One of the reasons I love this time of year is that I overindulge in one of my guilty pleasures, namely the consumption of umpteen year-end compendiums and best-of/worst-of lists. While spiced with a soupcon of hokum and Barnumism, these late-stage look-backs somehow manage to make sense of the previous 12 months by giving them a reflective perspective; one that is jaw-droppingly unimaginable by even the most proficient soothsayer at the head of the year.
It is with this spirit that I reviewed the 52 lessons I learned, and chronicled, in 2013 in order to formulate my own year-ender. And while I must admit that personally, 2013 wasn’t my favorite 365 days on earth (more tribulations, albeit minor, than triumphs), the three killer learnings throughout it managed to combine into a doctrine that forms an inspirational bellwether for 2014.
So, without any further ado, my Top Three Lessons Learned were:
- Life Doesn’t Listen to The Odds (Feb. 25)
- Discipline is the Obvious to Success (Aug. 5)
- Curiosity is More Important Than Imagination (Dec. 2)
Those of you who want a more thorough delving into each of the three can do so by clicking on the link and visiting the original post. But what struck me in going through, and evaluating, a year’s worth of learning and writing is how this trio forms the proverbial whole that is ultimately more than the proverbial sum of its parts.
Let’s work backwards. Lesson #3 was inspired by a quote from IAC’s Barry Diller, who said that these days, curiosity is more important than smarts. Knowing is one thing, but wanting to know is a whole other, and more valuable, trait.
And living in a time when the world’s collected knowledge is only a millisecond Google search away on your smartphone, the act of wanting to discover something to add to that reservoir of knowledge is of much greater importance…and impact.
But curiosity alone is not enough. It’s acting on it that completes and solidifies the concept, hence Lesson #2, which establishes the trait of discipline as an “obvious” (as opposed to a “secret,” get it?) to success. I hear this all the time: “Man, I thought of that years ago!” Trust me, so did hundreds of others who didn’t have the time, the courage, the capital, the drive, the capacity, the strength, the tenacity, the work ethic (I could go on) to convert the intangible thought into concrete reality.
Ideas are truly a dime a dozen; it’s grinding it out and putting them into action that makes one more than yet another gilt-edged dream floating in the ether. (Case in point is the re-imagination and de-stigmatization of the hearing aid, being driven by 77-year-old Rodney Perkins and his company Soundhawk. This is something I wrote about and took a couple of steps with seven years ago. The difference is that he persisted; I moved onto other things.
So this takes us to Lesson #1, which was about the cold, hard reality of success…and failure. Say you’ve managed to concretize your curiosity into something real. Congrats, but hold the celebration; there’s no guarantee that it stays real.
What I find intriguing in business is how people establish a system of “odds,” i.e. if “I take this route, or team up with this person, or get this much media hype, it will improve my odds of success.” Uh, not really, because in the end, no matter what your project is, the odds of success are the same—50:50. Either you make it, or you don’t.
I’ve seen some of the greatest, strongest, best-funded companies and ideas fail. And other seemingly half-assed, fly-by-the-seat-of-one’s-pants concepts soar. Ultimately, it’s all a coin toss; heads you win, tails you lose. Or vice versa.
You never know. But you’ll never find out until you try. That’s the ONLY way to improve the odds…from zero to 50:50.
So with 2014 hours away, the three top lessons of 2013 make up a roadmap for success in the New Year:
- Open your eyes and look beyond
- Grind it out
- Hope for the best/deal with the worst
Here’s to a year of learning, and better still, of teaching others.