“Though the most successful founders are usually good people, they tend to have a piratical gleam in their eye. They’re not Goody Two-Shoes…they care about getting the big questions right, but not about observing proprieties…They delight in breaking rules, but not rules that matter.”
Paul Graham (Co-founder; Y Combinator)
“Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.”
Robert Greene (Author; The 48 Laws Of Power)
“Success is the child of audacity.”
Benjamin Disraeli (Former British Prime Minister)
Doing what you’re told will take you all the way to the top – the top of mediocrity.
Successful people make trouble. After high school, Steven Spielberg got his start in the film industry by sneaking into Universal Studios, commandeering an unoccupied office, and introducing himself as a producer on movie sets. By the age of 30, Spielberg had directed two of the top-grossing films of all time: Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Bill Gates created a computer program that allowed him to tamper with his high school’s scheduling system and get in class with “hot” girls while removing himself from Friday classes altogether. Gates is now worth over 70 billion dollars. Warren Buffet tried to write off his bicycle as a tax deduction for delivering papers at the age of 13. Buffet is worth 60 billion.
Studies show that people who break rules and take bold action are much more successful than people who don’t. A 37-year longitudinal study that followed 1,000 schoolchildren from the age of 10 to adulthood found that kids who did things like got traffic tickets, got in fights, cheated on tests, skipped school, partied, defied their parents, and quit their jobs were much more likely to start their own successful businesses as adults. Another study by researchers out of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business found that people who engage in “aggressive, illicit, and risky actions” are more likely to be successful entrepreneurs. More than any other factor, including creativity, IQ, and parental socio-economic status, defiant behavior predicted adult entrepreneurship. But, while rule-breaking correlated well with successful entrepreneurship, having a criminal record did not.
Troublemakers Make Money
Most millionaires are entrepreneurs who go their own way. Self-employed people make up less than 20% of the workers in America but account for almost three-fourths of the millionaires. In the book, No More Dreaded Mondays, Dan Miller shows that business owners, including online business owners, comprise 74% of all millionaires in America. Senior Executives, such as company CEOs and CFOs like Jack Welch make up 10%. Doctors, lawyers, and other people with advanced degrees make up another 10%. Salespeople and consultants make up 5% and the remaining 1% belongs to stockbrokers, inventors, actors, directors, authors, songwriters, athletes, and lottery winners.
Disturb The Status Quo
My 3rd grade, 6th grade, and high school Spanish teacher recommended to my parents that I be put on medication for ADD and ADHD. My favorite science teacher in middle school, Mr. Klein, called me a space cadet, kicked me out of his class 8 times, and gave me 2 weeks of detention. One of my favorite high school teachers, Mr. Hisaw, told me I was the most annoying student he’s ever had. So what? Looking back I wish I would have been more disruptive and taken more chances. One thing I’ve learned is this: people who do what they’re told and tow the line are easily forgotten and much more likely to be mistreated. The only way to get what you deserve is to be disruptive. You have to be willing to go further than other people are willing to go.
Stop trying to make everyone happy and start breaking the rules. You might think you’re being bold and defiant by taking a sick day and interviewing with a different company or by putting off your boss’s pet project until the last minute but you’re not. You’re just fooling yourself. You’re taking the smallest amount of risk possible to justify another 6 months of safe behavior. Boldness starts in the mind. Understand that the only way to get what you really want in life is by making defiant decisions and taking bold action. This means getting uncomfortable, upsetting other people, and breaking a lot of rules. Of course, your goal isn’t to make everyone hate you and get thrown in jail. Your goal is to stand up for yourself and fearlessly seize the life of your dreams before it’s too late. But boldness doesn’t just happen. You have to practice it. Here are 21 things you can do to start being more bold, defiant and successful.
21 Ways To Be More Bold, Defiant, And Successful
1. Challenge authority – Say “no” to your boss. Stop yessing him or her to death. Seriously. See what happens. It won’t be as bad as you think. Yes-men never get what they want. And they certainly don’t garner any respect from their peers. Yes-men aren’t respected by their bosses either. When you disagree with your boss, disagree with him openly and in front of other people. This will get you attention from your boss’s boss and force your company to give you a promotion or get rid of you so you can take a better job somewhere else. Act as if it’s your duty to challenge authority.
2. Be disruptive – How many times can you make someone else say “no” before they finally give you what you want? What if you asked your boss for a promotion every week? What if you asked an investor to fund your project every week? If you’re polite, positive, and creative in the way you ask, eventually the other party will either compromise or give in completely. It’s only a matter of time. Most people stop at one “no” and then complain that nobody will give them a chance. The world is full of self-entitled people with empty hands. When it comes to asking for something, assume you will be told “no” at least three times. Lower any subconscious expectations you have telling you that other people will just give you what you want. No one is going to give you anything. You have to take it.
3. Stay foolish – Almost no one wanted to invest in Twitter before it was Twitter. Most people thought it was a foolish idea. Twitter is now worth 5 billion dollars. All great decisions start as horrible ideas. Foolishness and unripened brilliance are often the same thing.
4. Stay hungry – More. That’s what you want. You don’t have a number to hit before you quit. There’s no retirement. Once you stop wanting more, you stop living. More experiences. More learning. More personal and professional growth. Keep your spark lit. Never lose your drive.
5. Make yourself uncomfortable – Mediocre people are like soft pillows. They are comfortable, squishy, and easy to push around. People don’t remember soft pillows. They remember jagged rocks that stick up and disrupt the horizon. If you’re comfortable, it means you’re not taking enough risks. The purpose of your life is not to relax, it’s to grow, get better, and have a bigger and bigger impact. This means using comfort as a wake up call that it’s time to move on and try something new.
6. Make other people uncomfortable – You can either be successful, or loved by everyone. No one achieves their biggest dreams by trying to make the entire world happy. Don’t be afraid to rub people the wrong way. Every now and then, shake things up to see where people really stand. Then, bring everyone back together. Create tension. Cut it with a knife. Sew it back together.
7. Set strong boundaries – Without limits, people will walk all over you. At the start of any new relationship, job, or position in life, follow these steps: first, deeply observe the words and behaviors of others. Study their actions and reactions to events. See how far they go in trying to push you around. Second, call out those who go too far or who get too familiar. Then, once you’ve made your point, step to the side.
8. Test other people’s boundaries – Step three is to start testing other people’s boundaries. The only way to see what you can get away with is by pressing buttons and crossing lines. Push and see who pushes back. Sooner or later, when it’s time to compete for a job, a promotion, or any other kind of prize, you’ll know how to best pass the opposition.
9. Ignore what you can lose – It’s impossible to be bold and afraid at the same time. No one can be both aggressive and defensive simultaneously. The only way to be audacious and defiant is to act as if you have nothing to lose. Is keeping your house worth giving up on your biggest dreams and playing it safe for the rest of your life? Is holding onto your job worth letting a boss or colleague push you around 5 days a week for the next 10 years? Anything you’ve won can be won again. Once something great is in your possession, find a way to secretly despise it. This way, you won’t fear losing it. Otherwise, the things you own will end up owning you. Adopt a nothing to lose attitude and watch your life open up in all directions.
10. Focus on what you can gain – You’ll never get what you want if you’re only ever focused on what you can lose. Studies show that people strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. This is called loss aversion. For example, one study asked people how big the winning pot would have to be for them to play a coin flip game where they bet on heads or tails and, if they lost, had to pay $100. According to several different surveys the average person would require the winning pot to be around $300 in order for them to play the game. In other words, the average person hates losing 3 times more than he likes winning. This is why the average person never takes any big risks and, as a result, never wins big.
11. Exploit gray areas – Find loopholes. If there aren’t any, create some. When I wrestled in high school, I used to crossface my opponents as much as possible. Crossfacing is a legal move where you can “hit” someone across the face with your forearm as long as you don’t cock your elbow back, or “wind up” first. Crossfacing would often result in a bloody nose. Each wrestler only had 5 minutes of blood time. When the other guy’s blood time ran out, I won. Exploit gray areas. If you don’t, someone else will.
12. Take down giants – Without Goliath, no one would know the name of David. David was just a lowly shepherd boy until he challenged the giant Philistine warrior. Find big opponents and openly declare war against them. This will raise you up to their stature. When facing giants, you have nothing to lose. If you do lose, you’re supposed to. But, if you win, you’re a hero and will be remembered forever.
13. Take down your peers – The person sitting next to you wants your paycheck on top of his. He also wants your accolades. Don’t be afraid to be competitive with your peers. Competition will bring out the best in both you and them.
14. Don’t ask for permission – It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. During one of my first jobs after graduate school, I was told that my division might not get to go to a big conference in Europe. So, without asking, I bought my own plane ticket to the conference. When my boss found out, he asked me what I was thinking. I said that I was sorry but I was really excited about going. He reimbursed me for the ticket and paid for all of my other expenses.
15. Make things urgent – You only have so much time to cause trouble. If you don’t start shaking things up now, you’ll wake up at 50 and wonder where the last 20-30 years went. Make getting what you want right now a matter of life and death. Start clawing your way to the life of your dreams. Start hustling like there’s no tomorrow.
16. Numb yourself to failure – Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Then, play out your answer. Sell all of your possessions. Move out of your house. Sleep on someone else’s couch or floor, beg for a loan, eat at a homeless shelter, apply for food stamps, sign up for Medicade, go bankrupt, visit a hospital or an old folk’s home. Is this what’s holding you back? Even if your worse nightmare comes true, it’s only permanent if accept it and stop working to improve your situation.
17. Stir up your courage – Courage requires high levels of brain activity, at least high levels of activity in a part of your brain called the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC). A study published in Cell Press reviews an experiment where study participants had to choose whether or not to electronically move either a teddy bear or a live snake closer to their face while their brain was being scanned. Fearless people who brought the snake very close had high levels of sgACC activity while fearful people did not. The study showed that courage is the ability to carry out a voluntary action opposite to that promoted by ongoing fear. It also showed that courage involves a mentally active choice not to succumb to fear. Stir up your courage by finding things that intimidate you and by doing them anyway.
18. Stir up some hatred – Hate is a powerful motivator. Getting other people to like you is easy. All you have to do is be quiet, agree with them, do what they say, and make sure that you never outshine them. Once you start doing the opposite, some people will start to hate you. Don’t be afraid of this. Don’t be afraid to adopt a “me against the world” attitude from time to time.
19. Leave people behind – You can’t carry everyone with you. Don’t be afraid to leave people behind on your way to fulfilling your dreams. You can always come back to visit. It’s not running away if you’re chasing something.
20. Make crazy requests – When Christopher Columbus asked the Spanish courts to fund his trip to the Americas, he also made the crazy request to be called “Grand Admiral Of The Oceans”. The court agreed. Start testing other people’s giving limits. Ask for the moon. You’ll be surprised how often you get it.
21. Give outrageously – When you have a chance to be generous, seize it aggressively. Giving small gifts makes you look small. Giving bold gifts will make you look larger than life. Help others way beyond their expectations. Obliterate other people’s assumptions about you and your limitations by contributing massively and unpredictably.