Why do some entrepreneurs succeed while others fail miserably?
Why do some people try and fail for decades while others seemingly find success in everything they do?
There is an answer to this question.
There is a “personality trait” that can predict success in entrepreneurship.
Would you like to learn what it is? Great, I will teach you.
A turning point in my life
When I was 23, I moved to South Florida to get sober. My story of addiction is well documented, so I don’t need to re-tell the story here.
At this point in my life, I was desperate, lonely, malnourished, depressed, uneducated, and broke.
I was trying my best. Every day, I was giving my best effort to stay sober, go to support groups, show up to my sales job, and genuinely work towards becoming a better person.
At the time, I had a mentor who was guiding me through my new journey of sobriety. My mentor gifted me a subscription to Success magazine and I would read every word of every issue.
Each issue came with a CD and each CD had recordings of interviews.
One particular issue was an interview with Seth Godin. I didn’t know who Seth Godin was and I hardly remember what the interview was about, but I’ll always remember the last line he spoke.
The interviewer asked Seth Godin for a piece of advice to get started. Seth’s response was …
“Start a blog, and write in it every day.”
I heard that advice and I thought to myself, “I can do that.” So that’s exactly what I did.
I started a blog and I wrote in it every day.
If you want to be a good writer, you have to first be a bad writer
I didn’t realize it at the time, but what Seth Godin was teaching me was the process of iteration.
Being great at something requires practice, but more importantly, greatness requires the willingness to fail in public.
That’s the difference between practice and iteration. Anyone can practice alone, but iteration requires feedback. When you iterate, you change your method in response to feedback you receive from an audience.
I don’t know anyone who is successful at anything that hasn’t continuously failed in front of other people. This is true in business, sports, parenting, relationships, and cooking.
Every 5 star chef has served food she wasn’t proud of. Every best selling writer has read bad poetry to their parents or friends, and every NBA All Star-has missed thousands of free throws in front of other people.
Success is predicated on your ability to execute, iterate, and adapt. It demands that you fail in public, observe the data points that your failure has provided, and then change your methods in accordance with what you’ve learned.
So when Seth Godin told me to start a blog and write in it every day, what he was really teaching me was how to share my ideas and allow them to be seen and judged and ridiculed, and then show up the next day to do it all over again.
It sounds simple, right? But it’s actually one of the hardest things in the world to do.
Because it requires you to fight against 250,000 years of evolution that has wired your brain to avoid danger at all costs.
Becoming a Linchpin
After that turning point in my life, I started taking Seth Godin’s work very seriously. I’ve read almost all of his books and his way of thinking became a philosophy that I built my work around.
In my journey, I read the book Linchpin. This book is in the list of top 5 most impactful books I’ve ever read.
The book taught me about the industrial revolution and how it molded our society into being factory workers, cubicle workers, and obedient cogs in the machine.
Even our education system is designed around the Prussian system of factory lines. Why do you think there is a bell at the end of your class? It’s exactly like the bell that rotates workers in and out of their shifts at the meat packing plant.
The book invites you to disrupt those cultural norms, and to become a Linchpin instead.
Linchpins are the essential building blocks of great organizations. They invent, lead, connect others, make things happen, and create order out of chaos.
The wheel on a wagon can’t spin without the Linchpin. It is indispensable. The machine can’t work without the Linchpin. That’s the type of person you want to become. You want to become indispensable.
Cultural modernism depends on Linchpins. The creative revolution we are living in is built around Linchpins. These are the people that you can’t live without.
These are the people that make connections, that can do the hard work that other’s can’t, who choose to relate and empathize, and who show up to do the work that matters.
You want to become a Linchpin.
Why your lizard brain is holding you back
Every organization has people that are indispensable. But if it were so simple, then why doesn’t everyone do it? Why isn’t everyone creating their best work and volunteering to make things better?
Why aren’t you where you want to be?
The answer … is your lizard brain.
The lizard brain is a metaphor for your amygdala. Your amygdala is a prehistoric part of your brain that sits directly on top of your brainstem and is responsible for keeping you out of danger.
You know when you cross the street without looking, and you see a car, and you instantly jump out of the way without thinking?
That’s your amygdala at work.
Your amygdala isn’t sophisticated and it can’t tell the difference between real physical danger and anxiety. Your anxiety was designed specifically to keep you safe from the saber-toothed tiger that could be stalking you in the bushes. If you hear a wrestling in the bushes, you run.
The problem is there are no more saber-toothed tigers in the bushes. You are safer now than you have ever been, but your amygdala hasn’t adapted to the modern age. The lizard brain doesn’t know the difference between being stranded alone on a desert island and being stranded alone in front of the blank page. If your lizard brain detects anxiety, it runs.
And it’s been doing that, with great success, for the last 250,000 years.
The reason you’re not successful isn’t because you’re stupid, or weak, or because you lack resolve. The reason is because you haven’t retrained your brain to push through what your lizard brain perceives as danger.
That’s why you don’t publish that blog post and it’s why you don’t publish the video you recorded last week that is still saved in your phone. Your lizard brain is the reason you don’t put your art on display and why you don’t get on stage of the local comedy club. Your lizard brain keeps you from singing karaoke and it keeps you from raising your hand at a conference.
In the not so distant past, there were potentially very harsh consequences for “speaking up.” If you spoke up, you may offend the chief and be kicked out of the tribe.
Your lizard brain keeps you from speaking up and from becoming a Linchpin.
That’s your problem.
This is the key ingredient to success
Success is dependent upon iteration. Iteration requires you to fail in public. But failing in public requires you to suppress the impulsive instinct of your lizard brain.
So to be successful, you have to train your mind to truly understand that putting your creative work into the world is not going to kill you.
It’s easier said than done, because the feeling of vulnerability does feel like a life and death struggle. People really are more afraid of public speaking than they are afraid of terminal illness.
But what other choice do you have? You must retrain yourself to know the truth.
Entrepreneurship isn’t a magical talent or something reserved for visionaries. You can become a Linchpin as long as you are willing to fail in public and use your failure as data points to continuously improve your process and ratchet your value upwards towards success.
It’s hard until it’s easy.
I am a Linchpin and I am not a Linchpin by accident. Rather, I became one through training my brain to know the difference between real danger and perceived danger.
And guess what?
You can be a Linchpin too.