Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It
Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It

Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It

The future is a land of which there are no maps. —A. J. P. TAYLOR (Location 68)

Man cannot create the current of events. He can only float with it and steer. —OTTO VON BISMARCK (Location 70)

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. —Apple ‘Think Different’ commercial, 1997 (Location 72)

unreasonable success n. 1. such success in changing the world, that it might seem unreasonable for any individual to have so much impact 2. success that is unexpected, and was not predicted when the individual was young or early in their career 3. success that goes well beyond what the individual’s skills and performance seem to warrant 4. success based on leaps of intuition rather than on logic and reason (Location 75)

Raw talent is one thing, but circumstances enable rapid accumulation of experience; without these particular circumstances we might never have heard of The Beatles. (Location 92)

The trouble with this theory is not that it is wrong for the people that Gladwell cites, but that there are many more cases of extraordinary success which don’t fit the template of ‘early accumulation of experience’. (Location 93)

what if we could map success in a way that isolates the causes of their remarkable success for almost any high achiever? (Location 95)

But underneath the blur of local circumstances and personal idiosyncrasies, is there a common map that successful people followed which shows the way forward? It took me a long time to find it, but I think it exists. (Location 101)

I was surprised to find – although in retrospect I should have expected this – that there were a few landmarks which were so powerful that they were almost universally present. (Location 105)

Anyone who has studied history knows well that the way individuals react to the strange, unexpected crosscurrents of events in their life greatly affects success or failure. (Location 108)

Successful people typically don’t plan their success. Instead they develop a unique philosophy or attitude that works for them. They stumble across strategies which are short-cuts to success, and latch onto them. Events hand them opportunities they could not have anticipated. Often their peers with equal or greater talent fail while they succeed. (Location 109)

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They stumble across strategies which are short-cuts to success, and latch onto them. Events hand them opportunities they could not have anticipated. Often their peers with equal or greater talent fail while they succeed. (Location 110)

I define success as achieving something you regard as worthwhile – as getting to a destination which makes you feel proud and fulfilled. (Location 123)

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But what is unreasonable success? I define it by four characteristics: •  It is a very high degree of success in changing the world the way an individual wants to, so that it might seem remarkable or even unreasonable for one person to have such impact. •  It goes well beyond what their skills and performance seem to warrant. •  It is unreasonable in the sense that the person’s success appears to stem not so much from the use of logic and reason as from inexplicable leaps of intuition. (Location 125)

•  Unreasonable success has an element of surprise, out of all proportion to what would have been predicted from the person when they were young, or, sometimes, well into their career. (Location 135)

Yet, if success is a continuum, it is also ‘fractal’. Fractal means that the pattern is endlessly varied but endlessly similar; the small scale is a miniature version of the big scale. (Location 144)

Human nature, too, is the same. The way the universe treats you can be terrific or terrible but is always subject to reversals of fortune. This book exists to reveal the few universal landmarks we can look out for to help us on the way. (Location 150)

Rather, they turned out to be successful because they were fortunate enough to have the attitudes, experiences and strategies that lead to success. They visited the landmarks without knowing that they were situated on the map to fame or fortune. In some cases, they were just plain lucky to run into the landmarks. In others, they had the character or inclination that led them to do the right thing. (Location 160)

Accidents of history and tiny localised incidents decide who will be elevated to greatness. (Location 165)

it. If we understand how success and failure are meted out, and if we adjust our minds to be alert to impending failure or absent opportunities, we can greatly improve our chances. (Location 169)

The landmarks fall into two broad categories – ‘attitude’ and ‘strategy’. (Location 171)

‘Attitude’ encompasses the main psychological characteristics likely to facilitate unreasonable success. (Location 171)

‘Strategy’ comprises the experiences, personal philosophies and objectives pursued by the players, as well as the assistance they contrived to garner from their own organisations and collaborators. (Location 174)

Improving our performance is far less likely to produce the results we want than having the appropriate attitudes and strategies. (Location 176)

The first landmark is self-belief. If we don’t have strong self-belief, it’s almost impossible to become unreasonably successful. (Location 178)

by tracing how self-belief developed for our players, we can work out how to acquire it. (Location 179)

Another landmark is transforming experiences. Our players typically had one or two such experiences, and without them would not have achieved success and notoriety. (Location 184)

One breakthrough achievement is another landmark. Our players mostly had one achievement which changed the world around them, propelling them to high fortune. Not several achievements; just one. (Location 186)

A word of warning: nobody can guarantee high achievement. The odds are always against huge success. Only a fool would dare to say how it might happen. (Location 191)

Of course I am an egotist. What do you get if you aren’t? —WINSTON CHURCHILL (Location 345)

Magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that, you can make anything happen. —JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE (Location 347)

The essential starting-point for success – the first landmark – is self-belief. All our case studies of great success manifested – sooner or later – a firm base of self-belief. (Location 350)

Self-belief can start – as it did in about half the people I studied – with a vague general belief in their ‘star’ or destiny. (Location 354)

Sometimes unthinking confidence in one’s future seems to have been encouraged by the achievements of parents, or even distant forebears. (Location 358)

Today we tend to think of a mentor relationship as something well-defined and almost contractual. (Location 429)

It may be better to define a mentor as someone who has a deep impact on one’s life and served as either a role model or an instructor – whether the mentor was fully, partly or not at all aware of their influence on us. (Location 430)

The most important thing a mentor can do is to galvanise and infuse us with their spirit, so that our self-belief is enhanced and focused on what similar or greater ends we can attain. (Location 437)

The case of Albert Einstein is fascinating and encouraging. Neither his mother’s nor his father’s family histories boasted any academic or other worldly distinction – they were Jewish tradesmen and peddlers making a modest living in rural southwest Germany. (Location 443)

His grades at school up to the age of sixteen were poor – he resented being told to learn by rote and was quietly rebellious. (Location 446)

He was relentlessly curious about the universe, imagining what it would be like to ride along a light beam. (Location 449)

Here we can see Einstein’s self-belief shining through; he was admitted to the Polytechnic. Nevertheless, he graduated close to the bottom of his cohort. (Location 456)

Still, he was able to complete his duties there in two or three hours each day, spending the rest of the day utterly engrossed in the new ideas in physics which would lead to the topsy-turvy revolution of quantum mechanics. (Location 459)

She was a better mathematician than Einstein and checked the calculations in his scientific papers, as well as being a sounding board for his thought experiments. (Location 467)

Eventually they fell out of love, and Einstein asked her for a divorce, saying that one day he would win the Nobel prize, and she could then have the money from that as a settlement. (Location 469)

The partnership with Maric aside, he worked largely on his own, and once he had arrived at a breakthrough – such as the Special Theory of Relativity in 1905 – he held fast to his conclusion, even in the face of apparent contradictions. (Location 471)

Initially Disney had two different ambitions. His first notion was that he would become an actor or actor-comedian; he adored Charlie Chaplin. (Location 486)

What do you do if your self-belief is not strong? The stories in this book suggest three possible remedies: •  Search for transforming experiences (see Chapter 6). •  Attract well-deserved praise; develop a breakthrough achievement (Chapter 7). •  Narrow your focus until your work is unique and you’ve defined your destination (Chapter 8). (Location 529)

All our players had one or more ‘transforming experiences’ in their life – that is, an unusual and intense interlude, usually of a year or more, that changed them. (Location 535)

Positive feedback of some kind is nearly always essential for humans to thrive. If you doubt this, look at the way famous people from Churchill to Einstein remembered the few teachers who praised them. (Location 539)

Acclaim must be genuine and merited. For a generation educators and parents have lavished praise on children indiscriminately, believing it would raise self-esteem and motivation. (Location 546)

But children are not stupid. They know when praise is deserved and when it is not. And praise can create expectations that they know they are not always going to meet, which become a trap. (Location 548)

Inflated praise is demotivating, or else it leads to delusions which sooner or later will be demolished. (Location 552)

For adults as for children, only genuine positive feedback is useful. This does not mean, however, that someone who doesn’t get much positive feedback and doesn’t have much self-belief should accept that as permanent. (Location 553)

A third key to unlocking self-belief is to realise that it is generated within narrow corridors. As with Walt Disney or Margaret Thatcher, as with everyone who achieves marked success, they come to believe either that they can do specific things better than their rivals, or that they can do things that nobody else has thought of doing. (Location 558)

wide experimentation is followed sooner or later by extreme focus, and then by blazing a wholly original trail. (Location 561)

One single cause – that he was a much-loved adopted child – fed both self-belief and self-doubt. (Location 591)

Self-belief is the foundation of success. This is an iron rule. Nobody ever became unreasonably successful without a strong belief in themselves. (Location 619)

Self-belief must ultimately become specific to the field in which you will ultimately triumph. Belief in your destiny will fizzle and fade without a clear idea of the stage on which your success will be played out. (Location 625)

By highlighting the need to stand up to the German dictator, and by arguing with great force that any accommodation with him was both immoral and self-defeating, Churchill positioned himself as the inevitable choice for leader should war with Germany eventuate.28 (Location 631)

High standards are contagious. Bring a new person onto a high standards team, and they’ll quickly adapt. The opposite is also true. —JEFF BEZOS (Location 658)

The second common factor amongst our players is that they all had sky-high expectations of themselves and the people they chose to work with. (Location 661)

Self-belief, we’ve seen, is the conviction a person has of being special, exceptional and destined to do great things, that is increasingly well defined and clear as their life unfolds. (Location 663)

Olympian expectations are different. For sure, they are to do with the individual, but they are also to do with their subordinates and co-workers. (Location 667)

Expectations explain how and why the individual is changing the nature of reality. (Location 669)

There are five interlinked components of Olympian expectations: •  Expectations are set much higher than is normal. •  Thinking big – not concerned with details but with changing the big picture. •  Being unreasonably demanding of self and others – the standards had jolly well better be met, without exceptions or excuses. •  Progressive escalation of expectations over time – no resting on laurels; more like an ever-expanding sliver of razored ice1 in the soul demanding ever-greater success. •  The expectations are unique to the individual and can be succinctly expressed. For instance, Leonardo – ‘perfect paintings’; Churchill – ‘stop Hitler’; Thatcher – ‘reverse national decline’. (Location 669)

The higher we set our expectations, the more likely we are to reach the top. There are limits, of course – we cannot become Napoleon or Jesus by imagining that we are. (Location 704)

Paul’s vision of Christ on his way to Damascus had an immeasurable impact on his expectations – we will touch on this again in later chapters. What matters here is the impact on Paul’s expectations. ‘Whatever the nature of the experience,’ says A. N. Wilson, ‘it left him forever altered. (Location 719)

Paul absorbed the view held by the ‘cognoscenti’ (a group of believers known as the Gnostics) that humans comprised both body and spirit – the body was irretrievably flawed, and the spiritual, divine side of mankind was hopelessly compromised, imprisoned within evil flesh. (Location 726)

Jobs had incredibly high expectations of himself. We saw earlier that, like Keynes, he thought he was of similar calibre to some of the great people in history. (Location 778)

‘Jobs liked to see himself as an enlightened rebel, a Jedi warrior or Buddhist samurai fighting the forces of darkness’ – such as IBM.16 (Location 780)

Without a unified system, without end-to-end control of product design and execution, he would not have been able to create devices that were so intuitive and easy to use.17 (Location 784)

It is a classic rule of strategy not to fight against powerful enemies on two different fronts. This was a rule Jobs disregarded – he fought both IBM and Microsoft, and later the major alternative smartphone hardware makers that were using the dominant Android software developed by Google. (Location 786)

Jobs inspired his followers, raising their eyes to the hills, despite being, in conventional terms, one of the worst people-managers in recent history. (Location 790)

Bruce was a towering, impressive, intimidating figure. He rarely smiled, chose his words carefully, and, quite frankly, was a little scary. (Location 803)

He was massively demanding. I never heard him praise anyone or anything. He was always driving us on to the next big insight. (Location 810)

Before Bruce, businesspeople wanted their company to be market leader so they could extract high prices and high profits from customers. (Location 820)

It’s not all sweetness and light. There’s a story from the Christmas holidays in 2000, when demand was exploding, and the customer-service department was increasingly stretched by customer calls. At a meeting of thirty senior executives, Bezos asked the head of customer service how long customers had to wait to get help. (Location 854)

All the players made great demands on their followers. Yet Olympian expectations do not necessarily require an effect on followers; the expectations may be so huge that the main or exclusive impact is on the players and not on any followers. (Location 863)

Perhaps people of action need their Olympian standards to be shared by the team who must execute the work – over five hundred and sixty thousand people in Amazon – whereas artists and thinkers set standards primarily or exclusively for themselves, as they are necessarily the great creators of their work. (Location 865)

Einstein is saying that he has gone beyond all the top brains in physics. This is what I mean by ‘modest arrogance’ – there is excitement but no crowing; there is certainty and absolute confidence. (Location 886)

Walter Isaacson says, ‘Leonardo had almost no schooling and could barely read Latin or do long division’, and yet he expected ‘to know everything there was to know about the world’.26 Leonardo had a quality of ‘modest arrogance’ very similar to that of Einstein, driven by relentless curiosity. (Location 890)

Einstein, Leonardo, Keynes, Dylan. The first couple are perhaps more likeable than the last two, but they all have this in common – the highest possible regard for what they could beget, and a sense of greatness. (Location 963)

They were iconoclasts; bold and self-possessed; expecting and requiring nothing from themselves except that what was beyond the reach of ordinary mortals. (Location 964)

They expected to produce work of the highest originality and importance. It’s hard to imagine how anyone can be great without having similar reach and vision. (Location 965)

My emphasis on great leaps forward goes against the grain of current educational psychology, where the prevailing view is that the surest way to achievement is through a series of ‘baby steps’ – a small conquest is followed by greater confidence and another small step, and so all the way up. (Location 968)

We are looking at people of unreasonable attainment, who start with the vision of their personal greatness and then work backwards to fill in the necessary intermediate steps. (Location 971)

Therefore, set your expectations as high as you possibly can, consistent with believing they can be realised. If you want unreasonable success, you must have completely unreasonable expectations. The ceiling on your future is the most you can imagine and expect. (Location 978)

Take heart. There are seven more landmarks on our journey, but if you have strong self-belief and genuinely Olympian expectations, you are halfway to victory already. (Location 983)

The goal is … the transformation of your mind and character … choose places of work and positions that offer the greatest possibilities for learning. —ROBERT GREENE, Mastery (2012) (Location 993)

He had become disillusioned while working on Wall Street and was about to quit the financial field when a head-hunter persuaded him to see DESCO. (Location 1070)

DESCO’s business bore no resemblance to that of the future Amazon, and yet DESCO gave Bezos the model for Amazon in four vital ways: •  The template for a firm with incredibly high standards and brilliant people. •  More specifically, the early discovery of the internet and its amazing growth potential. •  Even more specifically, the vision for Amazon originated at DESCO. •  Yet more precisely, the ideal first product for Amazon was identified at DESCO. (Location 1079)

The more he thought about it, the more Bezos wanted to create the everything store. But he didn’t want to do it within DESCO; he needed to be a founder-entrepreneur, the absolute boss, not a second string, even to a soulmate like Shaw. In spring 1994 he told Shaw he wanted to leave to start the online bookstore himself. (Location 1106)

In 1886, Sacha’s and Volodya’s father, a conscientious and well-respected civil servant, suddenly had a stroke and died prematurely. (Location 1121)

on 8 May 1887, when Volodya was seventeen and taking a geometry exam – for which he earned top marks – something happened which transformed his life. That morning, five young men were taken from the Shlisselburg Fort near St Petersburg and unceremoniously hanged. (Location 1123)

Volodya in particular was overcome by a vitriolic hatred of ‘middle-class do-gooders’. ‘The bourgeois,’ he declared endlessly from that day forward, ‘will always be traitors and cowards.’ (Location 1132)

In the third year of office she was the epitome of reasonable success, having always wanted a career in politics; and as someone who started as a Conservative admirer of Churchill at the time of his greatness, she was strongly opposed to socialism. (Location 1145)

Yet Oxford was not for her, as it was for so many others, a golden period of youthful experiment and self-discovery. In the four years she spent there she made no lasting friendships, underwent no intellectual awakening … (Location 1152)

How important was it that Margaret Roberts met and eventually married Denis Thatcher, a prosperous manager and owner of a family paint and chemicals business? Denis had been a distinguished soldier during the Second World War, and although considerably older than his wife-to-be, he had a certain ‘style and dash’ and drove a Jaguar. (Location 1155)

Her win as Conservative leader was a conundrum, with strong overtones of faute de mieux. ‘We’ve gone mad,’ said Sir Ian Gilmour, a prominent minister, ‘She won’t last … she can’t last.’21 (Location 1168)

So when she became prime minister in 1979, expectations of Thatcher were muted. She had to depend on a Cabinet of Tory ministers, most of whom were contemptuous or unsympathetic. Though dealt a difficult hand, Margaret Thatcher proceeded to make an extraordinary mess of her first two years as PM. (Location 1185)

The defence minister, John Nott, told Thatcher that recapturing the islands – just three hundred miles from Argentina, but eight thousand miles from Britain – was practically impossible. (Location 1215)

With a rueful half-smile, the prime minister gave permission to assemble the task force.30 Thatcher had very little diplomatic leverage, and it seemed likely that her career would be over in a few days. (Location 1227)

Reagan constantly begged her to agree a ceasefire. Thatcher resisted all the peace-mongering American and British bureaucrats, adamant that a military victory was the only acceptable solution. (Location 1246)

‘Although Thatcher gave full credit to the service chiefs,’ says Cannadine, ‘she was the supreme architect and beneficiary of their victory. She had taken huge military and political risks, but her resolution and determination had never wavered.’36 (Location 1256)

It gave her new, transcendent self-confidence. The Falklands crisis was the time of her life, said Robert Armstrong, when ‘she lived most intensely’.37 She was sure that only she could have done it. It was the defining moment, the greatest triumph of her whole career. (Location 1260)

She thought it proved that Britain could regain its greatness. After her Falklands triumph, she went back to Downing Street, mingling with the people, young and old, singing Rule Britannia. ‘It was their triumph,’ she said. ‘We have ceased to be a nation in retreat.’ (Location 1263)

As Charles Moore said, her mindset was ‘both conservative and revolutionary. She saw herself as restoring an inherent British greatness … At the same time, she saw herself as bringing about enormous change.’39 (Location 1266)

Reasonable success can follow from a linear and ordered career plan – doing all the ‘right’ things. But following a conventional path won’t lead to unreasonable success. (Location 1275)

character. The seeds of extraordinary personal achievement are watered and germinate during a time of extreme weather – a personal crisis or other learning and testing period which marks a profound discontinuity in your self-belief, expectations, rare knowledge, direction, certainty, focus and potential. (Location 1278)

•  Without a transforming experience you are unlikely to attain unreasonable success. (Location 1280)

•  It is possible to engineer a transforming experience for yourself. So position yourself in the slipstream of events where the right kind of transforming experience is most likely. (Location 1282)

Tired of tedious research, he cast around for other options, and at the age of twenty-six landed a plum job as Vanderbilt’s development director, charged with raising funds for the university from corporate chiefs. (Location 1291)

The Vanderbilt post gave Bain confidence in dealing in a very different and exclusive social world; he must have been gratified at his skill in getting corporate chiefs to part with money for a good cause. (Location 1297)

Since Bill was highly commercial and very interested in money, he may well have wondered whether there was a (Location 1299)

Bill’s second transformation flowed seamlessly and fortuitously from his first. While fund-raising, Bill met Vanderbilt alumnus Bruce Henderson. (Location 1301)

Bain even succeeded in getting Henderson – a rotten salesman, excessively opinionated, lacking in empathy, prone to veer off on irrelevant intellectual tangents – to start by asking the top executives questions, rather than launching into Brucian blather. (Location 1310)

Bain went from strength to strength. He was put in charge of work for Texas Instruments and Black & Decker, BCG’s biggest clients. (Location 1313)

The whole experience of working at BCG between 1967 and 1973 was the vital second transformation of Bill Bain; but the transformation would not have been complete if not for one fateful, bizarre, yet entirely characteristic action Bruce Henderson took in 1970. (Location 1326)

Bain was made leader of team blue, leaving him free to experiment. Soon his team accounted for more revenue and profit than the other teams combined. (Location 1329)

Though she was twenty-four, she put her age on the manifest as twenty – the first instance of a lifetime’s practice of revising and romanticising her history. (Location 1336)

They were the painter Cyril Dillon; Abel Isaacson, a successful, smartly dressed wine merchant; Herbert Farrow, a rich printer; and most important of all, John Thompson, who was a big tea importer. (Location 1347)

Her four admirers liked the idea, and gave her practical advice and help – Dillon the artist gave her the logo for her packaging, based on an Egyptian motif, and designed her brochures, which Farrow printed for her. (Location 1350)

Disney and Henderson had this in common – their vital transforming experience came after they set up the ventures for which they became famous. (Location 1359)

Transformations that occur in an unusual firm, before you start a new venture (Location 1408)

This first model is the best – you can acquire ideas and authority, and start to experiment, while still employed by someone else. (Location 1413)

Be transformed by starting your own show (Location 1421)

Transformation after near-failure (Location 1427)

Desperation can fuel invention. Reasonable solutions are dead. You give up, or fabricate unreasonable ones. Oblivion beckons, unless you invent the concepts of strategy, or that talking mouse. You insert your last coin in that damn fruit machine; you gasp at three gold bars. Of course, you were a genius all along. (Location 1431)

She was on a train from Manchester to London, and it broke down. Staring out of the window, she had an inspired vision of a little boy on another train, heading for a special boarding school for wizards. (Location 1449)

Her first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was not published until seven years after her first dream of the boy. Rowling’s transformation is best viewed as a drama in three acts: (Location 1455)

There was not a moment of doubt in Einstein’s mind that he had changed physics forever, or that experimental data would eventually prove him right (they did). (Location 1469)

•  Steve Jobs’ transformation falls into my third category of business transformations, those that happen after founding their company. (Location 1481)

Before he was sent to the camps, Viktor Frankl believed he had cracked the insights which had eluded his precursors, Freud and Adler. (Location 1492)

The key to meaning was free will. Even in terrible circumstances, individuals still retained the freedom to interpret their circumstances and create meaning from them. (Location 1495)

But with Madonna, we have reached the ultimate in personal transformation – perpetual transformation. (Location 1509)

What they mean is that she can be taken either at face value, or as a deliberate poseur, ricocheting from persona to persona and role to role without even the tiniest bit of consistency. (Location 1523)

Madonna is to performance talent what Amazon is to consumer goods – she is different because she covers the waterfront, somehow managing to provide excellent value for the attention she takes. (Location 1577)

She is the ultimate in personal brand creation. Over four decades, she has hogged the limelight. Age and ennui must eventually take their toll. But not yet. In her sixties, she is not merely standing, but still frolicking. (Location 1579)

All our players had a personal transformation – an event which changed them profoundly, connecting them with their destiny. (Location 1584)

Some were strange indeed – getting a ‘download’ while stuck on a broken-down train, the hanging of an elder brother, the invasion of a country you governed, being sent to a concentration camp, and even a life-changing vision of the Risen Christ. (Location 1588)

The next chapter is perhaps the most important of all. It describes not the ways you achieve your world-changing objective, but rather what that breakthrough achievement (Location 1593)

is going to be. It is about the what, not the how; and it is the most vital decision you will ever make. (Location 1594)

Churchill led Britain into total war without much thought for the morrow: he said he had ‘only one single purpose – the destruction of Hitler – and that his life was much simplified thereby’. —ROBERT TOMBS (Location 1602)

•  No one has done it before. •  It encapsulates why each player left a permanent mark on the world. •  Most of the players’ breakthrough achievements were forms of invention. •  The achievements were highly personal and part and parcel of the individual’s character and idiosyncrasies. Perhaps their greatest achievement was to express themselves in a way which could not be ignored. (Location 1609)

Jeff Bezos illustrates this. His breakthrough obsession and achievement was his peculiar vision for Amazon – the internet’s ‘everything store’ marked by unbeatable prices and customer service. (Location 1618)

Bezos alone clung to the creed that if you provide extraordinarily low prices and high customer service, your ultimate reward will be massive. (Location 1623)

Like Bezos, Jobs, Bain and Henderson, Rubinstein was above all an inventor. She created the modern notion of female beauty with a jar of face cream. (Location 1644)

Invention, then, is probably the most common template for unreasonable success in business. Yet is it so very different outside business? (Location 1656)

Though largely forgotten today, Bismarck’s approach to getting his way – what I call ‘strategic opportunism’ – can be copied by you or me with great results. (Location 1726)

After eight years in Frankfurt, Bismarck’s career suffered an apparently terminal blow in 1859, after the new regent, Prince William, took over the Prussian government. (Location 1732)

Exasperated by the Diet, and seeing no other route forward, William reluctantly agreed to give Bismarck a try, making him prime minister. This utterly transformed Bismarck – and before long, the balance of power in Europe. (Location 1744)

His strategic opportunism – which I have emulated, and commend to you as a route to unreasonable success – combined two elements usually seen as contradictory: •  Extreme determination on strategy, yoked together with •  Extreme flexibility on the means and timing of action, reacting to random events and grasping any opportunity they presented to advance his strategic objectives. (Location 1751)

Bismarck did not plan events. Despite being impulsive and nervous, he forced himself to wait patiently for the right moment to seize the initiative. (Location 1756)

Bismarck did not regard nationalism as high or moral; he merely accepted it as inevitable and wished to be on the winning side.’8 (Location 1761)

Only now did Bismarck act. Unlike William, he realised that France wanted a war, however thin the pretext. And Bismarck reckoned that Prussia could win the war, if supported by the other German states, and then unite Germany – something France would otherwise have resisted. (Location 1781)

France had made outrageous demands on threat of war, and William had rejected them. He then despatched the famous ‘Ems telegram’ to Napoleon and Gramont, who declared war on Prussia. (Location 1784)

Bismarck had achieved his life’s ambition. From then on, all he wanted was to preserve the peace of Europe and stay in power, which he did happily for the next two decades. (Location 1788)

The problem with saying these three players were inventors is not so much what it asserts, as what it leaves out; namely, quite exceptional practical accomplishments and leadership in unique circumstances. (Location 1795)

Churchill was always a charismatic and exciting politician whose eloquence was second to none. Yet he didn’t come into his own until he became prime minister in Britain’s direst emergency. (Location 1797)

Even before Hitler came to power, Churchill told the House of Commons the danger posed by Germany. ‘Do not delude yourselves,’ he told them on 23 November 1932, about Germany’s wish to rearm, (Location 1803)

It was not until Hitler had broken every promise and invaded country after country – as predicted by Churchill – and seemed poised to invade Britain, that the British political establishment suddenly woke up. (Location 1822)

In May 1940, after years of collective deafness, they most reluctantly made Churchill prime minister, simply because he had been proved right about the existential threat from Hitler, and was the only man who knew how to counter it. (Location 1824)

Churchill shows that a breakthrough achievement can be derived from, and can become identical to, a unique self-defined mission into which we pour our heart and soul. You may want to ask yourself: •  What could I invent that would transform our lives and those of many other people? •  What personal mission would energise me and transform my impact? (Location 1832)

Thatcher’s achievement was to slay the dragon of socialism, reverse Britain’s decline, and make Britons proud of their country again. (Location 1845)

•  By far the most common type of breakthrough achievement is invention. For most of the players, all their other achievements and efforts pale into insignificance when set alongside their single decisive invention. What might you invent? (Location 1875)

•  Besides invention, strategic achievements seem most likely to arise from an overwhelming sense of destiny, mission, or desire to bridge seemingly irreconcilable gulfs of ideology, attitude or vested interests. Do you have any of these strong feelings? If so, nurture them. Singular achievement comes from singular convictions. (Location 1878)

Strategic opportunism is one attractive route to a breakthrough achievement. You must know precisely what you want to achieve, but wait for the footsteps of opportunity to be audible before you strike. (Location 1881)

The killer combination is extreme determination coupled with extreme flexibility regarding means and timing. If you are single-minded, yet patient, you will know the perfect time to act. Until then, keep your powder dry. (Location 1883)

point. Far more important is what you try to do – the originality and reach of your mission, goal, destiny, whatever you call it, and your tenacity, nay, fanaticism, and luck in seeing it through to completion. (Location 1892)

Your objective must be new, revolutionary, imaginative and almost laughably ambitious. (Location 1894)

It must also be incarnated within your personality – it must come from the soul. (Location 1895)

Ultimately, the ‘what’ – in Lenin’s stirring phrase, ‘What is to be done?’ – is more vital than the ‘how’. This landmark is the what. The other eight landmarks are the how. (Location 1897)

Unreasonably successful people construct their own proprietary mental map to guide their steps. They create their own segment, which reflects their personality, their objective and their way of working, all at the same time. (Location 1913)

A business philosophy is not unusual – but what is rare is dedication to a philosophy, even when it appears to conflict with commercial common sense. (Location 1919)

But the problem with pragmatism is that it rapidly becomes a habit, and short-term gratification – expressed in profits, cash and the praise which goes with them – becomes a drug that drives out long-term customer-related aspirations. (Location 1925)

experience. It takes an exceptional person to take on the risk of this approach – the risk of going bust. (Location 1928)

Few businesspeople really believe in the creed of either the price-simplifier or the proposition-simplifier; yet Bezos believes in both. (Location 1932)

Yet it is doubtful that Bezos would have evolved his own ideology without Henderson’s pioneering work on the importance of having far higher market share than any rival, and consequently the lowest costs and prices. (Location 1956)

It’s true that Bain began to incubate his revolutionary approach to consulting within BCG, yet his vision was totally original and clashed with the DNA Bruce Henderson had begat. (Location 1961)

Bill Bain believed in a top-down, quasi-military chain of command, both within his own firm, and in the client. (Location 1973)

The Bain philosophy was audacious in the extreme. You can instantly see the benefits for Bain & Company – long assignments and ever-increasing consulting fees within the client company meant huge inbuilt growth and profitability. (Location 1976)

Steve Jobs provides further evidence that unreasonable success comes from the pursuit of an original dream. If Jobs had never been reinstated as the leader of Apple, he would have been remembered as the Moses who led his people to the promised land of laptops. (Location 1987)

The next key towards Marie Curie’s breakthrough achievement was the idiosyncratic theoretical and experimental field she chose to develop, hacking a trail never pursued before. (Location 2092)

•  The first stage is to take a new field – or market – which is exciting and pregnant with possibilities, because knowledge is being discovered quickly, particularly knowledge or ideas which seem to contradict established theory or procedures. (Location 2095)

The next steps are progressively to narrow the field of enquiry, by building on the discoveries of the most unconventional and creative enquirers, and applying their insights, alone or in a new permutation, to a new avenue of speculation and experimentation, that could lead to a dramatically different picture of how the world works. (Location 2098)

Albert Einstein’s first step towards genius was to realise that quantum mechanics was the hot scientific topic that could and would subvert the classical theory of physics that had held sway for two centuries since Isaac Newton. (Location 2101)

Einstein thus found a simple way to describe the relation between the size of microscopic quanta of matter and the wavelength of radiation. (Location 2105)

The third step is to take the new theoretical model and prove it experimentally and/or with new data relevant to the new model. (Location 2110)

Winston Churchill took a long time to find his destined path. He thought for decades that his speaking prowess would propel him to power. (Location 2150)

Churchill went over the top for too many different – even conflicting – causes, so he seemed ‘a man of unstable temperament and defective judgment, completely lacking in any real sense of proportion’. (Location 2154)

It was not his speaking prowess that won the day for Churchill, but Hitler – and Churchill’s abhorrence of him, together with his prescient accuracy about the threat. (Location 2161)

Nelson Mandela’s long years in prison gave him time to find his destiny. (Location 2169)

While marooned on the repulsive Robben Island, Mandela realised that the only constructive course forward for all South Africans – the only feasible path of peace and reconciliation – was to do a deal with his gaolers. (Location 2170)

Mandela and the other players testify to our themes so far – self-belief, incredibly high expectations, transforming experiences, a single transforming achievement, and a solitary, imaginative and uncompromising trail. Success, when it comes, appears completely unreasonable – or at least surprising. (Location 2206)

Unreasonable success requires a singular path, and a singular personality. (Location 2210)

Our players were or are larger than life. All were profoundly original. Most were highly eccentric. To be ultra-successful requires the verve to be utterly different. (Location 2211)

To be unreasonably successful you need your own philosophy and deeply grounded beliefs. You need unique and authentic convictions before the world will take serious notice of you. (Location 2212)

Not only do you need to make your own trail. We are about to discover that you also need your own personal vehicle to drive towards your destination. (Location 2214)

At last I had authority to give directions over the whole scene. I felt as if I had been walking with destiny, and that all of my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and this trial. —WINSTON CHURCHILL (Location 2222)

There are two types of vehicle which can give unreasonable success. The first type is useful; the second is indispensable. (Location 2227)

The first type of vehicle is something which already exists in your environment, something external or extraneous to you, which you can leap on and… (Location 2229)

In your career, a pool vehicle is something in the environment that can help you. It won’t guarantee success, but it is a good start. What is there around you – knowledge, worldview, technology or… (Location 2232)

For Bill Bain, it was the theories of business strategy that had been originated by the Boston Consulting Group. BCG put its ideas such as the Boston Box out into the public… (Location 2235)

Jeff Bezos also used the BCG ideas to develop his philosophy for Amazon, especially dominant market share, and lowest costs and prices. Bezos also benefitted from two other pool vehicles – internet retailing and ‘Californian Venture Capital Syndrome’, which values growth above short-term profits, supporting Amazon’… (Location 2238)

Otto von Bismarck rode the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century. This was his pool vehicle to turn Germany from a fragmented cluster of dozens of independent states into a… (Location 2241)

Winston Churchill’s pool vehicle was the rise of German National Socialism, Hitler’s murderous anti-Semitism,… (Location 2244)

Marie Curie’s pool vehicle was the new field of x-rays… (Location 2247)

The two pool vehicles which Walt Disney exploited so well were the rise of animated cartoons and, later,… (Location 2248)

Leonardo da Vinci would not have been Leonardo if he had not been born where and when he was. Renaissance… (Location 2251)

Bob Dylan’s pool vehicle was the early 1960s folk movement in New York City, with its liberal-protest values, and self-importance, epitomised… (Location 2253)

Albert Einstein benefited from the amazing new ideas in quantum mechanics in central Europe at the… (Location 2255)

We’ve seen how Bruce Henderson’s revolutionary ideas did not… (Location 2256)

Viktor Frankl benefitted from the theories of Freud and Adler, and the fashionable new growth… (Location 2260)

For Steve Jobs, the pool vehicle was the emergence of the first personal computers in the early 1970s, together with the dramatically lower cost and higher capacity of superconductors and… (Location 2262)

John Maynard Keynes’ pool vehicles were the Treaty of Versailles, which he famously opposed in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, the Great Depression, and the resulting rise of communism and fascism, which provoked… (Location 2264)

Lenin’s pool ideas were the French Revolution’s notions, updated by Karl Marx, which Lenin adapted to critique the… (Location 2267)

Madonna draws on the pool ideas of the archetypical American femme fatale, and a lot else besides. Her stock-in-trade is to reinterpret, update and… (Location 2268)

Paul of Tarsus merged centuries-old philosophical and religious ideas from Jewish… (Location 2272)

J. K. Rowling benefitted from the emergence of mystery and fantasy literature, such as the work of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and from children’s literature of various… (Location 2273)

Margaret Thatcher also had two sets of pool ideas: a conservative philosophy woven by the interlacing ideas of many philosophers and politicians, (Location 2282)

Pool vehicles are useful; but your own personal vehicle is essential. You must create something new which vastly increases your impact on the world. (Location 2289)

Leverage – using the vehicles’ power, wealth, manpower, reputation, intellectual property and influence. •  Collaboration – enabling the players to do what they couldn’t do themselves or couldn’t do well; supplying missing ingredients; building supporters. •  Credibility and publicity – helping the players to be taken seriously by backers, gatekeepers, enthusiasts, and finally the general public/customers/voters. (Location 2291)

Bill Bain built a very large consulting firm, consisting of hundreds and then thousands of high-powered consultants. (Location 2298)

The collaboration he needed also came from his partners, the people who sold client assignments and masterminded them. In the early days of Bain & Company, Bill Bain withdrew from doing this himself – not because he couldn’t, but because he didn’t want to, and he spent his time (such of it as he allocated parsimoniously to his firm) dreaming of the future and managing his partners closely. (Location 2302)

Incidentally, Bain did not buy them with money – he kept most of that for himself. He mentored and inspired them, simultaneously giving them free rein, yet retaining control. (Location 2307)

All his sales were made by direct pitches to chief executives, and by references from existing clients to their peers in other companies. (Location 2310)

directors. Bain would encourage his clients to talk about the high-quality work the company was doing when they met their fellow directors at board meetings – most of Bain’s clients came this way. (Location 2312)

Jeff Bezos needs the leverage of his Amazon army to an even greater extent than Bill Bain did. Bezos too places enormous importance on the quality and ambition of those he recruits. To get big fast required him to build an enormous organisation. (Location 2317)

Jeff hired the very best people he could find, backed them totally unless they failed, and fired them if they did. (Location 2320)

Walt Disney started his studio with just one other cartoonist, the nerdy and introverted Ub Iwerks. Disney supplied the ideas, Iwerks the execution. (Location 2324)

Like Bain & Company, Bruce Henderson’s BCG obtained leverage through its ever-expanding hierarchy of consultants. Henderson needed his top colleagues to sell and manage the work, and to provide continued innovation in ideas. (Location 2329)

When Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, the vehicle he had co-founded and inculcated with his quest for elegant simplicity, he started two other companies, NeXT and Pixar, which became his vehicles for the next decade. (Location 2332)

Neither NeXT nor Pixar proved to be good vehicles for Jobs. When he returned to Apple, he found a right mess; a whole series of projects and products, including the Newton handwriting recognition software, were loss-makers and cash-consumers. (Location 2337)

The lesson? Don’t look for a new vehicle if the existing one has potential for success and can be radically reconditioned. (Location 2343)

All the business leaders used their vehicles to vastly increase their reach, power and impact, without diminishing at all their idiosyncrasies, quirks or ability to mould each vehicle’s DNA in their own likeness. Even if the player becomes a caricature of themselves, that’s a kind of validation. (Location 2350)

typically one of them becomes dominant through sheer force of personality. Even when the driver has big flaws – perhaps especially when this is true – the emergence of a single leader underpins success. (Location 2353)

Otto von Bismarck was appointed by the king: Bismarck alone could balance the different interests and power of king and parliament. (Location 2356)

Margaret Thatcher decided at an early age that the Conservative Party was going to be her vehicle for influence and power. In 1979, when she unexpectedly won the election and became prime minister, her vehicle became not just the party but the entire apparatus of the state. (Location 2397)

Those who run business empires, however autocratic their tendencies, typically need collaborators with different skills to balance or cover for their own weak spots. (Location 2410)

Business is more complex, multifunctional, dynamic and fast-changing, and more exposed to unpredictable competition. (Location 2412)

Well, it is obvious – but if you are a singer, do you already have a prestigious record label and access to great songs? If you are in business, have you started a company that is sufficiently different from any other, with a great business formula, like Amazon or Apple or the Boston Consulting Group or Bain & Company or Helena Rubinstein or Walt Disney? (Location 2535)

Like his father Randolph Churchill, Winston seemed slated for glorious failure. His setbacks were so numerous that we must limit ourselves to the really serious ones. (Location 2566)

Churchill proposed to the British Cabinet that he go to Antwerp to rally the Belgian troops and bring British reinforcements. ‘Once in Antwerp,’ says biographer Roy Jenkins, Churchill ‘threw himself, with a mixture of galvanic energy, total indifference to his own safety and considerable concern for his own comfort, into organising Belgium’s resistance.’ (Location 2572)

Most of the Belgian army was lost, and around 2,500 British troops – many of them Churchill’s untrained Naval Division – died, or were captured and interned.2 (Location 2579)

What made matters worse was the General Strike of 1926, led by the million miners who suffered high unemployment as a result of the return to gold. Churchill forced the strikers into submission. (Location 2600)

Still he was resilient; he redoubled his writing efforts to stay ahead of his creditors. Then in December 1931 he was knocked down by a car when walking across Fifth Avenue, suffering a severe scalp wound and two cracked ribs. (Location 2608)

Churchill made things worse by throwing himself headlong into a new political obsession: opposition to a mild measure of self-government for India. (Location 2611)

By 1936 Churchill was in a bad way, occasionally depressed and drinking far too much, even by his liberal standards. He had, says Roy Jenkins, ‘a sense of political impotence, of his talents wasted, of time passing him by’. (Location 2615)

And, miracle of miracles, as Churchill went more and more over the top, Hitler lent increasing credibility and vindication to his most determined enemy. (Location 2618)

Churchill, buoyed by his self-belief and gargantuan expectations, had throughout his career an intense sense of personal drama, not despite, but rather because of, his setbacks. (Location 2628)

Churchill knew from history that life does not go in a straight line and being part of great events made every day vital. (Location 2632)

Paradoxically, setbacks can validate unconventional views and contribute to a sense of greatness. If you follow the herd, you are unremarkable. If you are controversial, you are noticed. (Location 2638)

Being anti-fragile does not mean being resilient – rather, it means positively benefitting from shocks, setbacks, risks and uncertainty. (Location 2652)

Setbacks are a discovery mechanism; they also release excess energy, motivation and willpower. Exposure to failure is essential for success; we need ‘the light of experience gained by disaster’. (Location 2654)

Yet our players, exemplified by Churchill, were anti-fragile. It is not that they wanted, either consciously or unconsciously, to experience huge problems. Instead, they took risks which ordinary people tend not to take, and they were able to benefit from setbacks which would have knocked most people for six. (Location 2660)

They had the anti-fragile spirit. They were and are buccaneers, pirates and explorers, with a highly developed sense of their own potential and with strong anti-conventional opinions – they exhibit not just a strong ego, but also an ability to confront and confound adversity, with a curiosity about themselves and the world and a degree of stoicism which sets them apart from people who are merely big-headed and oblivious to risk and randomness. Our players sought out risks, knowing that they were risks, aware that they were swimming against the tide, confident that they could win, but aware of the possibility of failure and able not just to cope with it, but to find a way around it. They had and have the courage to benefit from adversity. (Location 2663)

Yet Arthur Rock was right; despite the trauma, Jobs was truly anti-fragile. The shock of dismissal energised him mightily. Like Churchill, he immersed himself in other activity. He founded one new venture, and took over another. (Location 2683)

Yet by the time Toy Story premiered in November 1991, it was a work of art. Jobs gambled Pixar’s future on the film’s success, taking Pixar public one week after its release. (Location 2721)

He now understood that to fulfil his destiny, he needed Apple as much as it needed him: ‘The whole notion of how you build a company,’ he said, ‘is fascinating. When I got the chance to come back to Apple, I realized that I would be useless without the company, and that’s why I decided to stay and rebuild it.’16 (Location 2733)

When he was twenty-four, Leonardo suffered a sharp shock. He was one of four prominent young men who were anonymously ‘denounced’ for alleged sodomy with Jacopo Salterelli, who was seventeen, apprenticed as a goldsmith, and said to consort with men ‘who request wickedness of him’. (Location 2743)

He felt abandoned by friends and family, and ‘became more withdrawn, more “mysterious”, than ever’.20 Nevertheless, throughout his life, Leonardo had several extended relationships with young men.21 (Location 2751)

In 1481, when Leonardo was twenty-nine, Pope Sixtus IV wanted to decorate his newly built Sistine Chapel, with no expense spared to make it the most beautiful monument. (Location 2755)

Lorenzo obliged, sending a contingent of supreme talent, including Botticelli and many others, but excluding Leonardo. (Location 2757)

It seems that Leonardo believed he had made little impression on the world – ‘while I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning to die’, he jotted in his notebook, also quoting a phrase, ‘our glories and our triumphs pass away’, and a fragment from Dante, including the lines: ‘Fame, without which man’s life wastes out of mind/Leaving on earth no more memorial/Than foam in water or smoke upon the wind.’ (Location 2759)

As Robert Greene explains, Leonardo’s huge setback drove him to devise a new strategy: ‘He would be more than an artist. He would also pursue all the crafts and sciences that interested him – architecture, military engineering, hydraulics, anatomy, sculpture.’ (Location 2764)

Walt Disney went bankrupt when he was twenty, and nearly repeated that event when trying to finance his first Mickey Mouse movie. (Location 2799)

Bruce Henderson was fired by Westinghouse and Arthur D. Little, becoming unemployed and apparently unemployable as he approached the age of fifty. (Location 2809)

Bill Bain, who ran the largest and most lucrative part of BCG, suddenly took his most successful consultants and clients away from Henderson by founding his own firm. (Location 2812)

I felt more betrayed and robbed and desecrated than ever before in my life.’29 Yet rebuilding BCG afterwards turned out to be Henderson’s greatest hour, and BCG eventually eclipsed even the extraordinary record of Bain & Company. (Location 2814)

There is a template for turning repeated reverses, eventually, into supreme triumph: •  Take big risks. •  Do not be dismayed if they don’t work out. •  After a disaster, keep going, but switch gears. •  Reframe the disaster – deny that the failure was inevitable or your fault – ‘it was always high risk so it’s not surprising it failed’. •  Unless you keep your original objective, immerse yourself in something different. •  Setbacks give feedback. You need reverses, and are going to get them anyway. Use them to make you stronger, more robust to future failure, and to gain new experiences. The disasters also make the eventual triumph sweeter. •  Never give up hope. You can’t know the future, but you must trust it. Remain fulfilled and coolly confident; jump when the big break beckons. •  Feed an intense sense of personal drama. What you will achieve matters, not just personally, but to the world. •  Expect catastrophes to be followed by great rejoicing, all the greater for what went before. A novel or movie that ends in failure, failure, failure, failure, failure … ultimate failure – is not a very good story. Reject the script – improve it, transcend it. It can be done. It must be done. The audience expects it. Thrive on setbacks. It is a way of thinking, a philosophy of life, and a self-conceit essential for unreasonable success. (Location 2826)

A hunch can be trusted if it can be explained … it is information you don’t know you possess. —MAX GUNTHER (Location 2851)

A hunch is only as good as the sum of past experience that produces it. —DR NATALIE SHAINESS (Location 2854)

Business thinking starts with an intuitive choice of assumptions. Its progress as analysis is intertwined with intuition. The final choice is always intuitive. If that were not true, all problems would be solved by mathematicians. —BRUCE HENDERSON (Location 2856)

Intuition is the killer advantage – the biological edge that humans have over other lifeforms. We can be rational creatures; indeed, the whole of science, civilisation and the unprecedented wealth of modern times appears to spring from knowledge and rational calculation. But this is wrong. (Location 2859)

Before there is knowledge, there is something else which generates knowledge. (Location 2869)

This ‘something else’ is the peculiarity and the glory of humankind. It is not knowledge, but it is related to knowledge, and it results in new and better knowledge. (Location 2872)

We can call this something else ‘not-quite-knowledge’, ‘implicit knowledge’, or perhaps best of all ‘hidden knowledge’. (Location 2875)

The magical way that hidden knowledge turns into incredibly valuable knowledge – the way in which dross turns into gold, the alchemy of knowledge – is through a prior process. And I am going to call this by its most simple and familiar name. It is intuition which turns hidden knowledge into incredibly valuable knowledge. (Location 2876)

‘A new idea,’ said Albert Einstein, ‘comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way. But intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.’1 (Location 2883)

Good intuition is the articulation of hidden knowledge. It is a leap of imagination which captures the truth that, in a sense, you already knew. (Location 2888)

We can state some guidelines in respect of intuition: •  Trust your intuition only in areas you know backwards, or about people you’ve known very well for a long time. •  Author and investor Max Gunther says, ‘Never confuse a hope with a hunch … I’m much more inclined to trust an intuition pointing to some outcome I don’t want … Be especially wary of any intuitive flash that seems to promise some outcome you want badly’.2 •  Hone your intuition in your areas of special focus. Your most valuable hunches will be where you have developed unique knowledge already, and are using intuition to extend it. (Location 2891)

During his time at the Boston Consulting Group, Bill Bain, the ex-history researcher with no engineering or business qualifications, came to three momentous conclusions, all intuitions based on hidden knowledge. (Location 3012)

Bain called it ‘playing three-dimensional chess’. The vital three dimensions were the ‘three Cs’: a firm’s costs; its customers and how they segmented; and its competitors. There were right and wrong strategies, and the right ones could hugely multiply the value of a company. (Location 3015)

Einstein’s thought experiments also illustrate something which is common to many of our players’ intuitive breakthroughs: they featured themselves in the drama which they conjured up. (Location 3074)

Nelson Mandela saw himself as a nattily dressed president, bringing South Africans together in peace and reconciliation. (Location 3082)

Great intuition, based on unrivalled knowledge in their different domains, was the killer advantage possessed by both scientists. (Location 3088)

Bob Dylan’s intuition was that the folk movement could provide the stage to parade his poetic and artistic genius. (Location 3095)

This is a common experience of many highly creative people, in many different fields including poetry, writing plays or novels, mathematics, philosophy, the physical sciences and music. As we have seen, Albert Einstein gained insight into relativity from visual images which suddenly appeared to him. (Location 3107)

Margaret Thatcher’s great presentiment was that Britain’s decline could be arrested by rolling back socialism, encouraging a new generation of creative entrepreneurs and renewing all that was best in Britain’s illustrious history. (Location 3124)

You need intuition with these qualities: •  It must be important. Could it make a dent in the universe? •  It must be unproven and original. Otherwise it is a fact, not an intuition. •  It must be imaginative. •  It must be simple. •  It must contradict the experts. •  Yet it must be based on deep knowledge. •  You must star in the intuition. Your ambition and emotion are part of the package, part of the appeal, and an integral part of the driving force. (Location 3132)

Will it to come, and it will come. Do not rush it. It is the intuition of a lifetime, which will transform and immeasurably enrich your life, your world, and the whole world beyond you. It is worth willing; worth waiting for; and worth committing yourself to utterly. (Location 3141)

In his presence, reality is malleable. —BUD TRIBBLE on Steve Jobs (Location 3153)

The spirit now wills his own will, and he who has been lost to the world now conquers the world. —FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE (Location 3155)

Blast medicine anyway. We’ve learned to tie into every human organ except one – the brain. The brain is what life is all about. That man can think any thought that we can, and love, and hope, dream as much as we can. —DOCTOR MCCOY in Star Trek, ‘The Menagerie’ (Location 3157)

If we want unreasonable success, we must first believe we can change the world. Really believe we have our own personal reality distortion field. (Location 3173)

As a colleague said, ‘Steve had a way of motivating by looking at the bigger picture.’3 If something was defined as vital, it therefore became possible. Jobs didn’t have to know how to do it, just tell his people what was needed and that they could do it. They believed him, and they did it. (Location 3188)

A long pause. The software wizards expected an explosion from Jobs. But he was calm. He told them how great they were, so they could get this done on time: ‘You guys have been working on this stuff for months now, another couple weeks isn’t going to make that much of a difference. You may as well get it over with. I’m going to ship the code a week from Monday, with your names on it.’4 (Location 3197)

‘Every once in a while,’ Jobs said in 2007, in perhaps his greatest product introduction, ‘a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.’ (Location 3204)

One of the iPhone’s great innovations was its beautiful glass screen. Glass looks much better than plastic, but Jobs couldn’t find a strong enough glass which would be resistant to scratches or breaking. (Location 3218)

This was Jobs’ reality distortion field in operation – what he really wanted, he had to have, and if it was impossible, that didn’t matter, he’d get it anyway by telling Weeks that he could do it. (Location 3224)

The story should instruct those who claim that Jobs’ reality distortion field was just science-fiction-speak for bullying. For sure, Jobs was a kind of bully, but a rare one – he bullied the strong, not the weak. His team were stars. (Location 3232)

This is an extreme version of the Matthew principle – ‘To everyone who has, will more be given, and he will have abundance.’8 Jobs manifested a super-abundance of talent and achievement, nay, quite unreasonable achievement for a mere mortal. (Location 3234)

But at Apple, Jobs moved mountains by distorting reality, and there were two vital steps which we can emulate – if we believe: (Location 3238)

•  Step 1 – Project extreme optimism and determination to redirect reality to fit your philosophy and objectives. Do what others think is impossible, or which never occurs to them. Defeat the conventional view of what is realistic and unrealistic. Sharpen your willpower and convince yourself it could change reality. (Location 3240)

Step 2 – Brainwash brilliant followers or collaborators into believing they can attain the impossible – because you say so, and you have a track record of being right. (Location 3243)

Reality distortion becomes progressively less impossible – I would not say ‘easier’ – the more you practise it and demonstrate your powers of will and prediction. (Location 3244)

The players changed reality because they believed they could. They demonstrated conclusively that reality is more malleable than is commonly believed. Yet it is only possible to change your world if you sincerely believe you can. (Location 3343)

The players all exhibited extreme optimism and willpower to re-channel reality to match their philosophy and aspirations. (Location 3345)

Many of the players – probably the ones who had the most unreasonable success – also brainwashed their followers and collaborators into believing that they too could distort reality. (Location 3346)

What is clear is that if you are to change the world, you need to master the technology of reality distortion. Faith can overpower facts. It is not the meek or the powerful who shall inherit the Earth, but the unreasonable believers. (Location 3349)

In my late twenties, my self-belief came under pressure. I was failing in my job at BCG – the firm valued analysis above all, and I wasn’t very good at it. (Location 3387)

floundered. I went through a year or two of increasing self-doubt, became thoroughly miserable, and eventually was asked to leave. (Location 3389)

Your third lesson is to listen to self-doubt – when it is clearly right – and to change tack accordingly. Self-doubt is constructive and should not be repressed. It’s the friend of self-belief, not its foe. (Location 3394)

Changing firms within the same industry led me to think quite deeply about why the two firms – BCG and Bain & Company – were both successful, yet in many ways dissimilar. (Location 3396)

Your fourth lesson is to keep hoping, scheming and dreaming, while learning everything you can about your niche. (Location 3400)

There doesn’t have to be a good reason for thinking big, but the first lesson on expectations is that your should get into the habit of doing it anyway – see the big picture and believe that you belong there; visualise what it will be like when you hit the big time. It won’t be quite like that, but imagining it will help you get there. (Location 3412)

It is strange how expectations determine performance. Because I expected to make money in the long run, I regarded my many setbacks as aberrations and valuable feedback, not as discouragements. (Location 3421)

All of us receive some praise and positive feedback from parents, teachers and playmates from the earliest stages of our lives. Your second lesson is that you should take the encouragement seriously. Let it expand your expectations of yourself: store the praise and our emotional response to it carefully in your memory bank; revisit it and augment it, adding interest to it like money in a bank. Genuine praise opens your heart and mind, and can widen, deepen and ‘warm up’ the part of your unconscious mind that deals with expectations. (Location 3423)

Your third lesson is that whether you have a new venture or are setting personal targets, it’s a good idea to reach as high as you can just-plausibly believe. There are no guarantees, but it is surprising how often lofty expectations come to pass. Because they are more inspiring, and require more original and radical action, grand expectations can be easier to reach than modest ones. In the words of the Eagles, ‘take it to the limit one more time’. (Location 3441)

The fourth lesson is that you should be specific in your expectations of other people, whether they are friends, partners, co-workers or people working for you. And you should be clear with yourself too – what is the utmost you can aspire to and deliver? (Location 3452)

To succeed, you need a serious intent to do so. Wake up each day determined that you will do something – anything, big or small, but something specific that you target for that day – to get closer to your destiny. (Location 3454)

But be advised: unless you make your high success the most vital thing in your life, the thing you think about most and most intensely, it will elude you. (Location 3457)

I repeat: serious intent means a permanent obsession with what you can do for the world. You should think about it every day. If you do, your unconscious mind will never stop thinking about it, whatever you are doing and even when you sleep. Every player thought about their success continually. So must you. (Location 3460)

Think big. •  Take praise seriously. Compound it in your mind. •  Set the highest possible growth targets. •  Be explicit with high expectations of other people. Self-belief and Olympian expectations are mutually reinforcing. If you believe in yourself, it’s easier to have very high expectations of what you will achieve. If your expectations are Olympian, and you see yourself in the big picture, it’s easier to elevate your self-belief. What makes it easier is that self-belief and Olympian expectations stem from the same four sources: •  Background •  Praise •  Self-manufactured belief •  Transforming experiences. You can’t do anything about your background. But you can do something about the other three sources of belief. (We will talk about transforming experiences next.) Praise, and basking in praise, generates self-belief. That applies to Olympian expectations too. To an important extent, the genuine positive feedback you gain is under your control – you need to deserve it! That means putting your efforts and intelligence into the one area where you can most easily excel. It’s not easy, but it’s a lot easier than trying to be a good all-rounder. (Location 3464)

What makes a transforming experience? •  It must make you a different person from who you were before the experience. •  It must give you new, rare and profound knowledge which is used in your future career •  It must give you an order of magnitude more authority, confidence, effectiveness and value to other people. (Location 3495)

The first lesson is that a transforming experience is a rare event, and, well … totally transforming. Ask yourself whether this has happened to you or not. How were you changed as a result? (Location 3503)

The last lesson is that most successful people are not content to rest on their laurels. When you reach your destination, it may be time to ask yourself these kinds of questions, which could lead on to yet another adventure. (Location 3528)

When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I resolved to be one of the founders of a new consulting firm, but I didn’t know when or with whom. I trusted this would be revealed to me at the right time. (Location 3537)

Deciding our breakthrough achievement is the hardest thing anyone in search of unreasonable success can do. Some of us are lucky and have found it, often by accident. (Location 3555)

But greatness requires that we are crystal clear – at the right time – about what our breakthrough will be. (Location 3558)

The first lesson is that the best way to get closer to knowing your achievement is to think deeply about what you may invent or personify. It’s remarkable that at least seventeen out of twenty players were inventors. Could you invent a new concept or valuable theory; product or service; company; charity; social, political, philosophical or religious movement; art form or other invention? What could you become uniquely qualified to invent, perhaps as a result of your (Location 3559)

transforming experiences? What do your personality, experience, practical skills, intellect, rare knowledge, curiosity, contacts, opportunities, values, ambition, imagination, creativity, and all your other personal characteristics, make you fit to pioneer? (Location 3563)

The second lesson is this: if your transforming achievement is not to be some form of invention, could it arise from a mission to stop something bad or promote something good that already exists? Do you have a deep-seated, visceral passion to start something that would be great for our community or society, or to stop something? What do you believe in which makes you unusual or different? Could you evolve a unique mission out of what you love or dislike? (Location 3567)

The third lesson is that opportunity often comes in a disguised way. Keep your fixed objective in mind and wait for events to give you the break you need. Bismarck said, ‘Man cannot create the current of events. He can only float with it and steer.’ Desire deeply. Wait. Pounce. It may take you years or even decades. But you must be ready when the call comes. (Location 3572)

Could your breakthrough achievement be to start a great company, movement, school of thought or something else remarkable? (Location 3582)

The first lesson is to find a cause which is original or unpopular. (Location 3595)

The second lesson is: you must be different. (Location 3599)

I’ve noticed that we succeeded when the following conditions applied, and we failed when they didn’t: •  When we were number one in our market or niche, and therefore had lower costs. •  When we glommed onto the most profitable customers. •  When we went for simplicity – when our products were easier to use, more useful, or a joy to use. (Location 3600)

The third lesson is that in business it is not enough to be different: you must be profitably different. (Location 3606)

The first lesson is to start by adapting or opposing a ‘pool vehicle’ (see Chapter 9). Put yourself into the slipstream of a movement, a crusade or a new way of pursuing your field, and become expert in it. (Location 3618)

The second lesson is to identify what your own personal vehicle should look like. If you really want the vehicle, if you know what it will look like, and if you keep your desire near the top of your unconscious mind, it will arrive. (Location 3623)

The third lesson is to ask yourselves similar questions to decide if you are ready: •  Do you understand the market niche backwards? •  Can you see a gap in the market, and what is it? •  Is there a large enough market in the gap? •  Have you worked for one or more major competitors at a senior level? •  Can you see something your rivals can’t? •  Does it excite you? •  Can the new vehicle become cash-positive and profitable quickly, and do you have enough capital to reach breakeven (bearing in mind this nearly always takes longer than expected)? •  You should only launch your new vehicle when you are sure you are ready. (Location 3642)

The fourth lesson is that it is better to have one driver of the vehicle, the dominant person chosen by the founders to lead it. (Location 3659)

The fifth lesson is that if you are super-confident that your proposition is best for the vehicle, you should fight tenaciously for it, and grasp the nettle of leadership that I was too diffident to seize. If the vehicle is roadworthy and has great future potential, do not sell or surrender it too readily. I think this applies beyond business, to other organisations, crusades or social movements. It is why they are always fragmenting, often in a positive way. Divergence is the organising principle of evolution and life generally. (Location 3666)

The sixth lesson is that disagreements among founders are endemic and should not come as a surprise, an affront, or a cause to be stressed and break friendships. Founders are powerful and independent personalities. If disagreements are profound, they should happily and amicably go their own ways. (Location 3673)

The seventh lesson is that if you give up your personal vehicle, immediately start searching for the next one – you owe that to yourself and the world. (Location 3676)

I bought stakes, often controlling stakes, in several small ventures that I believed could benefit from the concepts of strategy. (Location 3680)

The final lesson is that a good way to define your next vehicle is to extend your experience and knowledge into a new yet adjacent field, where you can be a pioneer. (Location 3683)

As I mentioned before, my most traumatic setback came at twenty-nine, when I had to part company from the Boston Consulting Group. For three years, I had loved working there – I relished the intellectual challenge, the exposure to our clients’ triumphs and guilty secrets, the chance to gain the confidence and ear of top people, and the thrill of working with some of the brightest people on the planet. (Location 3697)

Until then, I had never really failed. I didn’t expect it and I felt I didn’t deserve it. One of my bosses said that I was like a volcano, working away constructively, but then exploding when least expected. He also said I made my bosses nervous because they never knew what I would say at client meetings. (Location 3703)

The first lesson is that failure can and often should be reframed – seen in a new light. Without diminishing the feedback you’ve received, which may cause you to change tack, reframing can boost your self-esteem by telling you that failure can be honourable. (Location 3707)

I was never made to be a loyal, obedient employee. Even a rather forgiving and free-wheeling outfit such as BCG had its hierarchy and its limits. (Location 3710)

The second lesson is that after any failure you can choose to interpret it negatively, positively or neutrally; and you can decide either to change your actions and perhaps even part of your personality, or to change the context in which you deploy them. (Location 3716)

The third lesson is how easily one can sometimes adopt a different attitude and have it become second nature. If the motivation is great enough, you may be far more malleable than you might think. You may come to enjoy displaying a different side of yourself, just as I did. (Location 3734)

After three years I decided to focus on writing and investing, which went well together. I became happier and more productive. (Location 3740)

The fourth lesson is to keep happily busy after a setback or change of life, to resist drifting and dabbling, and to find one or two absorbing interests. (Location 3742)

Over time, and particularly through writing this book, I’ve realised that success and failure are complements, not opposites. Failure gives us as much valuable feedback as success, sometimes a great deal more; and learning from failure is often the prelude and precondition for great success. (Location 3743)

The final lesson is that to attain unreasonable success you must thrive on failure. Although setbacks will come, with the right mindset you can bounce back bigger and better. If you take intelligent risks, the universe will knock you down, but will also raise you up stronger than ever. (Location 3746)

The first lesson is to build up expertise in a fast-growing but small, narrow area of expertise, where few people currently operate. Without deeply understanding a specialised and relatively unknown area, your intuition is unlikely to propel you forward decisively. (Location 3759)

My second insight was that the incredibly powerful concepts of business strategy could be used to beat the odds investing in new and young companies. (Location 3762)

I am encouraging other entrepreneurs and investors to follow suit so that the result affects the whole economy. (Location 3763)

The second lesson is the extraordinarily high value of rare knowledge about a sector or idea that is starting to spread like wildfire. If you have an unusually deep appreciation of a high-growth area, you are halfway to success. (Location 3765)

The third lesson is to increase your creativity and the power of your unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind is like a huge filing cabinet of everything you have learned in your life – everything! – with the ability to cross-reference anything from any file to another. (Location 3770)

success. To change the metaphor, your unconscious mind is also like a bottomless well, from which, if you send the bucket down skilfully, you can dredge up endless buckets of gold. So, feed your unconscious mind every day, and learn how to tap it every day. (Location 3773)

One thing which has built my personal fortune is my habit of guessing outcomes of investments and events. I think in terms of probabilities and ‘expected value’. (Location 3776)

For example, if I think investing in Venture X has a 30 per cent chance of making 50 times my money, I would prefer that to Venture Y, if it has an 80 per cent chance of making 10 times. The expected value of Venture X is .3 (Location 3778)

× 50 = 15, which is better than Venture Y, where .8 × 10 = 8. Of course, we need to invest money we can afford to lose, and be willing to take high risks. (Location 3779)

The final lesson is that, if you can afford it and can stomach the risk, you can benefit from guessing outcomes and tracking how often you are right. If the outcome is great enough, you only need to be right once in your life. (Location 3781)

start. It was a deliberate ploy to develop breadth of experience and a new and improved personality – more extrovert, open, friendly, can-do; less pedantic, gloomy and critical. I acquired remarkably little useful knowledge at Wharton, but as a finishing school it could hardly have been better. (Location 3790)

The first lesson is that it is possible to change your current reality by changing yourself. This is probably best done when your personality is more angular, plastic, undefined – certainly in your twenties, though I have seen people change for the better at any age. To reinvent yourself, you need to go away – away from home, away from friends, away from co-workers, away from your job, away from your state or region and from your country. (Location 3793)

Personality reinvention is the ultimate in reality distortion – changing yourself is both easier and more likely to change your prospects than changing the world around you. It’s not a good idea to take personality change too far, but self-improvement is always possible, and easier if you move to a more positive, outgoing, dynamic place. (Location 3797)

I believe we can always do this, if we have the right people on our side, and want a good time and high achievement. Life is generally not like this but making it so is the best way to distort reality. (Location 3805)

The second lesson is that it is not always necessary to work in the salt-mines to get ahead. Reality is often unpleasant, but you can distort and defeat the grim work ethic. (Location 3808)

The third lesson is that if you want to defy (Location 3813)

reality – to shift it to something else – you must be very clear about what that reality is, and how to make it temporary. (Location 3813)

‘God plays dice with the universe. But they’re loaded dice. And the main objective is to find out by what rules they were loaded and how we can use them for our own ends.’ —JOSEPH FORD (Location 3821)

We have reached the end of our rollercoaster ride. We’ve seen that success does not require genius, consistency, all-round ability, a safe pair of hands or even basic competence. If it did, most of the players in this book would not have impacted the world as they did. (Location 3824)

What the players all exhibited is a set of unusual and strongly effective attitudes and strategies – super-charged self-belief, elevated expectations of themselves and their collaborators, an experience that gave them rare knowledge, a single objective that would change their lives and those of myriad other people, the cussedness to carve out their own path through life, a personal vehicle that augmented their powers prodigiously, the ability to learn from failure and relish it, finely tuned intuition that they fed rather than throttled, and the confidence that they could make their own rules and defy the realities and obstacles that normal people accept as facts of life. They were unreasonable in a highly creative way, and hence unreasonably successful. (Location 3826)

1.  It’s all about positioning yourself for success, not improving your performance The players we’ve met had unreasonable success because they ‘visited’ the nine landmarks, not, in most cases, because their performance was outstanding in other respects – indeed, in many cases, it wasn’t outstanding at all. This is very good news. If you can get the positioning right, your chances of high success rocket. You could spend enormous energy trying to become better at what you do – and still fail anyway. It takes much less effort to get your positioning right, and the results will be much more impressive. (Location 3833)

2.  It’s not all about your abilities – it’s about having the right attitude and success strategies The nine landmarks can be reduced to two megaattributes – attitude and strategies. (Location 3839)

Attitude is my shorthand for the following qualities: self-belief, Olympian expectations, thriving on setbacks and distorting reality. These are not conventional ways of thinking and acting. Few people see the world through this lens and behave in the way that our players did. What these four attitude-based landmarks have in common, however, is that they greatly increase the chances of success. (Location 3842)

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Learning to see the world in these terms and acting this way is initially not easy – it comes naturally to a few people but not to most of us. Yet, if you truly want to win, it is far from impossible to learn these traits and make them habits. (Location 3845)

To compete on these kinds of attitude is to enter a race where the prize is huge and there are few people competing against you. (Location 3853)

The success strategies are transforming experiences, making your own trail, finding and driving your personal vehicle, acquiring unique intuition and, above all, making one breakthrough achievement. (Location 3855)

A transforming experience will make you hugely more effective because you will learn something rare and valuable. (Location 3857)

Your own trail must be original, different, and profitably different. (Location 3859)

Your personal vehicle must leverage your time and abilities to a far, far greater degree than they are leveraged now. (Location 3860)

Unique intuition depends on knowing more in a narrow field than anyone else. (Location 3862)

Most vital of all – and based on all the other strategies and attitudes – is one breakthrough achievement where you invent something which profoundly changes the world, or your part of it. (Location 3863)

Now you know that success isn’t primarily about performance, but about positioning – that is, your attitudes and strategies – you are fully equipped for the journey to unreasonable success. (Location 3867)

Luck always plays a huge part in success, but where there’s life, luck can change. We can’t control everything in life, but success is not mysterious either. (Location 3868)

You are playing with loaded dice, but now you know how they are loaded, and can adjust your actions accordingly. (Location 3870)