“Invert, always invert: Turn a situation or problem upside down. Look at it backward.”
– Charlie Munger
For ambitious people, knowing what to do is not always enough. Sometimes, we need to know what not to do.
So, like Charlie Munger, I am going to use inversion and focus on what not to do to be successful. Specifically, I will focus on two mindsets to avoid in order to be successful.
Here’s the secret to success.
Mindset 1: Impatience
I’ve always been impatient.
In a video recorded on my first day of school, I looked as if boredom and impatience were slowly and surely killing me. I was 6 years old then.
In my view, impatience is a very one-sided negative trait.
Let me illustrate.
For most of my life, I’ve quit things that I didn’t like anymore because I got impatient about the speed of progress. Things weren’t moving fast enough.
Like a chimpanzee, I’d jump from branch to branch, hoping to find something that would excite me- something that would energize and stifle the crushing boredom I felt.
That all comes down to impatience.
Because of my impatience, I started two educations and dropped out of both. This was the time I realized that something was wrong.
It was not so much that I realized that impatience was at the bottom of my ailments. It was more on the idea that I needed to change something in my life.
When it comes to studying and getting a degree, things don’t happen overnight.
From this, I learned that things take time.
It might sound trivial but until I realized this, impatience held me back in a big way.
Conversely, patience is a trait you see in almost every successful person if you study their life and work.
A prime example of patience is Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart.
He opened his first store in 1945 and barely scraped by for the next few years. Then, things slowly started improving. After spending five years establishing himself as a retailer, he opened his first Ben Franklin store in 1950. A big move at the time.
Let us dwell on the fact that it took Sam Walton, one of the most successful businessmen of all time, five years before he no longer struggled. We’re not talking about success. We’re just talking about getting to a point where he doesn’t have to worry if his business is going to survive.
After this, he spent the next 12 years building a chain of Ben Franklin stores until he eventually owned 16. This is when he tasted the first modicum of success, 17 years after he started his first business.
This only happens with tremendous patience.
After spending 17 years building his retail business from the bottom up, Walton opened his first Walmart in 1962.
We all knew what happened next.
The point is that one of the most successful businessmen of all time worked his butt off for 20 years in the retail business before Walmart become a success.
Key lesson: If you want to be successful, avoid impatience like the plague.
Mindset 2: Arrogance
Another part of my personality that has held me back in the past is my arrogance.
I consider myself a pretty smart guy and sometimes, that spills over into thinking that I’m better than everyone. I am a master of the universe and don’t have anything to learn because I already know it all.
I’m sure you can see how these behaviors held me back.
It’s not that I disliked other people. I just thought I was better than them.
More intelligent, smarter, better-looking, and pretty much the bee’s knees. Whether or not this was objectively the case — which, most often, wasn’t — is beside the point.
The point is that this line of thinking is so counter-productive that it’s amazing I ever managed to accomplish anything at all.
Arrogance hampered me because it became a substitute for thought. A substitute for learning. A substitute for personal growth.
After all, why would I need to grow when I was already so amazing?
Want to know the worst part?
I was completely blind to it.
I had no idea how arrogant I was.
Let me illustrate.
When I started my first job, I was assigned a mentor. After the initial exchange of pleasantries, we got down to business. I realized pretty quickly that she didn’t have a university degree.
In my mind, at the time, that equated to being stupid. So, I assumed that she was stupid, which affected my attitude towards her as well as the people around me.
Coming straight out of school with this kind of arrogance, I’m sure you can imagine what happened next.
I was ostracized and had to move projects in order to work with other people- new people who didn’t know me.
This time, I tabled my arrogance as much as possible and lo and behold, my experience was completely different. People reacted differently to me. I felt better at work. It was easier to work with others and the quality of my overall experience increased exponentially.
The Humble-Pie Die
Have you ever wondered what it takes to become the richest man in the world?
Obviously, it takes tremendous patience because good things happen slowly. Less obvious is the fact that it requires complete lack of arrogance.
It requires a ruthless focus on learning from mistakes, a continuously expanding network of knowledge and magnificent people skills. These are all skills that would be impossible to attain in the face of arrogance.
So, who is this mystery man who has made a career (not to mention billions) from the humble-pie diet?
None other than investing legend Warren Buffett.
Buffett is one of my biggest idols. He is my idol because he combines one of the sharpest minds of several generations with a tremendous amount of humility. And this humility is what has helped him achieve the success that he has.
In his partnership letters, Buffett mostly writes about his mistakes, despite the fact that he wipes the floor with the market every year. His humility has allowed him to learn throughout his life and he has become one of the richest and most successful businessmen of all time because of it.
Key-Lesson: Eat your humble pie every day.
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