Champions aren’t born, they’re made – or so the saying goes. But each champion is made in a different way, and there is no blueprint for business success: Some entrepreneurs burst out of the gate and never look back; others stumble badly, learn from their mistakes and make the most out of their second chances.
Formative success breeds sustained success, contends Ian Robertson, a professor of psychology at Trinity College Dublin and founding director of the school’s Institute of Neuroscience.
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In his book The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure, Robertson explores the science behind how success impacts brain chemistry and makes humans and other creatures smarter, more self-possessed and more aggressive, setting the stage for even greater accomplishments to follow.
On the other hand, eventual success can be forged from the crucible of failure, argues Cass Phillipps, the founder and global producer behind FailCon.
Inaugurated in 2009 in San Francisco, FailCon is a series of conferences spotlighting entrepreneurial failures and how those negative experiences can shape wiser, more thoughtful business leaders, giving them the critical insights and assets necessary to build start-ups that thrive.
Entrepreneur pitted Robertson and Phillipps against each other to identify whether success or failure is the optimal launching pad for subsequent achievement.
Success leads to Success:
“If you fake the external trappings of power and success, you can trick your brain into believing you are successful, and you will trigger the dopamine and testosterone that make you feel more confident.
If you go out there, shoulders squared and arms swinging, saying, ‘I’m an entrepreneur — I’m going to make it,’ you’ll make it easier to have your next creative idea or see yourself through the next setback. The most successful people are great engineers of their own brains.”
Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson is an unlikely model for entrepreneurial success, but his comeback from prison exemplifies ‘the winner effect.’
When Tyson returned to the ring in 1995 after a three-year incarceration, larger-than-life promoter Don King set up a comeback bout against journeyman Peter McNeeley, a so-called ‘tomato can’ the rusty, out-of-shape Iron Mike could beat with the proverbial hand tied behind his back.
The fight lasted just 89 seconds before McNeeley’s corner conceded defeat. From there, Tyson demolished challengers Buster Mathis Jr and Frank Bruno, quickly regaining his heavyweight belt.
How the winner effect works
The winner’s corner
Professor and author Ian Robertson believes success creates more success by impacting brain chemistry.
“The winner effect is a phenomenon that occurs across species, whereby if someone wins a contest against a weaker opponent, they’re more likely to win a subsequent contest against a tougher opponent,” Robertson explains.
“Tyson wouldn’t have reclaimed the championship if he hadn’t fought the tomato cans. When you’re faced with a challenge against someone, your testosterone levels go up. The higher they go up, the more likely you are to win. If you win, your testosterone levels shoot up as well.
“The experience of winning increases the number of receiving stations for testosterone in the critical parts of the brain associated with aggression and motivation. The next time they’re in a contest, the surge of testosterone has a much bigger effect on them, because there are more receiving stations in the brain.”
Success breeds success across all walks of life, Robertson states, noting that entrepreneurs who hit pay dirt early on are likely to experience even greater professional triumphs as their careers unfold. “The main ingredient of success is having success,” Robertson states.
This is seen in sociologist Robert Merton’s theory of the Matthew effect, contending that ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.’
The other critical element of success is self-confidence, Robertson believes. “Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg knew he was very bright. He didn’t need other people’s approval. He got satisfaction from being smart,” he says.
“You can generate success experiences for yourself purely internally, and generate the biological benefits of that in your brain. Success and power can make you smarter, because testosterone increases dopamine, which affects the front part of the brain’s functioning. Success can make you smarter, and more able to think of new ideas.”
Failure Breeds Better Things
The merits of failure corner
Cass Phillipps is a proponent that failure and its associated negative experience can be turned into learning experiences that make you more successful.
Cass Phillipps’ start-up was tanking. Just six months after she and her partners launched social media aggregator Trogger, it was clear the company was irrevocably doomed.
“We made all the mistakes that every first-time entrepreneur tends to make,” she recalls. “But I was still telling everybody that my start-up was awesome.”
In the absence of a forum where she could openly discuss Trogger’s demise, Phillipps created FailCon in 2009. Each FailCon event in the US and abroad brings together technology entrepreneurs, software developers, product designers and investors to explore start-up setbacks and how the lessons learnt prime them for future success.
“Failure teaches self-confidence and tenacity. There are people who fail and take it very, very personally, and that makes it hard to recover from it. They are at risk of forever being fearful of taking new risks. That’s what FailCon is trying to change. We tell people, failure’s actually really great.’”
How the failure effect works
Start-up failure is essentially an MBA from the school of hard knocks, Phillipps believes. “People that use failure to become more successful are people that see their failure as a learning experience and recognise, ‘Hey, I got through that, and that was the worst of the worst. Why not start again?’
But failure isn’t just about building emotional resilience; it’s also about teaching practical lessons. Phillipps says that while many entrepreneurs attempt to build sexy, customer-facing start-ups during their first go-round, their rebound efforts are typically far less flashy and much more no-nonsense, targeting verticals like financial analysis or elderly care.
“They’re not worried about impressing their friends,” she notes. “They’re worried about building a good product.”
Failure is about gaining much-needed perspective. “The people who bounce back make sure they’re home for dinner every night with their wife or husband. They look after themselves. They make time each year to travel. For a lot of first-time founders, their company is everything to them, and it’s how they define their success. The people who bounce back are able to realise, ‘I can be a great entrepreneur. I can find balance.’”
The benefits of failure
So don’t think of it as failure, Phillipps says. Think of it as the foundation of something far bigger and better.
“Having something fail teaches you to question the decisions you’re making, be more open to alternative options and be more aware of what consequences you might have, so that down the road, you won’t have those consequences again.
“Failure — emotionally and philosophically — gives successful entrepreneurs a drive and sense of self-confidence that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Sh*t can really hit the fan, and they will be able to get through it, because they’ve done it before.”
20 Quotes On Coping With Change From Successful Entrepreneurs And Leaders
Change is up to you.
Change is a hard concept to grasp – and can be even harder to cope with it. Whether you’re switching careers, leaving a company or ending a relationship, change comes in all sizes – big and small. And while some change can be exciting, other times it can be difficult.
Having your own approach to change, whether it’s in how you view it or how you handle it, is important in moving forward and being successful.
To learn how others do it, here are 20 quotes about change from today’s most successful leaders and entrepreneurs.
1. Elon Musk
“Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.” – Elon Musk
2. Oprah Winfrey
“You don’t have to hold yourself hostage to who you used to be.” – Oprah Winfrey
3. Barack Obama
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” – Barack Obama
4. Larry Page
“If you’re not doing some things that are crazy, then you’re doing the wrong things.” – Larry Page
5. Steve Jobs
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs
6. Andy Warhol
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol
7. Steve Case
“Revolutions happen in evolutionary ways.” – Steve Case
8. Coco Chanel
“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” – Coco Chanel
9. Warren Buffett
“The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.” – Warren Buffett
10. Steven Spielberg
“All of us, every single year, we’re a different person. I don’t think we’re the same person all our lives.” – Steven Spielberg
11. Mark Zuckerberg
“Entrepreneurship is about creating change, not just companies.” – Mark Zuckerberg
12. Richard Branson
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over.” – Richard Branson
13. Joan Rivers
“Life is very tough. If you don’t laugh, it’s tough.” – Joan Rivers
Related: 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Change
14. Lady Gaga
“In order to build strength, you have to usually come from a lot of weakness.” – Lady Gaga
15. Thomas Jefferson
“Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.” – Thomas Jefferson
16. Thomas Edison
“Good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” – Thomas Edison
17. Sheryl Sandberg
“I learned that, in the face of a void or in the face of any challenge, you can choose joy and meaning.” – Sheryl Sandberg
18. Tony Robbins
“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” – Tony Robbins
19. Martha Stewart
“The more you adapt, the more interesting you are.” – Martha Stewart
20. Albert Einstein
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
You’re Probably Biased At Work. Here’s How To Stop It
New research looked at hard data to find solutions.
Everyone suffers from bias, despite their best intentions. And that bias can manifest itself in ways we don’t always intend – including how opportunities are and aren’t doled out in the workplace.
Recently, a trio of researchers used sensors to see if they could distinguish any differences in day-to-day behavior between male and female employees. Their goal was to eliminate the type of bias that can occur in self-reported polls about behaviour.
To study this, the researchers looked at a company where women made up just under 40 percent of entry-level employees and 20 percent of employees at the second-highest level of seniority. For four months, 500 male and female employees at this company wore badges with sensors in them that recorded their movement, speech patterns and proximity to one another.
The researchers then monitored who the subjects communicated with and who led conversations. Though the data was anonymous, the research team collected information about a given person’s gender, role and how long they had worked for the company.
Although they approached the investigation with the hypotheses that perhaps the female employees had less access to mentors or did not advocate for themselves with management as much as their male counterparts, the researchers found that this was not the case.
“We found almost no perceptible differences in the behavior of men and women. Women had the same number of contacts as men, they spent as much time with senior leadership and they allocated their time similarly to men in the same role,” the researchers wrote in a summary of their findings in Harvard Business Review.
“We found that men and women had indistinguishable work patterns in the amount of time they spent online, in concentrated work, and in face-to-face conversation. And in performance evaluations men and women received statistically identical scores. This held true for women at each level of seniority. Yet women weren’t advancing and men were.”
They concluded that differences in men and women’s behaviour aren’t what leads to gender inequality in the workplace – entrenched bias is the culprit.
So what can you do in your own company to make sure that bias doesn’t impact your hiring and promoting decisions? The researchers recommend instituting training programmes to reduce bias among management and people in the position to bring on new team members. You also might want to consider making a policy that, for all new open jobs, you interview and recruit people from a variety of backgrounds.
Also, look at the responsibilities your employees have outside the office. Think about ways to make it easier for both women and men to have flexible schedules, especially given that women often have social pressures to take on more family and household obligations.
Finally, determine where the pipeline to managerial and executive positions begins to trend more towards men. Collect data on exactly when these shifts happen in order to identify their specific causes (e.g. higher-ranking positions and their responsibilities require more late nights), then come up with pointed solutions (e.g. flexible morning schedules to accommodate childcare).
From there, measure the effectiveness any solution you implement. (“Since we implemented this policy, have those who have taken advantage of it advanced?”) This way, mitigating inequality is a science, not a guessing game.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com
Better Thinking For A Better World
How to think more critically and strategically in a world filled with complexity and rapid change.
We take the act of thinking for granted. It is often seen as a skill one is born with and not one that should be cultivated over time.
As the world becomes more complex and more busy, strategic and critical thinking becomes more valuable. Strategic thinking points to the ability to decide how and when to deploy resources to achieve a certain end state.
Below are four areas of focus that will improve your strategic thinking:
1. Making Time For Reflection
Life is busy. Juggling work, friends and family, and the recurring notifications from your phone has become quite a feat. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to create space for reflection.
Time spent in solitude allows you to reflect and connect the dots. It temporarily takes you out of a world in which you must be reactive to survive and keep up.
My suggestion is to create a SOS (space of solitude) for at least 30 minutes every day. In this time, reflect on what has been working and what has not been working. Meditate on your goals for the future and plan for the actions that will help you get there.
2. Asking Better Questions
Many of us fall into the trap of sequential problem solving. This happens when leaders or organisations simply move from one challenge to the next and the only question they ask is “how do we overcome this challenge?”.
What about the questions like “how did we arrive here?” or “what assumptions are we making here?” or “what does better look like?”
I am not trying to give you a template of questions to ask. Merely prodding you to go beyond challenging the problem but to also challenge the thinking about the problem.
As we deepen our questions, we elevate our thinking.
Do not simply ask more questions. Ask better questions.
3. Seek More Input
Teams are great and often underutilized. How can you use your team’s knowledge, experience, and opinions in a more constructive way?
Well, how about allowing them sufficient time for reflection in solitude but also as a group. How about prompting them to look for the patterns in their environment? How about, as a leader, asking them questions that allow them to really stretch their cognitive abilities?
Even better, empower them to ask those questions themselves.
Related: Disruptive Thinking: A Winning Edge
4. Thinking rules
We often make the same mistakes over and over. Not because we have not learned the lesson but because the context changes. Or excitement gets the better of us.
During your reflection time (hopefully you have noticed the importance of this by now) you can reflect on your past decisions and figure out how you could have made better decision.
Once you have done this start jotting down a few personal rules that will help guide your decision making in the future. A personal guideline I established was that I will wait 24 hours before making any big purchase. Gadgets and golf gear often get the best of me. But simple rules like these help to guide my decision making and prevents me from making mistakes irrespective of context or emotional state.
What is next?
Starting today schedule a daily SOS. Yes, schedule it. Do not leave it to chance.
Think of it as training for your brain. A space where you get to think. Free of distraction and noise. You will be amazed at the clarity that comes from these sessions and how your productivity and effectiveness soars.
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