“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.”
Paul Graham (Co-founder; Y Combinator)
“I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It’s so frickin’ heroic.”
George Carlin (Comedian; Carlin at Carnegie)
“Its better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.”
Emiliano Zapata (General; Mexican Revolution)
If you’re not following your own agenda, you’re following someone else’s agenda.
My graduate school advisor told me to shut up and be grateful I was in in PhD program. This was his version of a pep talk. The problem was I didn’t feel grateful. Sure, I was glad I made it into the program three years ago but so what? Getting in was just the beginning to something bigger. Now I wanted more. I wanted my degree and I wanted to start a new career.
One of the jobs I had after graduate school wasn’t a good fit. I figured this out pretty quickly and wanted to move on as soon as possible but my friends kept telling me to be thankful I had a job and stick it out. So I stuck it out for a while and was miserable the whole time. I tried to feel thankful but I ended up just feeling angry and bitter. I also felt guilty. Was I selfish or unenlightened for not being able to be happy with what I had?
Defiant People Finish First
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. Gates put himself in classes with “hot girls” and removed himself from Friday classes altogether. He 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.
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 confirmed that defiant people are more likely to be successful entrepreneurs.
5 Benefits Of Defiance Over Agreeableness
The bigger your ambitions are, the more people will tell you to just be grateful for what you have. I’m all for being grateful in small doses so you don’t go crazy with frustration but the idea that gratefulness will cure that great wanting in your gut is foolish. Gratefulness shouldn’t be used as a bandage for your bleeding desires. Let yourself bleed.
The best way to stay hungry is to stay defiant. Instead of seeking approval, seek growth. This means continually challenging yourself and the things that other people tell you to do. Despite what some people might tell you, defiance is healthy and can bring out the best in you. Here are 5 reasons defiant people finish first:
1. Defiance is the source of victory, gratefulness is the result of it.
Gratefulness is the result of victory, not the source of victory. Defiance is the source. Defiance is what drives people to move forward and improve.
Feeling thankful is not going to help you finish that last rep at the gym. Gratefulness isn’t going to keep you awake for two extra hours to finish a big project and it’s not going to push you to practice your speech another dozen times until you get it just right.
I’m a big fan of celebrating even the smallest wins. After I published my book, I took a whole day off. I unplugged and just relaxed and thought about the entire experience. I let myself feel proud and happy and grateful. But then I started moving forward.
It’s definitely important to acknowledge your accomplishments and to by thankful for your experiences, but don’t go nuts with it. Contentment kills a lot of dreams. Try to stay close to the source of victory by staying a little restless and uncomfortable.
2. Defiance is an attitude, contentment is a state.
Defiance is an attitude. But it’s not a cocky or rude attitude. It’s an inquisitive attitude. Defiant people are constantly asking themselves questions like, “How can I do this better?” “How can I be better?” and “Should I follow this rule?” A big part of being defiant is constantly poking at yourself as well as groups of people and social norms that are telling you what to do.
Contentment, on the other hand, is a temporary emotional state that you can slip in and out of. When you are feeling overwhelmed or unlucky, you can think back to where you were five years ago and focus on everything you’ve accomplished. But don’t overmedicate yourself with contentment. Once you’re centered, slip out of that state and start pushing yourself again.
3. Defiance challenges the status quo, agreeableness empowers it.
Feeling grateful means feeling comfortable with the current state of things. Agreeable people are content and satisfied with the way things are. They empower the status quo.
I remember moving to San Diego for a job a few years ago and loving it there. It was 70°F and sunny every day. The traffic wasn’t bad and I had a great apartment near the Pacific Ocean. Perfect. I was happy, content, and grateful. Life was good. Too good. After about a year I took on a new project that required me to move. The project was really challenging and I regretted moving immediately. But I grew. I wouldn’t have grown in the same way if I stayed.
The only way to keep the status quo from getting stronger is to constantly challenge it. This means staying defiant and aggressive, especially in your own life.
4. Defiance is used to motivate people, agreeableness is used to hold people back.
A lot of studies in the field of self-determination theory show that people who are intrinsically motivated work harder and perform better than people who are extrinsically motivated.
A great way to turn lazy people into action takers is to give them a high level of autonomy. Autonomy is a prime human need, which is why most people are defiant by nature. We don’t want to listen to other people. We hate authority. This is one of the reasons why Apple has been so successful over the last several decades–because their think different and challenge the status quo campaigns tap into this desire to defy.
Agreeableness, though, kills motivation. Especially when other people are telling you to be thankful for what you have. I think it’s good and healthy to express gratefulness from time to time. But you should never let other people tell you to act grateful for what you got when you want something more.
A lot of people on top will tell you to be thankful to keep you in your place. The ironic thing is that many of these people worked really hard to achieve success. But now, instead of telling you the truth about how they got ahead, they lie and tell you to just be grateful.
The world will not give you what you want simply because you agree with it. You have to shake things up. You have to make the world give you what you want.
5. Defiance is attractive, agreeableness is not.
Defiance drives ambition and ambition is a very attractive trait. A survey by Match.com found that two-thirds of women between the ages of 25 and 34 considered the drive to get ahead as the most important factor in a man’s attractiveness. Other studies show that women are least attracted to happy and content men.
But it’s not just women who find defiance attractive. A study tracking behavior during and after speed-dating events found that both men and women are more attracted to ambitious people.
Being ambitious means defying your current place in life. It means staying hungry for growth. There’s nothing wrong with being agreeable every now and then, just don’t get trapped into thinking that agreeableness alone will bring you closer to your finish line.
Do you consider yourself a more defiant person or a more grateful person? Why?
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