Successful people present a conundrum to those seeking to achieve something similar. We try to learn from and emulate those who we see as ideal, but that’s not always effective.
A recent study shows that students who learned that great scientists struggled, both personally and intellectually, outperformed those who learned only of the scientists’ great achievements. Knowing that people like Albert Einstein and Marie Curie didn’t just breeze into their success is empowering.
Older research reveals that we learn more from what not to do than what to do. Firefighters trained with case studies that focused on others who had made poor decisions and suffered adverse consequences ultimately showed better judgment and better adaptive thinking than a control group provided with case studies that focused on positive results.
So, in a nutshell … we do better when we know that succeeding is challenging for everyone, no matter who you are. And we learn better from the mistakes of others rather than focusing only on what worked.
So what’s the common trait? If it’s not infallible talent and super-human confidence, what do we need to cultivate in order to succeed?
The Show Notes
- Teens do better in science when they know Einstein and Curie also struggled
- How People Learn to Become Resilient
- The “What Not to Wear” Guide to Breakthrough Blogging
- Digital Commerce Summit
The Trait All Successful Freelancers and Entrepreneurs Share
Caroline Early: So, Brian, are you ready for your big round the world trip to the Philippines?
Brian Clark: I guess so. I mean, it’s going to be rough to be out of town for that long, but I’m excited. I’ve never been to that side of the world, but I’ve also never been on a plane for 24 hours, which is what is involved. And I’m in business class, thank God. But still, that’s a long time to be in a big flying tube.
I’m going to Chris Ducker’s Tropical Think Tank. He asked me to do it last year and I agreed, even though I am not doing any other speaking this year except for our own event in October, Digital Commerce Summit.
Caroline Early: Oh yeah, and I heard a big rumor that CAKE might be playing this year. Is that true?
Brian Clark: I can neither confirm nor deny such irresponsible speculation.
Caroline Early: Yeah, I’m sure.
Voiceover: Welcome to Unemployable, the show for people who can get a job, they’re just not inclined to take one — and that’s putting it gently. In addition to this podcast, thousands of freelancers and entrepreneurs get actionable advice and other valuable resources from the weekly Unemployable email newsletter. Join us by registering for our Free Profit Pillars Course, or choose to sign up for the newsletter only at no charge. Simply head over to Unemployable.com, and take your business and lifestyle to the next level. That’s Unemployable.com.
Brian Clark: Hey, Everyone, welcome to Unemployable. I am Brian Clark. I am joined today with Caroline Early. Caroline, how are you?
Caroline Early: I’m doing well.
Brian Clark: Good, good. Let’s see, what do we have to take care of before we dive into today’s topic?
Oh yes, we have been chastised for forgetting to say that we are a part of the Rainmaker.FM podcast network, which is brought to you literally by the Rainmaker Platform, which you can check out if you would like to build your own marketing and sales platform. That’s at rainmakerplatform.com.
What Do Successful Entrepreneurs Have in Common?
Brian Clark: Today, we’ve got a whole flurry of great articles that we came across and they all kind of connect together, so we decided that this would be the theme of today’s podcast. What is the thing that all successful entrepreneurs and freelancers have in common? A lot of people think it’s talent or extreme confidence or this or that.
I ran across this great article, and it’s really not about entrepreneurism or unemployableness at all. It was about the fact that kids — this was an amazing experiment. These kids did better at science when their perception of famous scientists changed.
It changed in the sense that when these kids were told that Albert Einstein and Marie Curie, people like that, struggled in order to achieve the things that they did in science, all of a sudden the kids were like, “Oh, okay, I can do this.” As opposed to perhaps, “This is some unattainable person. This is an unattainable task. I am not good enough to be able to do this.”
Caroline Early: Yeah, that makes sense, basically seeing others struggle, I can definitely see how that relates to our audience.
Learning from Mistakes
Brian Clark: It really does.
First of all, you’ve got this media portrayal of entrepreneurs as “other” — like they’re infallible and they’re superhuman and they don’t make mistakes and all that, which is of course not true. You could be Elon Musk or you could be a struggling freelancer –everyone faces adversity. I mean, that’s really the name of the game. Solving problems is never just effortless.
So that was something that I thought was relatable, but it really made me think about this show and the way we’ve approached the topic of interviewing entrepreneurs and talking about their journey. Invariably, they started off small and they kind of made their mistakes and fought their way and they succeed, but people only see the current success and they don’t realize how people got there.
It also brought to mind another thing. If you’re really trying to serve an audience and teach them something, you’ve got these kind of guru types out there who present themselves in that mythical way, like they do no wrong. They’re super confident – “Here’s what to do, just be like me.”
And yet, I recalled, I actually wrote an article about this way back. There was a study in 2006 that showed that people learned better from mistakes than they learn from being told what to do. This was in the context of firefighters. So, it’s like life or death, “If you do this, you get burned or hurt or killed.” And they actually learned better from other firefighters who had made mistakes and suffered the consequences.
It’s kind of the same thing here. If you’re really trying to help freelancers go to the next level, entrepreneurs go to the next level, you can talk about what to do, but you’ve also got to talk about what not to do. It’s like that show — remember What Not To Wear?
Caroline Early: Great show.
Brian Clark: Yeah, I know, but they lead with, “Oh, train wreck.” And then they tell you how to assemble a wardrobe the correct way. They don’t lead with that. And it’s funny that research backs up that that’s the best way to teach people.
So, we’re going to talk plenty of times about what not to do, mistakes that are made, etc.
I had some guy on Twitter say, of the nine businesses I’ve started, he wanted to hear about the first one that failed. I think we’ll definitely do a future episode on that, because there’s a whole lot to unpack there if we learn from mistakes.
The Role of Resilience
Caroline Early: Yeah, definitely. There’s a lot to learn from challenges.
Sort of going off of that, I just read an article this morning actually in The New Yorker written by Maria Konnikova, who actually was recently on The Writer Files. So you guys should check out that interview as well.
But this particular article was about the topic of resilience. This idea that even if people have challenges and obstacles that they overcome, maybe those things help build up their resilience and make them stronger, make them able to do more. There were two things that jumped out at me, specifically.
The first was when she says, “From a young age, resilient children tended to meet the world on their own terms. They were autonomous and independent, would seek out new experiences and had a positive social orientation.”
The second was, “Perhaps most importantly, the resilient children had what psychologists call an internal locus of control. They believe that they, not their circumstances, affected their achievements.”
Brian Clark: Yeah, exactly, that’s the word — resilience. That’s the trait that all successful people who make it on their own without a job have.
There’s a reason why I sign off with “Keep going.” I also do that over at Further, because keeping pushing forward actually is the thing that makes us happy. It gives us well-being, and yet, that’s the path to the more external material rewards as well. So, resilience, yes.
It’s very interesting those two quotes that you pulled out, because doesn’t that just describe the unemployable type right there? Which maybe leads you to believe that a certain type of person from childhood is going to be the type who becomes an entrepreneur or who goes out on their own in some way and continues on from that way. That’s interesting. But I don’t think in my case that I was all that resilient until I was about 30, honestly.
I mean, people will say, “Okay, you graduated from college, you graduated at the top of your class in law school. What are you talking about?” But that was just me not wanting to fail and be a loser. I mean, that’s not resilience. That’s almost like the wrong motivation.
But once I got out on my own and understanding full well that it is a matter of solving problems constantly and that it’s not a walk in the park, then that’s really where I got super resilient.
So, I don’t know that we’re born this way or that our childhoods necessarily make people resilient. But Maria’s article certainly makes the case that some kids who face terrible adversity — remember what we talked about in the last episode about something happening in your childhood that makes you forge ahead and keep going and have something to prove? Maybe, I don’t know, but it’s interesting.
I don’t think it’s universal, because I think just taking the leap is an exercise in forced resilience right there.
I’m sure we could go on and on talking about resiliency and how important that is. But I do indeed have to get on a plane very, very early in the morning tomorrow and begin my journey to the other side of the world.
For the next two weeks while I’m gone and recovering from jet lag, we’re going to have four great interviews for you, two each week. It’s really good stuff. I hope you enjoy it and I will be back to talk to you soon.
But probably more importantly at this point, the Digital Commerce Summit happening in October, the super early bird pricing is ending next week. So, if you’re interested in that, please sign up at these super early bird prices. It’s a steal, you can even bundle in the Academy for an even better deal.
So, yeah, head over to digitalcommerce.com, check it out. Yes, there is some very special entertainment that will be there and we will be announcing that soon, but don’t wait.
All right, Everyone, thanks so much for tuning in and keep going.