Abram Interstate Insurance Services, Inc., CMGA

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The Myth of the Key To Success | Business Tips for Insurance Agents

Published on May 25, 2017

There are dozens of articles and blog posts about the habits of the successful, and it can be easy to believe if we adopt those habits, we too will be successful. They talk about the ways that Steve Jobs, Einstein, Obama, and now Trump always dress(ed) the same everyday.

Or how the poet Dylan Thomas always wrote in a garden shed, while Maya Angelou wrote in a hotel room everyday, and Mary Karr does most of her writing in her bed. And of course, don’t forget the power of the nap, which Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg reportedly takes at 2pm everyday.

medium_522695099photo credit: Joi via photopin cc

This kind of successful figure emulation can be a good thing, it can help us find our niche of habits and quirks that work for us. But it can also be a pitfall if we continually fall head over heels for the next discovery of how we can be successful if only we do _____ like ______ did.

In the bestselling book The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb shows how we are obsessed with creating narratives and myths that don’t exist, especially when those narratives support our desires to get to success a different way. When we want a nap to be the key to success, and we read enough biographies about Zuckerberg that mention it, we’re likely to begin to believe it.

“Both the artistic and scientific enterprises are the product of our need to reduce dimensions and inflict some order on things. Think of the world around you, laden with trillions of details. Try to describe it and you will find yourself tempted to weave a thread into what you are saying. A novel, a story , a myth, or a tale, all have the same function: they spare us from the complexity of the world and shield us from its randomness. Myths impart order to the disorder of human perception and the perceived “chaos of human experience.”

Sean Blanda hits the nail on the head about these myths in our entrepreneurial world in an article for 99u.

Think of the startup myth of a bunch guys in a garage. Or the one that all founders have to work for 80-hour weeks to be successful.  Or how every successful designer is obsessive about every last detail. These “keys to success” create a culture and mythology around certain behavior that likely has little to do with the success of the person who practices it. What is worse, by forcing yourself to adopt the behavior of your idol, you may be supressing your true temperament, which, it turns out, could be the right mindset for you after all. We don’t need more Mark Zuckerberg-types creating startups or Stefan Sagmiester-types creating art. We need new ideas and new perspectives, which starts with owning who you uniquely are.

Studying the greats in such a simplistic way creates wizardry where none exists and elevates mere mortals to some unattainable standard. Think getting to bed early is the key to athletic performance? Tiger Woods could stay out until 3 a.m. partying and still dominate you on the golf course (and, well, he kinda did). Is a clean workspace essential for writing? Give Bob Dylan a six-pack of Coors and a notepad in the back of a minivan and he’d still write a better song than most.  Blog posts and books often advise us of the “one thing” we’ll need to really get that dream of ours going. Because, after all, that’s what notable person X did.  Articles like this exist mostly because “just put in the work” doesn’t exactly garner a ton of praise or Facebook likes. 

When we start to believe that everyone who wants to be successful at ___ should do ___, we ignore all the other factors of life, of individuality, surrounding circumstances, and we also ignore all the people that have gone before us and haven’t had that work for them. There are plenty of other entrepreneurs that wear the same thing everyday, but is their wardrobe branding them as the leader of the most powerful brand out there? No. Is that extra 5 minutes they gained by not having to decide what to wear helping them solve scientific theorems that will change our understanding? No. They just wear the same thing everyday.

There are plenty of artists who adopt the habits of Picasso and never get discovered. And there are plenty of writers who find a special writing place and never get published. Stories toting these habits as the universal “keys to success” rarely actually show us how few people they work for. They may work for some. But it’s important not to get blinded by every “next fad” — by every habit of a successful person.

When it comes down to it, Blanda is right. What it boils down to is “just put in the work,” and figure out which habits (of your own or others) really do work for you. Hard work will always be the most important ingredient in the recipe for success.

At Abram Interstate, we write these weekly business tips blogs for you in hopes that you will be encouraged, educated, challenged, and find what works for you. Just as every single insurance risk is different, every Insurance Agent is different, and we want you to figure out what it is that works for you and helps you succeed.

If you ever need help, we have real people who answer our phones (Call us at 916-780-7000), and we have the convenience of online rating, and chatting with a staff member online to help you with your questions. Please use us as a resource.

We’re here to help.


Abram Interstate Insurance Services, Inc. is a California wholesale insurance broker (CMGA) that has licensing and expertise to place business in both admitted and non-admitted markets for personal lines insurance and commercial lines insurance in California and surrounding areas.

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