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Two Routes to Achievement

conformity and originality. Conformity means following the crowd down conventional paths and maintaining the status quo.
Originality is taking the road less traveled, championing a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better.”


Originality Involves

introducing and advancing an idea that’s relatively unusual within a particular domain, and that has the potential to improve it


Originality itself starts with creativity: generating a concept that is both novel and useful. But it doesn’t stop there.

Originals are people who take the initiative to make their visions a reality. The Warby Parker founders had the originality to dream up an unconventional way to sell glasses online, but became originals by taking action to make them easily accessible and affordable.”


Why Chrome Users are Better Workers

They looked for novel ways of selling to customers and addressing their concerns. When they encountered a situation they didn’t like, they fixed it. Having taken the initiative to improve their circumstances, they had little reason to leave. They created the jobs they wanted. But they were the exception, not the rule


Theory of System Justification

people are motivated to rationalize the status quo as legitimate—even if it goes directly against their interests.”

People who suffer the most from a given state of affairs are paradoxically the least likely to question, challenge, reject, or change it.


Justifying the default system serves a soothing function.

If the world is supposed to be this way, we don’t need to be dissatisfied with it. But acquiescence also robs us of the moral outrage to stand against injustice and the creative will to consider alternative ways that the world could work.”


Hallmark of Originality

is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists.

turns out to be far less difficult than I expected.
The starting point is curiosity: pondering why the default exists in the first place. ”


a fresh perspective that enables us to gain new insights into old problems

When we become curious about the dissatisfying defaults in our world, we begin to recognize that most of them have social origins: Rules and systems were created by people. And that awareness gives us the courage to contemplate how we can change them. ”


Child prodigies, it turns out, rarely go on to change the world.

When psychologists study history’s most eminent and influential people, they discover that many of them weren’t unusually gifted as children


The Achilles Heel of Prodigies

what holds them back from moving the world forward is that they don’t learn to be original. As they perform in Carnegie Hall, win the science Olympics, and become chess champions, something tragic happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new. The gifted learn to play magnificent Mozart melodies and beautiful Beethoven symphonies, but never compose their own original scores. They focus their energy on consuming existing scientific knowledge, not producing new insights. They conform to the codified rules of established games, rather than inventing their own rules or their own games. All along the way, they strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers.


they become the world’s most excellent sheep.

Those who do must make a painful transition” from a child who “learns rapidly and effortlessly in an established domain” to an adult who “ultimately remakes a domain.”

Most prodigies never make that leap. They apply their extraordinary abilities in ordinary ways, mastering their jobs without questioning defaults and without making waves. In every domain they enter, they play it safe by following the conventional paths to success. ”


When achievement motivation goes sky-high, it can crowd out originality

The more you value achievement, the more you come to dread failure. Instead of aiming for unique accomplishments, the intense desire to succeed leads us to strive for guaranteed success.

Once people pass an intermediate level in the need to achieve, there is evidence that they actually become less creative.”


The drive to succeed and the accompanying fear of failure have held back some of the greatest creators and change agents in history.

Concerned with maintaining stability and attaining conventional achievements, they have been reluctant to pursue originality


If Michealangelo Had Imposter's Syndrome...

He viewed himself as a sculptor, not a painter, and found the task so overwhelming that he fled to Florence. Two years would pass before he began work on the project, at the pope’s insistence.”

“We can only imagine how many Wozniaks, Michelangelos, and Kings never pursued, publicized, or promoted their original ideas because they were not dragged or catapulted into the spotlight. ”


As economist Joseph Schumpeter famously observed

originality is an act of creative destruction. Advocating for new systems often requires demolishing the old way of doing things, and we hold back for fear of rocking the boat. ”


On matters of style, swim with the current,” Thomas Jefferson allegedly advised,

“on matters of principle, stand like a rock.”


The Myth of the Risky Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs who kept their day jobs had 33 percent lower odds of failure than those who quit.
If you’re risk averse and have some doubts about the feasibility of your ideas, it’s likely that your business will be built to last. If you’re a freewheeling gambler, your startup is far more fragile.”


Keeping your Day Job

“This habit of keeping one’s day job isn’t limited to successful entrepreneurs. Many influential creative minds have stayed in full-time employment or education even after earning income from major projects.


Balancing Risk Portfolio

When we embrace danger in one domain, we offset our overall level of risk by exercising caution in another domain. ”

“ Having a sense of security in one realm gives us the freedom to be original in another. By covering our bases financially, we escape the pressure to publish half-baked books, sell shoddy art, or launch untested businesses.”

“ Instead, successful originals take extreme risks in one arena and offset them with extreme caution in another. ”


The benefit of Calculated Risks

the adolescents who went on to start productive companies were only taking calculated risks.“Across all three studies, the people who become successful entrepreneurs were more likely to have teenage histories of defying their parents, staying out past their curfews, skipping school, shoplifting,“gambling, drinking alcohol, and smoking marijuana. They were not, however, more likely to engage in hazardous activities like driving drunk, buying illegal drugs, or stealing valuables.

But the most successful originals are not the daredevils who leap before they look. They are the ones who reluctantly tiptoe to the edge of a cliff, calculate the rate of descent, triple-check their parachutes, and set up a safety net at the bottom just in case.


The Myth of the Dominant Leader

When experts rated the presidents on the desire to please others and avoid conflict, Lincoln scored the highest of them all.

Before signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln agonized for six months over whether he should free the slaves. He questioned whether he had the constitutional authority; he worried that the decision might lose him the support of the border states, forfeit the war, and destroy the country.”


Job Designing

jobs are not static sculptures, but flexible building blocks. We gave them examples of people becoming the architects of their own jobs, customizing their tasks and relationships to better align with their interests, skills, and values

“Instead of using only their existing talents, they took the initiative to develop new capabilities that enabled them to create an original, personalized job. As a result, they were 70 percent more likely than their peers to land a promotion or a transition to a coveted role. By refusing to stick with their default jobs and default skills, they became“happier and more effective—and qualified themselves for roles that were a better fit. Many of their limits, they came to realize, were of their own making


The Difference of Originals

he people who choose to champion originality are the ones who propel us forward. After spending years studying them and interacting with them, I am struck that their inner experiences are not any different from our own. They feel the same fear, the same doubt, as the rest of us. What“sets them apart is that they take action anyway. They know in their hearts that failing would yield less regret than failing to try.”


Idea Generation vs Idea Selection

Many ideas are generated. Its choosing which ideas created are useful.


Be Wary of Overconfidence

Overconfidence may be a particularly difficult bias to overcome in the creative domain. When you’re generating a new idea, by definition it’s unique, so you can ignore all the feedback you’ve received in the past about earlier inventions. Even if your previous ideas have bombed, this one is different.


To Close to the Source

When we’ve developed an idea, we’re typically too close to our own tastes—and too far from the audience’s taste—to evaluate it accurately. We’re giddy from the thrill of the eureka moment or the triumph of overcoming an obstacle.”

“But even when they do learn about“their audience’s preferences, it’s too easy for them to fall victim to what psychologists call confirmation bias: they focus on the strengths of their ideas while ignoring or discounting their limitations.”


If originals aren’t reliable judges of the quality of their ideas, how do they maximize their odds of creating a masterpiece?

They come up with a large number of ideas. Simonton finds that on average, creative geniuses weren’t qualitatively better in their fields than their peers. They simply produced a greater volume of work, which gave them more variation and a higher chance of originality. “The odds of producing an influential or successful idea,” Simonton notes, are “a positive function of the total number of ideas generated.”

“In every field, even the most eminent creators typically produce a large quantity of work that’s technically sound but considered unremarkable by experts and audiences. ”


. If you want to be original, “the most important possible thing you could do,

“is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work.”


In a study of over 15,000 classical music compositions, the more pieces a composer produced in a given five-year window

the greater the spike in the odds of a hit.


the most prolific people not only have the highest originality

they also generate their most original output during the periods in which they produce the largest volume.*