A-Students. 

Entrepreneurs are B-students.  There is no one thing they do well.  But there are many things they do well enough.

A-students, on the other hand, know a lot about one thing, whether it is technology or marketing or sales or finance.  And they do this one thing extremely well.  If they don’t do it well, it bothers them.  A-students want to do things perfectly all the time.  This is a very bad trait for an entrepreneur but a very good trait for a manager. 
Entrepreneurs want results immediately, while managers are happy to wait, confident that if they execute perfectly over time, the results will eventually follow. 

An entrepreneur’s short attention span allows him, or may be even forces him, to think laterally.  Because managers, on the other hand, can stay focused on one topic for a long period of time, they are able to – in fact prefer to – think in a more linear fashion. 
The most important thing to realize when you’re a B-student entrepreneur is that you need A-student managers.  You must listen to them.  You have no choice.  The good news is that A-students must also listen to B-students, because B-students know about aspects of life and business that A-students know nothing about.  While most A-students are really good at one thing, they tend to be completely out to lunch when it comes to most everything else.  On the other hand, B-students are really good at being sort of good at everything.  The sooner the B-students and the A-students understand and appreciate each other, the more productive everyone will be. 

Great is the Enemy of Good

Greatness is exactly the wrong thing for entrepreneurs to strive for.  A good decision made quickly is far better than a great decision made slowly. 

Learn to Love the word “No”

Most people would simply accept the rejection.  Don’t.  Ever.  Train yourself not to shut down when you hear the word “no”.  That is in fact just the time to really start fighting.  No human being likes to say “no” to another human being.  When he does, he is at his weakest moment.  Take that opportunity, and start selling. 

The Best Defense is a Gracious Offense

No matter what, above all else, remember that in business it never pays to get indignant in any way.  In every meeting, in every situation, you must always, always be gracious.  The business world is a small place; what goes around comes around.  Your ability to remain gracious will be tested often, and you will constantly be tempted to become defensive. 

Being gracious and recognizing graciousness always pays dividends.  You won’t always be successful in maintaining your cool.  But the more often you stay calm and gracious, the better off you and your business will be. 

Don’t Believe Your Own Press. 

In Fact, Don’t Read.

The vast majority of the press is not interested in covering what is actually happening.  They are interested in covering what they think people want to think is actually happening.  Everything is sensationalized.  It’s never exactly accurate.  As it turns out, accuracy can be quite boring.  And quite boring does not sell newspapers and magazines.

Managing your information intake is one of the most important tasks for an entrepreneur.  You should err on the side of less. 

And the more you fill your head with the past, the less room there is to think about the future. 

Know What You Don’t Know

When you put actors, painters, marketers and accountants in the same room, you’d better hope that they know what they don’t know.  If the actors think they can paint, you are screwed.  And if the accountants think they can act or paint, you are really screwed.  But if everyone know what she knows and knows what she doesn’t know, the show will get rave reviews. 

In business, admitting that you don’t know something is difficult.  First, you have to admit it to yourself.  And then, in order for it to make any difference, you have to admit it to your colleagues.  You can’t take the second step until you successfully complete the first.  Unfortunately, most people can’t even find the first step, much less take it. 


Understanding the difference between being

lucky and being smart

The power to understand this crucial difference comes from one simple source:  the ability to always keep your ego in check.  Your ego is both the most dangerous and the most useful weapon in your entrepreneurial arsenal.  When used wisely, ego helps entrepreneurs craft their start-ups’ missions, work hard, and keep blind faith in their companies, even in the face of heavy scrutiny.  And ego is the force that allows entrepreneurs to get comfortable with their powerlessness and learn to love the word “no” instead of panicking in the face of it. 

On the other hand, when allowed to run amok, ego keeps entrepreneurs from knowing what they don’t know and tempts them to believe their own press.  Ego is also the culprit when entrepreneurs, unhappy with their B’s, try to achieve greatness and cling to their role as founder rather than turning their companies over to more capable managers.  And ego is to blame when entrepreneurs can’t work with odd people who are clearly smarter than they are, or when they fail to remain calm and gracious in all business situations. 

Use your ego when it is called for, and check it at the door when you sense that it will get in the way.  Unchecked egos are the most destructive force in start-ups and in business, in general. 

In an ego-free company, all good ideas from all sources would be implemented.  Managers would hire only people smarter than they and would never spend valuable time worrying about who gets credit for what.  Meetings would be shorter, as no one would feel the need to drone on about nonsense in an effort to impress his colleagues and managers.  In a business world devoid of egos, profits would rise, salaries would increase, and unemployment would plummet. 

As it turns out, businesses consist of human beings, and most human beings have either tragically fragile egos or uncontrollably big ones.  All we can do is make an effort to control our own egos.  As hard as it may be, there are real incentives to do so.

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