As they say, records are meant to be broken. But how about completely shattering the world record that was previously set at 33 minutes and 24 seconds, setting the new best time to beat at 6 minutes and 28 seconds?
Sound impossible? This was the feat accomplished by Nathan Parkinson when he beat the world record for completing Mario on the classic Nintendo gaming system in 2007.
I’m not talking about cheating with shortcuts; I’m talking about accelerating success, utilizing lateral thinking and leveraging “Smartcuts.” Shane Snow distills his growth philosophies down in his book Smartcuts, providing insights into how this is possible.
I want to take three of those philosophies that I found most useful and expound on them so you can apply them to your career to accelerate your success achieve rocketship growth.
1) Rapid Feedback — Why failure is not all it’s cracked up to be
Romanticized by pithy quotes in Silicon Valley, failure is becoming more socially acceptable. People and companies are willing to push the boundaries and take more risks. In fact, I would go as far as to say the stigma has morphed into something people strive for; a badge of honor.
Let’s all go out and try crazy, risky things with no regard for failure!
No so fast…
Let’s take a deeper dive into the data and numbers. A group of Harvard researchers did just that, comparing entrepreneurs who had failed in a previous business and people who had never had any business experience. Surprisingly, people with experience had no advantage. However, the research shows having one successful venture under your belt will give you a 50% better success rate on your next venture.
And now the dilemma arises — how do you succeed without already having succeeded?
It turns out that the distinguishing factor of failure, whether failure will lead to success, is what we attribute the failure to. This fundamental attribution error happens when we put too much weight on internal factors rather than unrelated external forces to account for the outcome of a situation. In other words, we internalize our failures.
Another key factor is when we get feedback. Often times, you won’t get feedback right away. Long term investments, for example, where it’s high risk and high pressure.
Hiten Shah, who is somewhat of a Silicon Valley celebrity, was one of the first people I met after moving out West. A key takeaway from our conversation was this: go beyond failing fast; fail in as small chunks and low risks as possible.
Let’s look at Upworthy, a media site for viral content. With roughly 30 million monthly visitors, which is nothing to scoff at. A key to their success is to split test headlines and photos (immediate feedback) among small groups of viewers (low risk) to find which pulls best. They then push that content to the masses (This is an over-simplified representation of Upworthy’s process, but it will suffice to get the point across.)
First off, leave your ego at the door so you can receive sufficient self-esteem to be humble when receiving negative feedback. Understand that it’s not an attack on you.
How can you test your next campaign in small chunks? How can you minimize the pressure and stakes if it fails? How can you set up conditions to get immediate feedback to learn and iterate?
2) Hacking Career Growth — Becoming a writer for WIRED in 6 months flat
If you want to make it to the top, you have two options — 1) do your work, put in the time and pay your dues or cut your teeth with one company to prove you can make it, then climb that corporate ladder. 2) Climb to the top of one job, then when you can no longer grow, find another job, one that is slightly better, thus hacking the career ladder.
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Shane Snow, himself, hacked the ladder when he wanted to start writing for WIRED Magazine. He could have gotten a shitty job as an intern and put his nose to the grindstone until he got noticed and promoted to a permanent position. He could have climbed the corporate ladder one step at a time.
Instead, he asked the right questions to uncover the quickest path to gaining the minimum required credibility that would take him to the next level. He asked himself what sites convey to WIRED that, “This guy has what it takes to write for us.” Then he repeated this process for every site, until he found a site that he could write for immediately. Once he became a “regular contributor” and worked his way back up until he was writing for WIRED. This is what his path looked like:
The Next Web > Gizmodo > Mashable > Fast Company > WIRED
He used the “Frank Sinatra Rule.” Made famous in his timeless song, Frank sings, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere” (“there” is referring to New York, a place that everyone aspires to “make it” in). The cache alone has the ability to give you a reputation.
Total time: 6 months.
Ryan Holiday has a similar approach to quickly getting his stories on big sites like New York Times and Huffington Post, which he calls “trading up the chain.”
What is your end goal (e.g., become a regular contributor for WIRED)? What is the minimum required credibility, experience or expertise to get there? Once you get to the ground level, what is the very next step for you to start working your way back up? How can you trade up the chain?
3 ) Influencers and Superconnectors — Leverage that lets you reach the masses
Which is more efficient for getting your brand message out to the masses — individually emailing 1,000 people or broadcasting a single message out to 1,000 people at once? Obviously the latter (if you’re a regular reader of the Engagio blog and are confused why I just advocated for mass communication, for the sake of this example, bear with me). This is what Shane Snow is talking about when he uses the term Superconnectors. He writes, “The act of making mass connections by tapping into hubs with many spokes.”
Initially popularized in the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, the terms connectors refers to people who have a broad group of friends and are able to influence them. superconnectors are a subset of connectors that takes this idea one step further. The connector uses his/her influence to introduce you to the social circle, giving you the ability to now influence many individuals at once. Superconnectors can also be companies like Apple, media outlets like the “New York Times” or even products, like the TV and radio.
However, you need to be careful; there are givers and there are takers. True superconnectors are givers — always generous, advocating in the interest of others, mentoring, sharing credit or making connections, even when they’re at the top.
A great example of this application given in Smartcuts comes from Jack Canfield when he marketed and published Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul. He Superconnected into networks by partnering with a national pet food supply chain and offered a 50% off coupon for his book to anyone who bought a 50-pound bag of dog food. This was a win-win.
Focusing first on giving. Serendipity has a way of giving back, and superconnectors are more generous to those who give rather than take.
Who do you know that is tapped into a network that would be valuable to you or your business? What can you offer them?
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This post explores just three of nine ways to achieve greatness from Shane’s book Smartcuts. I highly encourage you to pick up the book and learn how to beat the 10,000-hour rule, why a physics guru says high-level math, how to mentor with anyone, why overnight success is a myth, how to beat the S&P 500, and what the secret is to Steve Jobs’ innovation. With these nine growth secrets, you too can accelerate success in marketing and in your career.