Common Knowledge + Uncommon Experiences = Success

"What’s the #1 key to business success?" What a dumb question that is, and I promise not to try to answer it in my forthcoming book.

As I’ve been writing and researching for my book, I have discovered how "common" virtually every piece of advice anyone could possibly give on virtually any topic related to business or life success has become. In other words: find me some original thinking!

I’ve read plenty of books or magazine articles on "the top 5 leadership keys" or "the three habits all powerful people employ." And I remember none of it. Sure, if you asked me what principles all successful people embody I could give you a laundry list of predictable answers: integrity, commitment, hard work, curiosity, and so forth. But how many times have you heard those now-meaningless adjectives?

So, the question for go-getter in hunt of insights about how to thrive in this wild and crazy world is: Do I search for un-common knowledge? That is, truly original insights by truly original thinkers? Or, do I try to bolster these tired advice adjectives with real meaning by supplementing the common knowledge with uncommon experiences? That is, can I produce a war-chest of experiences for when I acted with integrity and when I did not, and carry those lessons with me for the rest of my life?

I think you can tell which approach I favor!

8 Responses to Common Knowledge + Uncommon Experiences = Success

  1. Knowing all the answers is only of any use when you have figured out what the questions are. Good questions help to define the unknown, dig out false assumptions, and illuminate opportunities. They can also be seen as annoying off-topic distractions….

    There are a few people out there who get the questions right. I don’t think its something you can learn from a book, but you can make sure that you build a team that includes and encourages this talent, and make time to listen and think.

  2. Brendan says:

    Have you read The 48 Laws of Power? It’s fairly unconventional as far as those types of books go. It isn’t all about how to be a great moral person and succeed. Also, instead of using examples drawn from the authors life (think 7 Habits stories about his kids) it takes stories from history. Minimally you learn some history.

    Sucessful Personal Finance

  3. Tim Taylor says:

    Ben,

    I’m pretty sure this is my favorite post I’ve ever read of yours (no, I don’t keep a list, but maybe I should….).

    Honestly, this one is insightful, funny and right on the money.

    I love the quote from Rumi:

    “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”

    I find I’m clever when surrounded by or encountering the familiar. I find I’m bewildered when I receive the gift of the unfamiliar.

    Awesome post.

  4. Ben Casnocha says:

    Brendan — I read some of 48 Laws but could’t get into it. I agree it’s unconventional, but the tone was too much for me.

  5. Bernadette Balla says:

    The key for me is spirituality and leading with soul and emotional intelligence. I believe authorship, significant and love do well when it comes to business. Love is missing in the business realm and I intend to make my professional experiences with people an extraordinary and warm one.

  6. Alexander Peschkoff says:

    What’s wrong with the “7 habits”? It’s a great conceptual book, i.e. the authour does “list” those seven habits, but not as a “to do” list. Instead, he offers a “road map” to check that one’s life is on the right track.

  7. Tyler Willis says:

    This issue reminds me of the spiritual dilemma faced by many people in India around the time of the Buddha (and clearly in many times and places throughout history).

    The issue of finding new knowledge vs experiencing old knowledge was heavy on the minds of the ascetics and wanderers who were searching for spiritual enlightenment. There was a large debate in these groups. One group favored reading and thinking about spirtual texts and developing those ideas to lead to more knowledge. Another group practiced suffering and tried to attain a unique state of conciousness to find new knowledge.

    Interesting to see the issue play out in the different people of many cultures, over many eras. I am solidly with your understanding, why ignore the worlds previous accomplishments when searching for your own, why not use them as stepping stones to your own understanding.

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