I am confident that we often study and celebrate the wrong things. We study and celebrate success. We read about the successes of business folks and assume by reading about their successes, we ourselves will be successful. Why does this happen? It happens primarily because victors tell the stories.
Perhaps the greatest gift of victory is the right to tell the story: to write the history. What do you expect from a successful person telling their story? The bad stuff? Most importantly, often successful folks don’t know why they are successful and often attribute it to just being them. This will not help you.
Disruption, hacking and discovery come from doing something different than everyone else in the game.
The “hackers” path to success lies in the study and learning of how to pivot from what others are doing. Hackers do things differently than everyone else.
Modern studies of success say it is a combination of some skill set and luck. In my experience, successful folks have awesome “soft skills” which are often mistakenly perceived as luck. Unlike luck, soft skills are learnable and teachable. If you are a manager, it is your job to cultivate these skills in others, and your responsibility to learn and keep your soft skills sharp. As an employee, associate or worker, this is as important — I would argue more important, than your technical skills.
I am working on my sixth and seventh books simultaneously. One is Managing Snowflakes, about bringing out the best in others by honing their unique and individual soft skills; the other is The Success Hackers Guide to the Galaxy, a guide for new employees on the soft skills that will lead them to success in any organization. This essay is for the Success Hackers book.
Soft Skills That Lead to Success
If you look at books on soft skills, you will find checklists of skills like:
- team work,
- patience and
- persistence (and dozens of others).
These are important skills, but they are very conceptual.
In my new book, The Success Hackers Guide to the Galaxy, I will provide extremely simple and practical soft skills that aren’t conceptual, but rather actionable. There are heuristics, rules of thumb, that you can commit to follow and put on a sticky note next to your computer or on your calendar or PDA, that can dramatically increase your chances of succeeding. They are actionable and they will make a difference.
Step One: A Step Ahead
My first essay in this series is a perfect example. One of the best soft skills is something I call “A Step Ahead.” Maybe a conceptual soft skill would be thinking ahead or planning ahead. Forget those in favor of being ahead. A simple example will illustrate.
Real-Life Examples: A Step Ahead
Five years ago we were shopping for a substantial line of credit. Our Request for Proposal (“RFP”) went to five of the top banks in the United States. The RFP outlined a timetable. For purposes of illustration, the RFP said that indications of interest in the loan were due in two weeks, and a meeting should be scheduled with us to meet in that time frame. A soft commitment was due in four weeks. A binding intent to lend was due in six weeks. All due diligence needed to be done in eight weeks, and the loan should close in ten weeks.
What happened next was interesting. All five banks indicated an interest and scheduled a meeting. At the first meeting four of the five banks brought a signed indication of interest. The fifth bank skipped a step and brought instead a soft commitment to lend. It was as if they didn’t get our email.
Likewise, in two weeks, while all other banks brought a soft commitment, they brought a binding intent to lend. This continued throughout the process. This bank, at least through its representatives, was always two weeks ahead of everyone else. Guess who got the business?
Several years ago, after the above experience, we were courting one of the largest corporations in America to provide staffing and project support services. We got a meeting with procurement. In the spirit of A Step Ahead, I brought our form contract (signed, mind you) to the meeting (even though it was the first meeting).
While I didn’t figure they would sign our contract as they would have their own form, I brought it anyway. When we got to the end of the meeting, which had gone pretty well, procurement said, “Well, maybe we will give you a shot.” I said, “Thanks, we are ready to get started. I have a contract with me.”
The procurement representative said, “We have our own form.” I said, “Do you accept any modifications to your form?” He said, “No, we don’t.” I said, “Well, bring it to me, I am authorized to sign.” He said, “Nobody has ever said that before. I will email it to you right after the meeting.” Before I got to the airport, I got the contract via email, printed it at the airport, signed it and sent it back.
How Can You Be A Step Ahead?
Every time you get a project or assignment, ask yourself, “What will everyone else do and think is good enough?” Then you think about how you can get the edge by being A Step Ahead.
If you want to stand out. If you want to succeed. If you want to be a Success Hacker, it is not enough to do a good job. It is not enough to be on time. It is not enough to have good EQ. You should plan and work towards being A Step Ahead.
Managing Snowflakes and The Success Hackers Guide to the Galaxy are titles for books that are in process, and titles of essays already published. I reserve all rights to those terms in this context.
Cash Nickerson, firstname.lastname@example.org
photos courtesy of unsplash
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