In modern times, it is a common fallacy to insinuate that for one to flourish in business or otherwise, one has to conform to a given set of traits and mannerisms that have been assumed to guarantee success. These stereotypical domains have created two classes of people in any entity the able and the unable. As a result, many of the people in the world have lived to consign their life to chance in conformity to these stereotypes. But then, does it mean that if one is not ably gifted as per their prescribed mannerism then they cannot make it?
Maybe it is time we review the history of past world changers. Starting with the most famous of all – Honest Abe. Abraham Lincoln was not known to be an achiever of any sort. He failed in his entire life a record thirteen times. After twelve unsuccessful attempts at love, doing business, politics in various levels, he finally clinched the highest office in the land. The sixteenth President of the United States of America is the most popular of the American Presidents and renown for the execution of the Declaration of the Emancipation, the document that abolished slavery in the United States of America.
The only billionaire writer of our times, Joanne Kathleen Rowling, famously known as J.K. Rowling, was a depressed pauper by any standards, living on social benefits from the government. Actually, out of her frustrations in life, she chose to do her first Harry Potter novel based on real life characters. She then took the manuscript to twelve established publishers who all declined to publish her book. The thirteenth one accepted, albeit unwillingly. He even pointed out that there was no way should would be able to live on her writings and children books for that matter. Well, the rest is history. She is the owner of the Harry Potter brand that includes multiple books, movies and screenplays. She was declared by Forbes magazine as the worlds first dollar billionaire writer in 2004 with gross earnings exceeding USD 25 Billionaire. She also has numerous international awards to her name.
Michael Jordan is a famed sports personality especially in basketball circles. It is said that when he was starting out, his coach could not see potential in him because he was of a lesser height. Actually, when the time for selection of his schools senior team came, he was left out and his friend, Leroy Smith was picked. He never gave up. He purposed to work more than norm, waking up early to go to the basketball court to practice his dunking even before the other teammates would call for morning practice. He later perfected his play to the extent that the senior players would come watch him play and admire his style. Consequently, he was enrolled to the senior team from which he grew to be a superstar. As we speak, it is said that Michael earns much more than all the workers who spend their entire week working at the Nikes factory in Malaysia, yet he has never spent more than eight hours on any day at the factory. How does he do this? Out of his stardom, Nike, the famous apparel company, manufactured a branded attire kit in his name and through his performances, popularized their uptake among his fans. And such, the young boy who could not qualify for the basketball team for deficiency in talent, is a now a Basketball Hall of Famer. Apart from this, he was also Forbes’ 20th most effective celebrity for the year 2010.
Take the story of Jack Ma for instance, mainland Chinas wealthiest man alive today. Out of his love for the English language, he would cycle for over 45 minutes to Hangzhou Hotel to practice his dictum while translating for Western Tourists. With time, he developed a desire for the language and studied teaching as an occupation. It was during these encounters that he met a foreign girl who could not pronounce his Chinese name well and hence the nickname “Jack Ma” was coined. It is told that he failed in his Primary School exams twice. He again experienced failure in his Middle School exams where he flopped thrice before eventually passing. His desire to pursue English studies made him apply for admission to Hangzhou Normal University. He once again failed in his three attempts before finally being admitted for a Bachelor in English degree. Before graduating, his desire to master the English language made him seek employment as an English teacher.
Jack Ma’s life is punctuated with rejection. He made a record thirty unsuccessful job application attempts. He thereafter chose to pursue a teaching career path after graduation, working as a teacher at Dianzi University on a monthly pay of US $ 12 a month. When the KFC franchise went to China to set up shop, he and 23 others applied for jobs. The 23 were employed and his application declined. He also applied for a Police Force job. Other three applicants were taken on board. His application was declined, once again. His reason for being left out was he “was no good”.
After getting frustrated at getting formally employed, he chose to entirely rely on his English language skills to earn a living. He then started a translation service business to serve the Chinese when they needed to interact with foreign companies from the west on business matters. This offered him the chance to visit the USA in 1995 on a government project on the building of highways. At that time, China was heavily communist and Internet penetration was low if not nonexistent.
The story goes that when he landed in Seattle USA, he visited a friend who had this seemingly funny looking box in his study. On inquiry, he was told its called a “computer”. His first action was search “beer” on its search engine. The browser brought up many results and none was from China. On searching “china”, he realized no information came up.
On return to China, he purposed to introduce the Internet to China. His initial two ventures failed, including one, China Yellow Pages that made him exit due to bureaucracy associated with government agencies at the time since he co-owned it with the government. On launching China Yellow Pages, he received numerous emails from interested people around the world that sought partnerships. Later on, he started Alibaba. At the moment, Alibaba is one of the biggest electronic commerce networks in the world. It is only second to Walmart, the world’s biggest distribution business entity. Its worth is higher than Facebook, the world’s largest social network. It is on record that the platform processes more goods on a daily basis than eBay and Amazon combined!
All these and many others just drive home the point that one does not need to fit into any system of thoughts to make it in business. They are classic cases of square pegs fitting into round holes. They are people out to solve societys problems in a different way and deliver value due to the ultimate consumer. They choose to overlook their limitations and unfitting geometry in psychology or otherwise, to ensure common problems in society are solved in the best way they know how. What would we talk of Albert Einstein who was written off in his younger days as one who would not amount to anything, but lived to become a genius of repute? How about Walt Disney, who was dismissed as one who lacked creativity, but lived to build an entertainment company with its own brands of films and cartoon characters in addition to a fun themed park?
The secret lies in how they dealt with their lack of conformance to the hole. It all started with appreciating their squareness and need to fit into the hole. I have had such an experience before, with many wondering how a First Class Biomedical Science and Technology graduate would deem it fit to pursue and excel in a banking and financial services career, and even perform exceptionally well! If we are to study the above personalities, including myself, several common denominating character traits are common.
As pointed out, square pegs are deemed unfit for certain roles in society, business and work related areas included. It therefore means that society has a mindset and behaviour set that if one has, they are assumed to be ones to excel in such areas. However, history has proven otherwise the world changers are them that are considered misfits, as elucidated above.
How then can a square peg personality fit itself into a round hole, one may ask. The first step is to appreciate the weaknesses they have. The limitations are what makes the external environment fail to appreciate their relevance in society. Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein and the others mentioned above realized that they had limitations and embraced whatever deficiencies they had. I have a firm belief that each and everyone has a drop of greatness in them and if harnessed, it can create long lasting and life changing value to humanity. Allowing the world to shape us would in effect, restrict us from achieving our life dreams. The world is the circular hole. We are the square pegs. It is upon us either to shape up and fit into the round holes or force ourselves to go through the holes and fit! It is all about going out there and kicking ass! And that forms the second step in customizing the square peg that we are shaping up. Shaping up demands effort and time investment. It demands that we develop shock absorbers for pain for it is no easy task to train yourself to fit or adopt to a new environment or condition.
That is the spirit of achievers. Be it in business or at the work place, leave nothing to chance. Thomas Edison, the famous entrepreneur and inventor, failed more than nine hundred and ninety-nine times in his attempt to invent the light bulb. When he was asked why he never gave up, he responded that every time he failed, he realized he had learnt one more way not to do it! Which brings us to the last thing to do passion. Develop passion around whatever you want to achieve. Steve Jobs, the late Apple CEO, said that one can never do anything well unless they loved it. Passion is a core component of any undertaking. I always say, when currency fails in business transactions, gold becomes the standard for trading. And so is passion to success! For long it has always been believed that for one to succeed, their competencies and abilities were the determining factors. But the new order in the world is all about passion. Choose to start to develop a liking for what you aspire to be in future. develop a desire fruition of your objectives or ultimate dream.
All in all, the world needs people who would challenge the established system of thinking and doing things to help solve its problems. It wants entrepreneurs whose business is to provide solutions. It would be imperative to appreciate that business disruptors are not the ordinary, but the misfits, those considered unworthy but in them they harbor potential unexplored. These are the square pegs that need to fit into the round holes! The world is not waiting for your business idea to cheer you on. It waits to see if you will deliver on your promise. It is upon you to go out there and prove them wrong, by being the square peg that fits in the round hole.
The writer is an acclaimed business author of Passionpreneurship Demystified and Business Networking: How To maximize on your contacts for Business and Professional Growth. He is also a Personal Branding and Business Coach with PBL Africa. In case you need assistance to give your business or professional a jump-start, he can be reached via the following contacts:
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