These are some superpowers that I’ve observed in business and investing over the years, in no particular order of importance. They’re all important. No one possesses them in equal measure but most successful people I’ve known possess a little bit of each of them:
Do you have some of these five traits? They’re more important than intelligence, because at a certain level you become surrounded by people with intelligence. That becomes table stakes.
Restraint – another way of saying discipline. I’ve always been taught that discipline means putting aside what you want NOW in order to achieve what you want MOST. I struggle with this every day. Restraint is a superpower. A guy I met has this fantasy where on the day he retires, he takes his list of everyone who has wronged him, personally or professionally, and drives right to their houses to settle the score, when it can no longer wreck his business. I was like “You mean, like a revenge road trip?” He’s like “Yeah, I make a map and just go until every one of these garbage people have been paid back.” I asked “But have you considered that by then, with all your goals accomplished, you won’t still be angry anymore?” He’s like, “You don’t understand, the more time that passes, the more revenge I want. It’s gonna be ugly.” I guess I can relate to that, and maybe entertaining this fantasy is what he needs in order to practice restraint. This guy has millions of dollars, by the way. I’m trying to stay on his good side 🙂
Curiosity – there are people who wake up in the morning and fortify their own mental state by assuring themselves that they know everything they need to know in order to make it through the day. I can see this being helpful in the short term but I cannot picture it being healthy in the long term. It’s good to have prior points of view. It’s even better to deliberately update those priors on a regular basis and to ask a lot of questions in order to do so.
Creativity – can you imagine things as they might be someday and not get overly bogged down in how they are today? Reed Hastings understood that mailing DVDs at the dawn of the internet era was just a temporary, but necessary, state of affairs. He knew there would be a time that delivering streaming media over the web would become feasible, it just wan’t feasible yet. That took imagination. The tools available to us today are rapidly advancing, which is opening up new possibilities for improving everything we’re doing – but we’re never quite there yet. There’s always the next thing, but you have to be able to imagine it before it comes along. And then you’ve got improvise, using what’s available now while we wait on the new possibilities to arrive. Which requires us to be curious. What else is out there on the horizon? What else can I learn so that I will be ready?
Patience – another one I struggle with but all of the people I admire seem to have this trait in spades. Similar to restraint, but requiring a different type of self-control. A longer lasting self-control that can see you through periods of slow growth, no growth and setbacks that take you back several squares on the board. You have to know that most of the success stories you’ve encountered involved long periods of waiting, hoping and struggling off-camera. In the modern era, we are surrounded by stories of what appears to be overnight success, people becoming millionaires in a matter of months and years rather than decades. It’s incredibly frustrating to live through if you’re not progressing yourself. This is the source of most of the bitterness and nastiness on social media. It’s hard to be patient when it feels as though no one else has to play by the same rules. You have to remind yourself that your time is going to come, so long as you keep at it and continue to build on each minor victory and learn the lessons of each temporary defeat. Easier said than done.
Courage – I have found that it’s better to not even think about this one. It will bubble up from beneath the surface when you need it. There will come a moment where you have to do something despite knowing that it may hurt you or be unpopular or feel like pain and punishment. This might be sticking up for somebody who is friend or an ally. This might mean making a business decision that people will be mad at you for because they cannot see things from your perspective. This might mean taking on a bully knowing you will not survive the encounter without some cuts and bruises yourself. Don’t ask yourself whether or not you are courageous enough to do so – ask instead whether or not it’s the right thing to do. Ask yourself how you will feel if the moment passes and you haven’t done what you know you should. And then the courage will arrive to bolster you as you take this action. If your intentions are pure and you are willing to follow through, the courage will flow naturally from this righteousness as though it were a wellspring.
It’s not enough to merely posses Restraint, Curiosity, Creativity, Patience and Courage – you must actively put these qualities to use, on a regular basis, in order for them to truly become your superpowers. If you do, you will someday look back at the transformative moments of your career and realize that these superpowers had been there all along, even before you knew that they were truly at your command.