How many times has your success depended on knowing something that
most people don't? The survey research I did for my new book, Business Brilliant,
uncovered just how frequently highly-successful people think and act
differently from the great majority of people with identical levels of
education and smarts.
There are certain elements of success that everyone agrees
on–ambition, hard work, persistence, and a positive attitude. But my
survey showed how some people have "business brilliance," a distinctive
take on getting ahead that is often at odds with the more pervasive
If you want to get an edge and separate yourself from the common
herd, take some cues from the seven beliefs and habits of the most
1. An equity position is necessary to get wealthy.
Ninety percent of the super-successful say this is true,
versus fewer than half of the masses. More importantly, 80 percent of
"business brilliant" people say they already have an equity
stake in their work. Just 10 percent of the middle-class have an equity
position of any kind, and the vast majority (70 percent) say they're not
even trying to get one.
2. I'm always looking to gain an advantage in my business dealings.
About 90 percent of "business brilliant" individuals say they
are always trying to grab an edge, compared with just about 40 percent
of the middle-class. Gaining even small advantages in a series of deals
can have a cumulative effect on your wealth, but since most people
aren't even looking for one, they're that much more likely to end up on
the disadvantaged side of every deal.
3. Doing things well is more important than doing new things.
Getting wealthy usually means you've taken an ordinary idea
and executed it exceptionally well. That's what 9 in 10 "business
brilliant" people believe. Most other people, though, think that wealth
requires a big, new idea. Unfortunately for them, big ideas are rare and
risky. Too many people are waiting on the sidelines for the perfect big
idea to come along, while the most successful people have jumped in the
game, and busily honed their skills at execution.
4. I hire people who are smarter than I am.
Exceptional execution requires those who are business
brilliant to focus on the two or three things they do very well. So they
get their work done by building teams with complementary capabilities.
Surveys show that most people, though, would rather learn to do tasks
they're bad at than get others to do them. The business brilliant know
that you get to the top because of your strengths, not your weaknesses.
5. It's essential I really understand my business associates' motivations.
If you're dependent on other talented employees, you'd best
know what makes those talented people tick. That's the belief of about
seven in 10 people in my "business brilliant" cohort, compared with
fewer than 20 percent of the middle-class. My survey suggests that your
willingness and desire to really get to know and understand your
business associates is a sure marker of success–and one that most
people don't have.
6. I can easily walk away from a deal if it's not right.
The "business brilliant" know that bad deals, like bad
marriages, can be painful–and costly. So if the deal on the table isn't
right, 71 percent say they have no problem cutting bait and moving on.
Only about 22 percent of the middle-class say the same. Most people are
willing to take their chances on deals that don't seem right from the
start, even though it's less risky to walk away.
7. Setbacks and failures have taught me what I'm good at.
Those who are "business brilliant" have, on average,
more failures than members of the middle-class. But they use those
failures to help them succeed on the next attempt. Just 17 percent of
the middle-class say they learn from their failures in this way, which
is really a shame. Everything worth trying contains an element of risk,
after all. If you fall on your face, you might as well learn from the
experience to help you succeed on your next try.