Robert Greene, author of the popular The 48 Laws of Power (Penguin, 2000), would disagree. The fascination we have in prodigies, he says, is “bogus. It’s completely bogus.” Exceptional talent is about hard work, he says.
Greene studied the lives of exceptionally successful people for his latest book, Mastery (Viking/Penguin, 2012). He says that there is no such thing as being born into superior success. Rather, those politicians, entrepreneurs, scientists, athletes and artists who rise above the rest in their field, achieving what he calls a “high-level intuitive feel” for their specialty, have an unyielding focus and work ethic.
“It’s not a question of some natural talent or brilliance that you have, it’s that you have reached that level of experience or practice,” Greene said. “We have to get rid of that old-fashioned notion of genius and creativity.” He holds himself to the standard he preaches, having put in more 20 000 hours researching and writing his last five books.
In Mastery, Greene examines the cultural poster-children for natural-born genius: Mozart and Einstein. For example, by the time he was 9 years old, Mozart had already put in 10 000 to 20 000 hours of work, equalling the efforts of an average person in his or her 20s, says Greene. Einstein attributed his own success to persistence, he says.
Greene developed a near cult-following for his methodical and – some say – Machiavellian breakdown of power and the people who wield it in The 48 Laws of Power. Part of what makes Greene popular is that he studies powerful people and then breaks down their process such that others can emulate it.
Here are recommendations from Greene for entrepreneurs eager to be the next Steve Jobs.
1. Chose a topic to focus on that you are deeply in love with.
“Masters and highly successful people are emotionally and personally engaged in their work” on a level beyond intellectual curiosity, Greene says. It’s the personal commitment to a topic, problem or skill that is ultimately necessary for motivating and maintaining the long hours and fervent curiosity required to rise to the level of “mastery” in a field.
“Otherwise you are never going to have the energy, the patience, the persistence, the ability to put up with the criticism, you will give up too easily, you won’t push through all the crap the world is going to throw at you.”
2. Skip all the extra school. Learn by doing.
According to Greene, learning entrepreneurship in school is inane. “Being an entrepreneur is making something, it’s like Legos,” Greene says and the best way to become an entrepreneur is to try building businesses.
Henry Ford’s first two automobile companies failed miserably, notes Greene.
“You want to actually psychologically desire failure because it is how you are going to learn.” If you aren’t going to start your own business, at least work in as small a company as possible to learn as many skills as possible. Avoid large corporations and business school, Greene says. As an entrepreneur, “you are going to hire the people that have the MBAs. They are going to bring in that nuts-and-bolts knowledge.”
3. Don’t focus on making money in your 20s.
“Tune out the idea of making your first million. It’s about learning. You are there to accumulate as much experience building a business and you want to build several, if possible,” says Greene. In the first five to 10 years after college, pursue experience over money. You will learn more than you could earn in those years.
4. When you have some experience, select a mentor.
When selecting a mentor, look for somebody who is already doing what you see yourself doing in five to 10 years, says Greene. If you are going to try to approach a master to be your mentor, wait to do so until you have already started amassing a body of work.
A healthy mentorship relationship is like that between a parent and a child, says Greene. A good mentor should be older than you and at a point in his or her career that he or she is wants to give back. Personality is important, too. “You want somebody who matches your spirit. If you are a very rebellious type, you don’t want a stuffy conservative type mentor,” says Greene.
5. Be flexible and creative.
For the book, Greene interviewed Paul Graham, the computer programmer entrepreneur who started Viaweb, a company acquired by Yahoo in 1998 to become the Yahoo Store, and a partner of Y Combinator, an accelerator for start-up entrepreneurs.
In the highly competitive interview process for Y Combinator, Graham “can tell after one minute if he has the next Zuckerberg or this guy is useless, and it is because they are open-minded, they’re flexible and they love, they are excited, they have a childlike interest,” says Greene. Building a company will inevitably confront you with unexpected challenges, and your ability to adjust your path to deal with those surprises is critical.
Want To Achieve Greatness? Force Everyone Out Of Their Comfort Zones
Diverse teams are better performing teams, but only when they are inclusive.
Working in a diverse team feels uncomfortable and that’s why we perform better. Discomfort arouses our brain, which leads to better performance.
Diverse teams are smarter teams. They have higher rates of innovation, error detection and creative problem solving. In environments that possess diverse stakeholders, being able to have different perspectives in the room may even enable more alignment with varied customer needs.
Being able to think from different perspectives actually lights up areas of the brain, such as the emotional centres needed for perspective taking that would previously not be activated in similar or non-diverse groups.
In a nutshell, you use more of your brain when you encourage different perspectives by including different views in the room. However, work done at the NeuroLeadership Institute has proven that this only works when diverse teams are inclusive, and this still remains a key challenge in business today.
When we consider the amount of diversity present in the modern workplace and the addition of more diverse thinking as a result of globalisation and the use of virtual work teams, it’s clear that the ability to unlock the power of diversity is just waiting to be unleashed.
Here’s how you can unlock this powerful performance driver.
The Social Brain
Despite the rich sources of diversity present in most workplaces, companies are still often unable to leverage the different perspectives available to them in driving business goals. Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience have enabled us to understand why. The major breakthrough has centred around the basic needs of the social brain.
We have an instinctual need to continually define whether we are within an in-group or an out-group. This is an evolutionary remnant of the brain that enabled us to strive to remain within a herd or group where we had access to social support structures, food and potential mates. If we were part of the out-group it could literally have meant life or death. We are therefore hypersensitive to feelings of exclusion as it affected our survival.
The brain is further hardwired for threat and unconsciously scans our environments for threats five times a second. This means, coupled with our life or death need for group affiliation, we are hypersensitive to finding sameness and a need for in-group inclusion.
When we heard a rustle in a bush it was safer to assume that it may be a lion than a gust of wind. It is this threat detection network that has kept us alive until today. The challenge is that society has developed faster than our brains. In times of uncertainty we often jump to what is more threatening.
Some of the ways that this plays out is when we leave someone out of an email and they begin to wonder why they were left out. The problem is that it’s easy to unconsciously exclude someone if we are not actively including. The trouble occurs when we incorrectly use physical proxies to define in-group and out-group, as this is the most readily available evidence used unconsciously by the brain.
Barriers to Inclusion
A study done between a diverse group and non-diverse group demonstrates how this plays out in the work place. Both groups completed a challenging task and were asked how they felt they did as a team after the exercise.
The effectiveness of the team and how they perceived effectiveness were both measured in the study. It’s no surprise that the diverse team did better in the completion of the problem-solving task, but what is surprising is that they felt they did not do well. In contrast, the non-diverse team did worse, but felt that they had done well.
Working in a diverse team feels uncomfortable and that’s why we perform better. Discomfort arouses our brain, which leads to better performance. It feels easier to work in a team where we feel at ease in sameness, but in that environment we are more prone to groupthink and are less effective.
We can’t assume that when we place diverse teams together we will automatically reap the rewards of higher team performance. As discussed, we’re hardwired for sameness and if we’re not actively including, we may be unconsciously excluding.
If we want diversity to become a silver bullet, we need to actively make efforts to find common ground amongst disparate team members. This in turn will build team cohesion and create a sense of unity, including reminders of a shared purpose and shared goals. Many global businesses put an emphasis on a shared corporate culture that supersedes individual difference.
It’s the same mechanism that is used in science fiction films that bond individuals together against a common alien invasion. It can also be used to describe why we felt such a great sense of accomplishment during the 2010 World Cup as we banded together as a nation.
We must also make sure we uplift all team members by sharing credit widely when available and recognising performance. The last thing we can do to further inclusion is to create clarity for teams. By removing ambiguity, we allow individuals to not jump to conclusions about their membership within groups and calm their minds so they can use their mental capacity to focus on the task at hand.
To Get A Job Or Not Get A Job. What Are We Teaching Our Children?
Remember the days where if you went to school and studied a degree, you got a job and built a career that enabled you to retire comfortably? I don’t, in fact I’m not sure those days ever really existed. If they did, they are long gone.
Today STATS SA tells us only 1 in 3 of the youth in South Africa have a job, even worse still – 34% of graduates aged 15-24 are unemployed1. The bottom line is that there are not enough jobs to cater for every child that finishes school. Our children need to learn entrepreneurship. If we want a brighter future for them, we need to nurture, teach and develop the skills and behaviours required to create jobs of their own.
With no intention of knocking the school system it would seem for the most part it discourages entrepreneurial thinking on a fundamental level; it prepares students to become good employees. Tuck your shirt in, sit still, stand in line, do your homework, focus on the task, check this box, you get the picture. Three decades ago this may have worked but it won’t work when we are trying to teach our children to survive the forth industrial revolution and prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist!
It may sound like a cliché, but kids are our future. As a parent I believe one of the most important duties we have is to give our children the best possible start. We need to prepare them on how to live, survive and thrive in a world that is rapidly changing, mostly unpredictable and often unforgiving. This starts by identifying the skills and nurturing the behaviours that will give them the best chance for success.
Teaching entrepreneurship prepares our children for the future
Entrepreneurship encompasses so much more than starting and running a business. It’s a shift in mindset, a different way of thinking. Entrepreneurship views problems as opportunities and fuels creativity in the pursuit of solutions. All these skills can be applied to life.
Successful entrepreneurs are resourceful, self-confident and tenacious. They are great communicators and marketers, good at identifying and understanding risk. They have learnt from failure and made mistakes. Entrepreneurs are financially literate, understand cash flow and how to manage money. Again, these are skills that every child and student can benefit from.
To make it in the workplace of the future you will need to be self-confident, innovative, creative, motivated and curious.
Employers will need to hire staff that have the creative ability to innovate and ensure the longevity of their organisations. Those people that show entrepreneurial flair will be in demand in a world that is ever and more rapidly changing.
Exposing our children to entrepreneurship, teaching them the fundamental skills and behaviours required to start a business, and letting them know it is a career choice should be a requirement in all schools and endorsed and supported by all parents.
- Youth unemployment still high in Q1: 2018 http://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=11129
How To, In Practice, Distinguish Between Executive, Non-Executive And Independent Directors And Their Functions
Learn more about the differences in executive and non-executive directors.
Definition of a director in terms of the Companies Act
Section 1 of the Companies Act 71 of 2008 (Companies Act) defines a Director as “a member of the board of a company, as contemplated in section 66, or an alternate director of a company and includes any person occupying the position of director or alternate director, by whatever name designated”.
Powers of directors
Section 66 of the Companies Act determines that the business and affairs of the company must be managed by or under the direction of its board and that the board has the authority to exercise all of the power and perform any of the functions of the company, except to the extent that the Companies Act or the Company’s Memorandum of Incorporation provides otherwise.
The board of directors, for the first time in our current Companies Act has been assigned the legal duty and responsibility and play a very important role in managing the affairs of the company and making vital decisions on behalf of the company.
Number of directors required on a board
In the case of a private company, or a personal liability company, the board must consist of at least one director and the case of a public company, or non-profit company, the board must consist of at least three directors. A JSE listed company requires at least four directors. The company’s Memorandum of Incorporation may however specify a higher number, substituting the minimum number of directors required.
How to distinguish between executive, non-executive and independent directors and their functions
A clear distinction is noticeable between the different types of directors in practice, even though the Act does not distinguish between executive, non-executive and independent directors.
The below table gives a clear understanding of the differences between executive and non-executive directors:
Member of the board of directors with directors’ duties.
|Part of the executive team, as an employee of the company and generally under a service contract with the company.||Not an employee of the company.|
|Involved in the day-to-day management of the company.||Not involved in the day-to-day management of the company.|
|In addition to a salary, does not receive directors’ fees.||May receive Directors’ fees, but does not receive a salary.|
|Shareholders are not involved in approving their salary packages.||Shareholders must approve their fees by way of special resolution, in advance.|
|Employee entitlements apply, such as annual and sick leave.||No entitlements apply.|
|Has an intimate knowledge of the workings of the company.||They contribute to the development of management strategies and monitor the activities of the executive directors.|
|They carry an added responsibility. Entrusted with ensuring that the information laid before the board by management is an accurate reflection of their understanding of the affairs of the company.||Plays an important role in providing objective judgement, independent of management on issues the company are facing.
Independent, non-executive director
An independent, non-executive director does not have a relationship, directly or indirectly with the company other than his or her directorship. They should be free of any relationship that could materially interfere with the independence process of his or her judgement and they do not represent the shareholders of the company.
An independent, non-executive director should be evaluated on an annual basis to determine if they are still considered independent.
The role of these directors
All directors should apply objective judgment and an independent state of mind, regardless of the classification as an executive, non-executive or independent non-executive director.
Executive directors may be appointed as non-executive directors on other boards if this does not influence their current position and is in accordance with company policy.
Before a director accepts the appointment, they should be familiar with their duties and responsibilities and be provided with the necessary training and advice.
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