It’s the podcast’s birthday! To celebrate, today I want to talk about one of my favorite traits: stubbornness.
There are all kinds of traits our culture insists we “have” to have to run a successful business, but looking around, there’s just one I’ve seen.
In this 22-minute episode, I talk about:
- How to make the most of our gifts and blessings
- How to think about your constraints and assets to build something amazing
- What a box of Legos can teach you about business
- Finding inspiration for business and life
Listen to Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer below ...
The Show Notes
- Gary Vaynerchuk on Entrepreneurial DNA
- Sean d’Souza on this podcast, also talking about entrepreneurial DNA, How to Strengthen Your Talents
- Paul Piff’s TedX talk on Whether Money Makes People Mean
- PBS Frontline, The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela
Sonia Simone: Greetings, superfriends! My name is Sonia Simone and these are the Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer. For those who don’t know me, I’m a co-founder and the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital.
I’m also a champion of running your business and your life according to your own rules. As long as you don’t lie and you don’t hurt people, this podcast is your official pink permission slip to run your business or your career exactly the way you think you should.
This is episode 52 of this podcast, which I vote makes it the one-year anniversary. Because we skipped an episode or two over the holidays that isn’t literally exactly right, but who wants to be that literal?
In honor of my first year of podcasting, I want to talk about my favorite virtue for business owners: Raw, undiluted, and maybe even cranky stubbornness.
If you have this one, you can get the rest
A lot of you have heard me go off on the idea that business owners have to have special “DNA.”
Gary Vaynerchuk is one who really believes in entrepreneurial DNA.
Let’s just say — I don’t agree.
Gary came here from Belarus when he was three. His family owned a liquor store, and Gary did really amazing things in getting more customers to that using content.
He was actually born into a family that gave him amazing gifts — not the kind of privilege with marble bathtubs or gold-plated silverware, but the privilege of a mindset for business.
It looks like DNA because he didn’t ask for it, he didn’t “earn” it — it was given to him as a gift of his birth. And it’s fantastic. And I love the way he looks at the world through this lens that he inherited.
But it’s not DNA. Traits and abilities like “the ability to sell” aren’t DNA. And we know they aren’t DNA, because we have examples all over the place of people who didn’t have it growing up, but learn it or otherwise acquire it along the way.
No matter what I read or who I meet or what workshops I attend or investments I make, I don’t get any taller. How tall I am is DNA.
Privilege and luck
The way I see it is, we have privileges — these are the things we get born with. Sometimes they are DNA, like you’re tall. A few people inherit some crazy gift of resilience, and can come through really horrible beginnings.
A lot of times it’s just being lucky enough to get born to parents who value education and hard work — I was lucky enough to get those. It’s not a small thing.
Experiment a couple of years ago at U.C. Berkeley, which I find hilarious since that’s my alma mater and also the epicenter of political correctness on the planet. Participants played Monopoly — but some were given double the starting money, allowed to roll more dice, or otherwise had the game stacked in their favor.
Part of the scenario is asking them at the end of the game why they won — because of course, with their advantages, they all won. And they gave reasons like their strategy, or having a passion for the game. Some of them even mentioned luck, like lucky die rolls. But none of them seemed to remember that they started with double the money and three dice instead of two.
Now the study was very broad and I notice it’s a bit of a blind-man-and-elephant study. Everyone sees their own bias in it. So don’t get crazy attached to it as scientific evidence … but I think it’s a fascinating microcosm or metaphor.
That’s privilege. I don’t actually believe in apologizing for it, since I’m hoping you didn’t elbow someone else aside to get it, but also don’t think it means you’re smart or hard-working or anything other than just very fortunate. Try hard to be conscious of it, be thankful, and roll up your sleeves.
It strikes me that people have gone a little off the rails with this study, possibly, thinking “that’s why those people are like that.” The researcher, Paul Piff, has a TEDx talk called “does money make you mean.” Those other rich people.
This is why we are sometimes like this.
Every single person listening to this has inherited some privilege. You’re on the internet, you live in this age where so many things are possible, you have access to technology, you have enough to eat, you have clean drinking water. This stuff is not trivial. We take them for granted, they’re double-Monopoly money, but they’re not trivial, and not everyone has them. So take a little time to honor the gifts you received at birth.
Privilege is hard to look at because it’s a little taboo. We think that privileged people are bad people, and the Monopoly study researchers I think brought some of that bias to it.
But we all have some privilege, some very juicy pieces of luck that we did nothing to earn, and I’ve found it’s more constructive to try to be mindful of that instead of falling all over yourself insisting that privilege has no bearing on your life.
The role of blessings
Then there’s the other thing, and I call these blessings. These are the opportunities, the doors that present themselves, and we decide to open them or not to open them.
They’re still gifts, but you have to do something to unlock them. You have to put the work in. You have to assess the situation with your best judgment and try to make the right call. You have to compete on your strengths and train your weaknesses — which means, do what you’re excellent at, and then make a plan for how to work with what you might kind of suck pretty badly at.
Blessings are where things like marketing and business education come in. A blog that teaches you, a conference that inspires and educates you.
They’re opportunities to play the hand we’re dealt in a smarter way. Sometimes they’re opportunities to go get more cards.
So my philosophy is, Be conscious of and grateful for your privileges and don’t let them make you think you’re so smart. Then work hard and leverage the blessings that you come across to the best of your ability.
Luck matters, but plenty of ultra-fortunate people have thrown their success and happiness away with both hands because they put no work into their blessings. So don’t be that person, because seriously, how depressing is that.
Where stubbornness comes in
So I talked about my favorite vice/virtue of stubbornness: this is how I see it playing into that mix.
If you’re going to reach a goal — personal, financial, business, health, relationship, whatever — you have constraints and you have assets. Your assets are the privileges and the blessings. They’re all of those resources you can tap into to make something happen.
Your abilities, your education, your money, your available time, your network, your upbringing, the marketing and business podcasts you listen to, the books and courses you’ve acquired, you get the idea. These are your assets.
Then you have constraints — and funnily enough, these often have the same labels. So there might be something lacking or sub-optimal about your abilities, your education, your money, your available time, your network, your upbringing, etc. You know how to fill those blanks in for yourself.
You sit down — and I’m going to write about this soon — and basically you have a box of Legos. You’re going to make something out of the Legos you have. And you aren’t going to use the Legos that you don’t have, because … you don’t have them.
That’s what reaching goals is all about. So if we’re talking about a success goal or a business or financial goal, you have a unique combination of assets and constraints, and how you put those together is up to you.
Now if you have absolutely everything you need right there in front of you, you happened to be born with the really good set of Lego that had the little wheels and axels and maybe even the electronic motor, then you just go forth and do it.
And probably you don’t listen to podcasts like this one, because you don’t need it. You have what you need. Go you.
But for most of us, we need to work around some things. We need to get creative. We need to build something no one has seen before, because we’re working around constraints.
Constraints make the most beautiful design, actually.
Or if we want to make a life-sized bullfighter out of Legos, and we have no red Legos at all for the cape, we may need to figure out how to get some red Legos. Maybe a friend has some they’ll let us borrow. Or we have a bunch of yellow and green ones, and we can swap. Maybe we can take our birthday money and buy some. Maybe we can create a new character called the Bluefighter who has a blue cape. I don’t know. How you solve this problem is what makes your business or your project unique.
With enough stubbornness, you’ll figure it out. If you have to go out and wander the streets looking for stray pennies and save them up, you will eventually have enough for some red Legos. It’s going to be really hard for some and pretty manageable for others.
But we all will come up against an issue that requires a lot of stubbornness. Another word could be courage. Another word could be “grit.” If you are a meditator, another word could be mindfulness, or equanimity.
But it’s staying with the problem set through the frustrations. Continuing to apply our intelligence and our intention. Sometimes we need to back off of it for a little bit — work hard on it, then back away and sleep on it. To consider and re-consider the assets, and how they match up against the constraints, until we come up with a solution that is pleasing.
If you have the stubbornness, you can get to the rest of it or die trying. For me, there is something really core to human dignity about that.
This is why we love those stories where people overcome amazing odds. Something amazing in my lifetime was to see that Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison, in a country that was known for fanatical — essentially religious — clinging to a system of pervasive injustice. And — this blows my mind every time I think about it — Mandela figured out how to use that as an asset to lead his country to freedom.
In the winter of 1964, Nelson Mandela arrived on Robben Island where he would spend 18 of his 27 prison years. Confined to a small cell, the floor his bed, a bucket for a toilet, he was forced to do hard labor in a quarry. He was allowed one visitor a year for 30 minutes. He could write and receive one letter every six months. But Robben Island became the crucible which transformed him. Through his intelligence, charm and dignified defiance, Mandela eventually bent even the most brutal prison officials to his will, assumed leadership over his jailed comrades and became the master of his own prison. He emerged from it the mature leader who would fight and win the great political battles that would create a new democratic South Africa.
— PBS Frontline, The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela
And of course he became South Africa’s first post-apartheid president. I have to tell you, in the 1980s, really nearly no one thought South Africa could ever overthrow apartheid and become whole. Certainly not in our lifetime. But Mandela saw it.
Whatever constraints you or I have, we can look at someone like Mandela — and of course, thousands of others — and feel inspired to refresh our own stubbornness.
They remind us that we have this unbelievable human ability to keep turning over the assets and constraints, over and over again, keep applying our creativity and our stubbornness. We’re a crazy species and some days I worry about us. But we do have this going for us, and it’s cool.
Any time you can, try to look up from your own problems and say to yourself, “If that person can do it, I can do it.” It’s very helpful.
So: Let me know about your assets and constraints! And if you want to share a time you were able to sit with a problem and get stubborn on it, we would all love to hear about it. If you are in the middle of a problem set that’s got your gears grinding, let us know that too — one of the assets we don’t always mobilize is our community.
People want to help you get to where you’re going. We’re wired for that. It’s so easy, and especially in the West, the U.S. in particular, because we have a big mythology around the “Lone Ranger,” it’s so easy to forget that all of us can pull together a community to reach our goals together. It’s so powerful. It’s so, so powerful.
Or if you just want to wish the podcast happy birthday, I’ll take it. Swing by PinkHairedMarketer.FM, or tweet me @soniasimone. See you next time.