If you weren’t born into wealth, to gain advantage, you need to become sneaky smart.
Sneaky smart is not scary smart. Scary smart belongs to the realm of the geeks at MIT and Stanford. When you’re scary smart, sometimes you frighten people away. It’s like having a microchip in your brain that makes you speak in an algorithm no one can understand.
When you’re sneaky smart, no one saw exactly what you were doing to succeed. It’s the genius equivalent of being sneaky-fast. Stories abound about being sneaky-fast in sports. In baseball, it usually has to do with players stealing bases. Sneaky-fast is about superb athletic movement. In football, the athlete’s body is so well trained and coordinated that everything works together seamlessly and no one can see just how fast the athlete is moving. Check out this story about Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Patrick Towles.
When your learning is sneaky-fast, you don't even realize you have mastered the material. The synapses are firing and you soaked up the content like a sponge. All of which brings us to the concept of sneaky smart. Successful entrepreneurs are sneaky smart. While they work hard, you don’t notice how the way in which they work is very smart; they’re industrious, habitual doers, and all of their activity seems effortless. The sneaky smart are always pursuing a new project, a new dream, or a new theory, and when they encounter an obstacle or a setback, they leverage it into a new opportunity. Most important of all, sneaky smart people know when to break the rules.
The sneaky smart don’t accept rules on face value and follow them blindly. They will weigh the rules and ponder how they affect them (as well as others). So think through every law carefully. Consider each law in how it affects you (as well as others). Obey laws that make sense and were written to protect and advocate for the people. Recognize laws that were made to favor the divine right of kings to pander to their interests. The key is to recognize the difference and act accordingly. They obey laws that make sense, but they also know when it is time to break the law. The sneaky smart have a maverick spirit and the strong desire not to be regulated and caught up in someone else’s game. The sneaky smart know if you always play by someone else’s rules, you will not win. Sound unethical? Think again. There isn’t anything wrong with stealing bases, not when you’re competing against the superrich who behave as though they’ve hit a triple when they were really born on third base. Being sneaky smart means becoming a master at spotting the right moment to steal all of the bases and to drive home.
All of us encounter roadblocks. Some encounter more obstacles than others. There is a whole array of commonplace scenarios. You find yourself going into a job interview. The company knew whom they were going to hire, only you did not know. The job was already wired from inside the company. You never stood a chance. Your book just can’t get published. A similar book in terms of content and genre but of lesser literary merit does get published. You never knew the right editor.
The list of potential roadblocks is endless. The movie role is never offered—to you. The recording contract is never drafted. The promotion never happens. The application to college or graduate school is rejected. Entrance to your favorite nightclub is denied. You are denied financing, a mortgage, a high limit credit card. If you think life is unfair, doling out its rewards and punishments at random, or that everything is wired against you, then you’re right. You haven’t networked successfully. You have not made it a priority to know the right people. You did not place yourself in a position of success by becoming a master.
You can only walk through the doors that will open to you. Sometimes you can persevere and bang your head against a door that will not budge. Sooner or later you have to cut your losses and move onto the next door that will spring open. In this incredible journey we call life, you can only find out who you are and who you are not. There are times when you may be allowed entrée into a world that under ordinary circumstances—for one reason or another—would have been closed off to you. Luck, timing, sheer talent, hard work, and persistent devotion made to networking may be riding with you. The same elements of luck, timing, sheer talent, hard work, and networking also help to explain how a black woman, Oprah Winfrey, rose to be a media icon and two white boys, Eminem and Macklemore, became rap stars. Once you are given access to a new world, you will be treated indistinguishably from those who think they had the original right to be there. More importantly, your very performance will often be perceived as more heroic than those who didn’t have to struggle because they inherited the Divine Right of Kings.
Be a good steward of your own resources, especially of your time. Make money, work hard, make your own luck, be lucky, be sneaky smart, network constantly, exhaust your contacts, and use every resource made available to you, and where none are apparent, create your own resources, make something out of nothing. The author Alice Walker said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”Stick up for yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will. Ironically, when you do stick up for yourself, you will be surprised at how many people will rally to offer you support. Americans adore a hero, the maverick, the lone cowboy, and the first one out in front of a movement like Gloria Steinem or a new icon in popular culture like Madonna or Lady Gaga. To be a successful entrepreneur and to wage a good P.R. campaign, you have to trust yourself. When you trust yourself, you develop self-reliance, and there is no greater gift that you could give to the world. In America if you have sheer talent, true grit, and you work hard as an entrepreneur, you can still succeed—this is essence of American Spin and it’s good spin because it’s true.
Excerpted from Patricia Vaccarino's book American Spin.