Julien Smith wrote an excellent post yesterday: “Future Kings and Paupers: Why Making $1,000,000 is Only the Beginning.” It explores how an emerging class of people are using a complex understanding of systems and games to effectively “hack” their lives in a way that invariably leads to financial and career success. Success on their terms.
He asks important questions:
How can you tell if someone can be a leader, or if they’ll be successful? How can you tell if they have initiative, or if you can trust them?
The answer isn’t:
- What college did they get their degree from
- What their GPA was
- How many followers they have on Twitter
- Where they think they’ll be in five years
Here’s his answer:
Ask them to do something unusual (like a bet). Or, question the way they’re doing things and see how they react to a totally different method of thinking.
Their reaction is based in their ability to deal with change and experimentation, and the ability to experiment is directly related to their real-life success.
The basic difference is whether you are willing to test your environment and lead an experimental life. And it is a trait that is taught to us by our environment– by games, by seeing other people doing it, and by seeing inefficient models of reality (such as school=success) that we can choose to avoid.
It sounds a lot like their ability to use strategically use divergent thinking is key to overcoming these challenges.
Julien’s clearly onto something, but I want add a few things to the discussion:
The challenge matters
It has to be compelling and it typically has to align with someone’s passion. Challenging Tim Ferris to put on 35 pounds of muscle in a month is a lot different than challenging Chris Guillebeau to see if he can climb P&G’s corporate ladder in 5 months time. Tim cares about body hacks; Chris cares about unconventional ideas for life, work and travel. In his mind Chris has likely already overcome that challenge by not having to climb any corporate ladders this year.
There’s an inherent attribute at work among the emerging class
Maybe it can be learned. Maybe we all have it within us as children and our current education system strips of us it along the way in our effort to regurgitate facts and formulas that probably won’t matter in a job interview, in a group project, in a public speech.
Those of us writing online blogs, participating in Twitter chats, traversing the country, living location independent, eating Paleo diets, etc. are typically the exception to the rule. A vocal exception at that.
The vast majority of people are content not raising their hand, don’t have the foggiest idea what an RSS feed is, haven’t left their state, are overweight, and would be completely opposed to the notion of challenging inefficient models and leading an experimental life. They might not like that cubicle, but it’s comforting in there and that paycheck comes every two weeks. (At least until it doesn’t.)
What trait do they seemingly all possess?
You’ve probably guessed it by now.
It’s why Ramit has a whole team behind the scenes split testing the hell out of copy and scouring through advanced metrics of every e-mail he sends out as part of his Earn 1K course.
It’s why Chris Brogan knows exactly which posts will get the most views, re-tweets, and comments before he ever hits publish.
It’s why we use tools like Crazy Egg.
It’s why some people are never satisfied, have an insatiable desire to continue learning well after their formal education is over, surround themselves with like-minded people, and find themselves pursuing something they’re passionate about. That’s when the expertise comes. That’s when people become happy. And that’s when they’re ultimately successful.
Maybe you can tell by watching them navigate a waterfall, but I’m not certain they’d even get in the boat without unrelenting curiosity.
How had curiosity played a role in your own education? Does formal education strip us of our curiosity? How can we cultivate it? Who do you know that is ridiculously curious? How has it impacted their life?
I think Julien’s sparked an important discussion and I want all of you to be part of it (if you want). How do curiosity, the notion of challenge, systems and games, inefficient models, and education all intertwine? I’m curious what you have to say.