You Can't Be Normal and Expect Abnormal Returns

This quote by Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor at Stanford GSB, sums up the difficulty of achieving something different by doing the same things. You can apply this to “success” or any venture really. For example, it’s highly unlikely that Tony Hawk became the best skateboarder ever by living a conventional life.

There is an important nuance that I think people forget—it’s not about personality, it’s about behavior. Emulating Steve Jobs personality completely misses the point, his moodiness and assholery did not a good product make. It was the cultivation of taste and building a cathedral with maniacal focus and decision making. He was extreme, but I highly doubt being an asshole was the essential part.

See also:

  • Imitating High-Status People Doesn’t Work

    People tend to closely emulate individuals of high-status but the counter signaling they pick up on doesn’t work unless you are already high-status. For example, being an asshole to others because Steve Jobs was famously demanding and extremely blunt doesn’t work unless you are also a widely accepted product visionary, or spending many hours a day reading because that’s what Warren Buffet does won’t work unless you have decades of value investing experience.