Entrepreneurs are a quirky bunch. Bill Gates sits in a rocking chair in meetings because the motion helps him think. Steve Jobs only wore turtlenecks in a hair-brained attempt to enforce a company-wide uniform at Apple. Warren Buffett has spent an estimated 80 percent of his career just thinking. I have some similar oddball behaviors of my own, and I often wonder what people say about me!
There's more to quirks than meets the eye, though. They've actually played a huge role in the success of some of today's most inspiring entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, all too often we're told to hide our weirdness and conform to society's expectation of what's normal. That's what makes people likeDavid Rendall so inspiring: he says that what makes you weird also makes you wonderful.
I've learned over the years that weird quirks should not be snuffed out; they should be embraced and leveraged as an integral part of what sets you (or your business) apart. Here are 6 character traits I've learned to accept -- and why they work for business.
I'm not very good at working within structure. I dropped out of school, have never worked for anyone but myself, and I don't like being tied to office hours. I'm most inspired when I'm on the go -- skiing, biking the seawall, or driving to the office. My friend Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) agrees: he says he gets his best ideas when he's pacing around, in-transit, or at the bar.
Contrary to what my high school teachers would've had me believe, this restlessness (a.k.a. undiagnosed ADHD) did not have a negative impact on my future. Rather, it's possibly had the opposite effect and made me a better entrepreneur: the symptoms of ADHD are directly related to key entrepreneurial traits.
This might seem counter-intuitive to the previous point, but many people with ADHD also have the capacity for extreme focus -- provided it's something we're passionate about, and especially under pressure. When we innately connect with something (whether in business or in our personal lives), nothing will get in the way of reaching our goals. Some entrepreneurs with ADHD even get so focused that they forget to eat or sleep.
I had my own Jerry Maguire moment about twenty years ago. After reaching $1 million in revenue, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? hit a roadblock and no matter what we did, the needle wouldn't budge. I knew we had to change our approach to the business, so I went to my parents' cabin to clear my head. That's where I created our firstPainted Picture: a hyper-detailed, five-year plan for our business. I was so laser-focused that I wrote it in one sitting -- and didn't change a single word. Now, we update our Painted Picture every five years. They rarely come as easily as the first, but they've been an invaluable part of our business.
I'm a self-proclaimed minimalist, which is maybe why I was drawn to building a business that rids people of stuff. I don't have an office, desk or computer at our corporate offices. Most days you'll find me in jeans, a black t-shirt, and a branded pair of Chucks. My unofficial uniform is partially because I'm completely colorblind ... but I'm not the only entrepreneur who opts for simplicity in his wardrobe: Mark Zuckerberg rocks the same grey t-shirt every day at Facebook (or is it green?).
Zuckerberg argues that reducing the number of choices he has to make each day (whether it's his outfit, orwhat he eats for breakfast) allows him to focus his energy on developing his business. For me, paring down to the essentials is more about taming my squirrel brain -- that is, keeping me from getting distracted from what truly matters.
4. Visual Thinkers
They say a picture speaks a thousand words and I couldn't agree more. In meetings, I'd rather take a photo of the whiteboard than jot down notes. In fact, I currently have over 30,000 photos on my iPhone! At our company, O2E Brands, we've also tapped the power of visualization with our Painted Picture: a crystal-clear snapshot of what our business will look like every five years.
This kind of thinking is common among highly successful people: authorJonathan Franzen often writes his novels blindfolded and earmuffed, to fully immerse himself in the visualization process. Nike CEO, Mark Parker, takes it one step further and balances both hemispheres of his brain by reserving one side of his notebook for sketching and the other for brainstorming.
When people tell me not to do something, I instinctively want to do it. Everyone told me a junk removal business couldn't be franchised -- so I decided to prove them wrong.
Breaking rules is a characteristic shared by today's top entrepreneurs. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Brian Chesky didn't look at their respective industries and think, "Let's do this exactly how it's always been done." They challenged the status quo, defied convention, and transformed the world in the process.
As Mark Zuckerberg used to say, to succeed you have to "move fast and break things" -- including the rules.
I'm not a master junk hauler, painter, mover or power washer -- and yet we've built leading businesses in these four industries. Our brands began because we seized opportunities: a beat-up junk truck in a McDonald's drive-thru, asurprising twist when I had my house painted, a bad moving experience, and a fellow ambitious entrepreneur who wouldn't take "no" for an answer.
Entrepreneurs are hard-wired to see opportunity where others don't. They don't necessarily need to invent a new product; they simply need to know how to create demand for something that already exists.Richard Branson is probably the most recognized example. He's constantly identifying and tapping into new markets to the point of multi-industry domination.
When I was a kid, my teachers called me disruptive and unfocused, and told me to be more like the others. If I'd taken that to heart and stifled my true self, I would've condemned myself to an unhappy (and therefore, unsuccessful) future. So the next time you feel like the black sheep in the room, remind yourself that it's your idiosyncrasies that make you, you. Embrace your inner weirdness -- and if you use it right, the possibilities are endless.