How to Become The 1%

There’s been a lot of protests recently about how awful it is to be the 99%. The central complaint is that the lion’s share of success is going to a small percentage of the population. People are upset that a select few over-achievers (the 1%) get a disproportionate share of the rewards.

No kidding. In fact, that’s how Darwin made a name for himself.

Instead of whining about whether or not the world is fair and droning on that we should all live in a state of socialist equality, why not focus your energy on being the 1%? Not an evil 1% that lives in opulence off other’s broken backs, but being in the top 1% of your field. Making the top 1% of impact on the world. Reaching the top 1% of your potential.

Everyone knows who Lance Armstrong is – he achieved top 1% status in the world of cycling. Ever hear of Heinrich Haussler? He’s ranked the #9 cyclist in the world and undoubtedly is highly talented and committed. Besides Haussler not being recognized at the grocery store, I’d guess that Lance Armstrong earns 100 times what Haussler makes. Is this fair? Should Haussler camp in a tent for weeks demanding that Armstrong give up some of his fame and wealth to the less “fortunate” Haussler?

As I see it, the top 1% have always snagged a disproportionate share of life’s rewards. In venture capital, only one out of three hundred entrepreneurs receive funding. In Hollywood, for every Tom Hanks or Jennifer Aniston, there are tens of thousands who don’t make the cut. I don’t see the reason to protest; it is simply the way life works. It’s like protesting winter in my hometown of Detroit because it isn’t fair my friends in San Diego are in the top 1% of weather.

So the real question becomes, how do you push yourself to reach that rarified territory in your own pursuits? How do you become a champion instead of an also-ran?

Most of the expert advice boils down to two things: Passion and Persistence.

The greatest achievers in the world are driven with unbridled passion. That intense desire enables them to overcome their demons, and push through the rough spots even when it’s uncomfortable. This passion drives them to sprint toward their dreams with urgency and fire, passing the wanna-be’s along the way.

Persistence, grit, and determination fuel the 1% through their inevitable adversity. In the words of Vince Lombardi, “It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get up.” While the 99% are bowing out when circumstances get too tough, the 1% forge ahead, unwilling to accept defeat no matter the sacrifice.

We all have a choice. We can point fingers, complain the world isn’t fair, and swim in a pot of victim soup. Or we can push ourselves and our organizations to earn the coveted 1% position. And in doing so, we achieve nearly limitless potential.

Why accept anything less?

Read More

New Thinking for the New Era of Business

Albert Einstein famously noted, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them.” In our post-COVID world of ...

When an Astronaut Needs a Pen

Ever get stuck on a problem, only to realize you're solving for the wrong thing? That's exactly what happened when the rocket scientists at NASA ...

How Shake Shack Drives Innovation

Do you prefer the crispy mozzarella, tempura watercress, and black garlic mayonnaise cheeseburger or the pumpkin mustard, bacon, cranberries, and sage hot dog? For something ...

Lady Gaga’s Secret to Creativity

Just before she won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, I watched Lady Gaga dazzle the live audience with a pitch perfect performance of ...

Creativity: Does Size Matter?

For some reason, we’ve been taught that for creativity and innovation to count they need to have a magnitude the size of the 1989 San ...

The Lexicon of Creativity

There’s more confusion around the meaning of the word innovation than the chaos at the airline ticket counter after a cancelled flight. Is there a difference between ...

The Brain Science of Becoming More Creative

When we hear stories about iconic leaders like’s founder Marc Benioff, or widely celebrated virtuosos like Lin-Manuel Miranda for that matter, we immediately think ...

Correct the Overcorrect

When the misguided leaders at Enron, Tyco and Worldcom committed fraud and marred their shareholders with huge losses, the Securities and Exchange Commission rightfully swooped ...

Learning to Color

Fact: Creativity has become the most needed skill in business. It’s gone from a nice-to-have to becoming mission-critical. Fact: Creativity is a learnable skill. All humans have ...