success

My secret to success is ignorance. Seriously.

May 8, 2013
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success

The real secret to success

We’ve all picked up a self help book or blog post at some point to help us improve our chances of success, and we’ve all read garbage from gurus that tell you to picture your happy place or whatever. It’s mostly junk and really none of it has ever helped me personally to succeed.

The gurus have inspired me, and I have picked up tips and tricks along the way, but if you asked me what has led to my personal successes in life, there is not one speech I’ve heard or book I’ve read (other than religious texts) that have made enough of an impact on me that I could even point to it.

My own successes have been born from ignorance. Let me explain.

I’m not an ignorant person, no, I read the equivalent of a Harry Potter novel a day – we’re talking Order of the Phoenix. I have multiple college degrees, I write content every single day (even weekends), and I speak publicly often (typically to debunk gurus). I love learning, and learning loves me, so when I say I’m ignorant, I don’t mean about the world around me.

Okay, so what do you mean by ignorant?

The secret to success is ignorance. Seriously. My first memory of being successful was in second grade when I won a class-wide hula hooping contest. I remember starting the contest believing that I was going to win. Not because my hips don’t lie or because I’m superior, and not because a guru told me the secret of finding my happy place, but because I was ignorant enough to believe that I would win. And I did.



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The high from winning was so palpable, it was like I had been given an IV drip of highly processed sugar. I didn’t believe I deserved to win, I just hadn’t considered any other option. Days later at school, we had a jump rope contest. I won. I was the smallest kid in the class, the poorest, I had no teeth, and I won.

In high school, I took a shot at debate (and yearbook, and Model UN, and the Federal Reserve competition, and UIL journalism, and UIL creative writing, and student government, and well, you get the picture). The very first debate out of the gate, my partner and I won, and I honestly hadn’t expected anything less. I was truly ignorant to the fact that I could lose, I just hadn’t even considered it because I was so focused.

But isn’t success an attitude?

No, friend, success isn’t an attitude, and it’s not something you can buy from a shelf, it’s either part of your brain function or your personality – it’s being completely unaware that you could lose.

Have I ever lost? Sure. I’m somewhat of a risk taker, so I lose enough to know how to win. But I think back to that second grade hula hooping contest, before any guru told me to look into my inner self or revealed any “secrets” to me, and I simply busted my ass to win, without considering losing.

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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a pension for the irreverent.

2 Comments

  1. Some aspects of success are like that for me, but they are far more hard won. It goes back to the worldview of normal I had growing up. A good deal of my *natural* success – areas where I have a belief in my own existing talent – come from just never thought of living in a world where I wouldn’t or couldn’t win.

    I was very lucky to be raised by a man who never let the world tell me that there were things that girls couldn’t do until it was too late to change my mind, and a woman with a steel spine to show me what truly experiencing equal treatment with men could be like, responsibility and all.

    But the trick is, those were not and are not the areas I need help in. There are areas where I doubt myself, where I don’t believe that I will be naturally successful in, most that I didn’t know existed when I was a kid. And those are the areas where some of the so-called gurus lead me to the knowledge that pre-dates them or yields them their expertise that I glean wisdom from. Most of the times, it was as you said – one nuggets or new perspective here and there. But there are also times where a particular personality put the right words to be the right way, and something I probably already know would click. And that clicking would change the way I live my life.

    Bravo on opening us up to your process. Ignorance as a way to wisdom is a path rarely spoken of in mixed company.

  2. It’s interesting for me to try to put myself in that mindspace. But I can’t. I’ve never felt that way, and I can’t imagine it very well. It would be interesting to hear from someone whose success has come despite being painfully aware of the potential for failure. Thanks for opening up.

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