Good investors discover good leaders. Great investors discover great entrepreneurs.
Not only is it impossible to ‘make’ a great entrepreneur, it is also very hard to discover one. They just show up at a certain point, often after most people have ignored them.
You cannot see them coming. They do not fit the stereotype of people who have been successful in the past; they are different. We all know that obsession and resilience are among the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, but I think there is something else that contributes to their success: their diversity.
Diversity is a common element of successful innovators.
Our brains are well-versed in identifying patterns. We are good at looking at the characteristics of people who have been successful in the past and matching them against the traits of newcomers. Our parents, friends and bosses try to help us fit the pattern with their advice: “you should study there, you should meet these people, you should dress this way, you should do that in a certain way”. They want you to be successful and they try to match you to the pattern. They really want to help. What they don’t understand is that they are limiting your diversity, and that in doing so, they are restricting the extent of your success. Forcing someone to conform to the pattern helps to create a moderately successful person, but truly successful people are outliers. They don’t follow the pattern – they define new ones.
They are dropouts, they are left-handed, they have dyslexia, they have emotional disorders, they are immigrants, minorities, naive, bullied, troubled, and most of the other things that normal people would consider a limitation. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk: they all fit into more than one of these categories.
What I just wrote probably set your mind racing as you try to identify a new pattern for success. But this is still the wrong approach. The next innovators will be different again.
Each thing that makes you different gives you an unfair competitive advantage. Huge opportunity exists where society has overlooked excellence because of biased pattern matching from past success. You see the world from a different perspective. You encounter, face, prevent and solve problems that others never become aware of. You have a different view, and you train yourself to resolve issues.
We are all diverse. No two human beings are completely alike. Your diversity is an asset that you are probably not leveraging. If you want to be truly successful, accept, embrace and love diversity. Invest in your diversity and don’t let anyone limit it.
If you don’t want to invest in your diversity, at least respect it: you’ll probably end up working for someone diverse.