Here’s the deal.
First, give me $1000.
Then, give me one name from ALL the people you know.
Now sit back and relax. From now on, you’ll get 10% of all their earnings. Forever. Month after month and year after year for the rest of their life. Guaranteed!
Who would you bet on?
Obviously you’ll want to pick the person who you’ve determined will be the most successful over the course of their life. But how do you pick? What criteria do you look for?
This question was posed by Warren Buffet to a group of graduating MBA students a few years ago. Warren Buffet has made a living from picking the right people. He is one of the richest people on the planet, not because he invents things or sells great products but because he bets on people. His business model is to find a company run by the right people, invest in it and let those people keep doing what they do. All the while collecting a small percentage in returns. By doing this, he’s built a company who’s stock is worth $210,500 per share (see BRK.A).
How does Buffet find his winners?
He looks at character. Specifically, there are three traits in a person’s character that lead to long-term sustainable success: Intelligence, Energy & Integrity
Intelligence | It’s not the person with the highest grades or the best SAT scores that possesses the intelligence required for success. It’s much more simple. It’s having the ability to assess situations quickly and make decisions that maximize opportunity while minimizing negative impact. It’s having adaptive intelligence. Adaptive intelligence, unlike I.Q. intelligence, is not inherent. It’s the ability to see the pole coming at you while you’re running and dodging just enough to avoid a full on blow but instead take a hit on your shoulders and keep running. It’s the ability to see the pattern before it fully emerges and adapt.
Energy | Energy is keeping yourself healthy and to develop a bias to action. People who have a tendency to take action over just thinking about taking action. It’s taking initiative even when the results are not too clear. It’s about having the physical vitality recover from a cold quickly and be back at work the next day to kick ass. It’s having the strength to mentally push yourself into action, to take on more than your share of the workload and a willingness to crush it every single day.
Integrity | This is the most important one of all. Seriously! Without integrity, the other two are worthless. In fact, they are dangerous. We all know that integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. But in this case, it’s more than that. Integrity is about being true to yourself. It’s about formulating a set of values and beliefs and then ensuring that every action, every thought and every part of your life is geared to align with those values.
So, who do you bet on?
What if I told you that there was one person in the world that you know, who you can pick and for that person you don’t have to give me the $1000. More importantly, you will get to keep 100% of the income they earn over their lifetime.
That person, my Korporate Klimbing friends, is YOU.
How? you ask?
The great thing is that none of the three qualities described above are inherent. These are not qualities that successful people are born with. They are self-selected. Each of these qualities can be learned, developed and perfected.
Conor Neill, professor at the prestigious IESE Business School in Spain, gives us tools to get started on developing each of the characteristics above.
Tools for success
Build intelligence | Adaptive intelligence is not something one needs to be born with. The ability to think on your feet and to be able to “pivot” at the right time can be taught.
Start by writing stuff down. Start a daily journal or diary. Spend five to ten minutes to write down the ideas you had today, the names of people you’ve met and describe the experiences you’ve had. By writing down ideas on a daily basis, six months from now, you won’t be the intelligence of one moment. Instead, you will have the accumulated intelligence of six months of ideas you’ve written down, of contacts you’ve made and of things you’ve learned. Write down your life. By documenting the learnings from your daily life, you will accumulate intelligence far beyond what you can get from mastering chess strategy or an MBA course.
Maximize energy | Deal with your day one step at a time. Focus your energy on small chunks of deliverables. Break large and complicated projects into small milestones that can be met quickly. High performance athletes don’t think about the finish line or the outcome at the end of the game. Instead, they focus on the next one minute, the next five minutes and what they have to accomplish in that small amount of time. Football quarterbacks focus on moving forward in inches and on moving ten yards at a time. They don’t focus on the outcome of the three hour game. They create short term goals and they meet them. Similarly, focus on the next task. Not on that deliverable due in three months.
Develop integrity | Integrity is a personal choice, an uncompromising and consistent commitment to honor your values and beliefs.
Do you know how a child spells love? T.I.M.E. List the top give things that you consider important to you. Your kids, your parents, your career, you hobbies etc. Now list the top five activities that take up most of your time. The five activities that fill up your calendar. Are they aligned? Most likely not.
The coherence between your time and your values is where integrity begins. So little of our time goes to the things that we mean to do. Integrity is spending your precious time on the things that matter to you. Each day, hundreds of tiny decisions are made on where you spend your time that are not aligned with your values. We find ourselves inadvertently spending hours on Facebook when we just meant to check in for a few mins. Time spent watching the latest reality show. Time spent on playing candy crush. More importantly, time spent on doing things for other people just to please them. Learn to say NO. Say no to the little temptations that suck your time away. The ones that distract you from the things that are important to you. Say no to the requests of others that are not aligned to your values.
Each one of these characteristics can be developed. More importantly, by turning these into habits, you ensure that they become part of your life.
All it takes is discipline. And practice. Lots. Of. Practice.
Will you bet on yourself?