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Francis Galton, who authored the book Hereditary Genius in 1869 coined the term “nature versus nurture”. Galton argued that people had innate limits in what they could achieve in life, and regardless of the work they put in, they would never break past these predetermined boundaries. At which time, it’s best if they just accept it, stay within their boundaries and “find true moral repose in an honest conviction that he is engaged in as much good work as his nature rendered him capable of performing.” In other words, give up and be content.
This explains a lot of the thought patterns in our culture that surround great performers and the notion that they operate at an unattainable standard. You either have it or you don’t.
Over a hundred years has passed and the research continued. Hundreds of studies have been done on the subject; the employees who’s performance had plateaued for years, seemingly hitting their “rigidly determinate natural limits”, only to a see a consistent improvement in performance after new incentives were offered.
In his now famous paper, “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance”, Anders Ericsson concludes that “the search for stable heritable characteristics that could predict or at least account for superior performance…has been surprisingly unsuccessful.” Meaning after countless case studies, researchers found no relationship between natural talent and great performance.
However at the time of this paper, “natural talent” was still the favoured theory when it came to high achievers. To this the authors indicate, “the conviction in the importance of talent appears to be based on the insuffiency of alternative hypothesis.” Meaning people believe in ‘talent’ because they don’t have an alternative.
Siimon Reynolds suggested I read Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. The book goes into great performers from all fields, and examines how much of a part talent played in their success.
In examining the greats, the book highlights that very few of them were born with any real degree of talent.
Mozart was born to a father who was a professional music composer and an expert in teaching music, particularly to young men.
Tiger Woods was born to a professional golfer who also studied the most effective strategies for training young men. Before Tiger could walk, his father would take him to the garage, sit him in his high chair and start to hit golf balls in to a net in the garage. “It was as if he was watching a movie” Tiger’s father said.
The premise of the book is that talent, a natural aptitude in a specific field, does exist yet when it comes to being great in a particular field, it is irrelevant.
One of Tiger’s childhood coaches said that Tiger was like Mozart, according to these accounts, indeed he was.
Every year BRW magazine publish “The Young Rich List”.
The list includes the 100 wealthiest people in Australia under 40 and is read religiously by most people who are looking to create wealth.
Back yourself.While Gerry Harvey, founder of Harvey Norman, was closing down stores throughout the year to cut costs, Nigel and Tania Austin, co-founders of Cotton On, were opening three new stores a week over the 08/09 financial year. This aggressive approach to capturing market share has paid dividends for Cotton On.
This is not to say that had Gerry Harvey opened up more stores rather than shutting them down, then his wealth would not have dropped by $400 million in 12 months. But it is to say that there is always more than one approach and being greedy when others are fearful, can pay dividends in the long run.
Nigel and Tania Austin have seen their wealth jump from $125 million to $156 million, doing just that.
Focus on the people. Cotton On’s growth is highly aggressive, to the point where it has even drawn criticism recently by commentators who say that the growth is not sustainable. However Nigel Austin says that it’s the people in the business that have been able to ensure they have met their aggressive growth targets. “We spent a lot of money on management training to make sure our people have the right skills to drive growth.”
He attributes the success of Cotton On to, the “excellent managers right across Cotton On who are real leaders and business builders.”
Have clear targets. Given what the economy has done over the last 18 months, most entrepreneurs have not hit their financial targets. However in business as in life, it’s the goals we choose to set for ourselves and live by, that will influence our direction more than any external factor. It has been said that what lies in front of us, and behind us, is far less important than what lies within us.
As Shaun Bonett, number 5 on the list says, “I’ve found it makes me focus on managing for the longer term. It also helps to make all the challenges you are going through at a time like this feel like a worthwhile learning experience.”
Overall the Young Rich held up very well over the last 12 months. The Rich List, which includes the richest 200 people in Australia (mainly over 40 years of age), saw their wealth drop by 18 per cent this year. Whereas the wealth on the Young Rich List, only dropped by 4.5 per cent – a great achievement considering we have just experienced the worst financial crisis since the 1930’s.
Of all the people on the Young Rich List, none ended up there by accident.
Every year BRW magazine publish “The Young Rich List”. The list includes the 100 wealthiest people in Australia under 40 and is read religiously by most people who are looking to create wealth.
The more I have seen in business, the more I have learnt the importance of learning from people who have the results you are looking for. These days many people are willing to give advice, the question is what advice do you take on?
Given that the average wealth of the people listed in the Young Rich List is $65.5 million, I think we can trust that these people, at least for the most part, know how to make money. Everyone in the list is self-made and has therefore not inherited any of their wealth. James Packer has never been featured in the Young Rich List.
Think big, start small. “Before you achieve that first $1 million, you have to get your first dollar.” Phillip Di Bella started a coffee business in 2002, selling coffee to cafes. He would roast his own coffee in a machine that he rented and would then pack it and deliver it himself, doing the books for the business on his girlfriends computer.Sometimes people can have a romantic idea of what it is to be an entrepreneur, usually these ideals are shattered rather quickly when they realise that it’s not all glamour in the beginning.Having said that, it can pay off. Phillip Di Bella is now worth $47 million and is still dedicated to delivering a quality product to his loyal customers. “My promise to them, and it’s a very simple principle I’ve kept, is that I’ll do for my customers what others are not prepared to.”
Never too young. Trent Davis started his company NetBox when he was 22. This was his third business, after his first two businesses had failed. Learning from the first two businesses, Davis went into NetBox with what he calls a “one foot on the brake approach.”Now 32, David has built NetBox into a formidable company with annual sales of $30 million and 20 staff. Having started the business at 22, he remembers the sacrifices he had to make in order to get started early. “It was two-and-a-half years before I was taking home a proper wage, which is quite a long time to be living like a university student when you’re not at university anymore.”
Fake it until you make it. An important skill of any start-up or small business is to be able to look bigger than you are. Entrepreneurs are masters at giving the impression they are a large organisation, when in fact they live in a studio apartment and had to catch the tram just to meet with you.Stuart and Nicole Patterson started a building repair business when they were 24 and 23 respectively. Because they were dealing with large clients, they understood the importance of looking the part. They started the business in their rented two bedroom apartment – this was their office. Nicole would answer the phone as “the receptionist” and would direct the different calls to different people (different people being Stuart) in a number of different “departments”.Business is about delivery and it’s also about show-business. Thanks to such a convincing performance, Stuart and Nicole have grown Pattersons Building Group into a company with revenues of $42 million per year and 70 staff.Although the performance was a convincing one, they always understood the importance of delivery. “We delivered. We never failed a client. We had built a reliable network behind the scenes.”