July 29, 2012

Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

Creating a Self-Awareness Movement in Business and Life

Written by Tony Tjan

Me and my colleagues at the firm Cue Ball (www.cueball.com), Dick Harrington and Tsun-yan Hsieh, launch our book, Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck (Harvard Business Review Press) on August 7th. This trio of authors weaves together lessons from their wealth of leadership and entrepreneurial experiences, but most interestingly share stories and findings from a three-year global study examining what makes entrepreneurs really tick. 

As part of this work, we developed the first Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test – which you can try at www.HSGL.com – a psychometric attitudinal survey that unveils motivational drivers and biases behind your decision-making. We argue that if you understand why you make the decisions that you do (and are honest about that), then you can learn how to make better decisions in the future. This is the essence of self-awareness and they have introduced a simple but really powerful framework using the traits of Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck. And while these traits are clearly part of what works in business, they are also what work in life. The baseline for personal and professional improvement is self-awareness. This coupled with the many tools that they have culled together from some of the best and brightest minds makes this a highly insightful and practical read.

What is the purpose and reason for writing the book?

We wanted to understand what drives entrepreneurs. As part of our day jobs at our venture firm, Cue Ball, we started to video. We were fascinated by the patterns we picked up on, and eventually decided to organize our work into more structured research which led us some book opportunities. We got excited about how a framework – in our case Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck – could help enhance people’s self-awareness. Self-awareness serves as the baseline for discovering and accepting one’s strengths and weaknesses. Your super-power versus your kryptonite, so to speak. We have tried to elucidate and provide an intuitive language for becoming more self-aware around the four eponymous traits of the book’s title.

How can people become more self-aware?

The most practical way to gain greater awareness is to have a framework for it. Our framework is based on sampling leaders and entrepreneurs, and centers around the four key success traits – Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck. We think that works particularly well for the-building and scaling of ideas and companies. The second way to increase self-awareness is to have a feedback mechanism. This can be as simple as writing down your top goals and reviewing them periodically (e.g. quarterly or annually), how you are doing against those priorities, and why they turned out the way they did (good or bad). It is the why that is just as important as what resulted. It is human nature to be a revisionist historian, so codifying and honestly reflecting on the results is key. Finally, the third dimension of gaining self-awareness is to learn through peers and mentors. Whether it is working side-by-side with those who complement you, or getting direct feedback from those who care about your success, the people around you serve as an important mirror and source for improvement.

Isn’t a lot of this done in business already?

The fact that self-awareness is key to success is not a new insight. But how people do it and trying to instill greater participation in the exercise is what is needed. Like many things in life, while this is common sense, it is not necessarily commonly done.

Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck – don’t you need all of them?

Yes, a threshold level of each is necessary, but most of us have that baseline across the four traits. What is interesting is that people tend to be dominant in one or two of the traits. For example, are you more likely to be driven by Heart (passion and purpose) or Guts (bias toward action and doing)? Or are you more Smarts (pattern recognition) and Luck driven (humble with an optimistic attitude and relationship oriented)?

Is it really possible to be Luck-driven?

We are not talking about Luck as probability or fate. We are defining a type of Luck that people help shape through an attitude of humility, intellectual curiosity and optimism. Luck-driven people also tend to have the right networks to help them, but that is often a by-product of their openness towards relationships – that is, they don’t overthink and over-strategize how certain relationships will help, but instead embrace people for who they are and somehow these folks become relevant later on in life. We can all think of examples.

What were some of the other key patterns or lessons from successful entrepreneurs?

There were several, but like a philosophy we’ve tried to live by in our firm, it always comes down to people. Human capital trumps ideas, money, markets, and everything else. How you understand your leadership style and how you attract and develop the best people is the starting foundation. But it is the habits and principles that the most successful leaders use which help one achieve their full potential. One example of a great success habit is a mentorship framework that we highlight in the book and was in part inspired by you. To be a good mentor people need to ask five key questions: What is it that you are trying to accomplish? What are you doing well? What is slowing you down? What will you change tomorrow against those speed bumps? And finally, how can I help?

How much of this is translatable more broadly to the average person out there? Your research has a lot of super successful people.

Things are always messier than they are made out to be in case studies and even in books like ours. In “packaging” these stories, they often become over simplified. I think it is important to emphasize that books like ours are meant to be a set of principles to help increase the probability for success rather than serve as a recipe for it.

What was the most critical trait for those out there considering starting their own entrepreneurial journey?

The singular and most dominant trait we found across founders was Heart. Some sixty-percent of the founders we interviewed were Heart-dominant. The really great businesses start less with planning and modeling, than they do as an instigation of one’s passion and purpose – one’s Heart. In fact, we found of the businesses that had successful exits, only about 30 percent of them started with a formal business plan. For us, we defined Heart to include (besides passion and purpose) a deep sacrificial type of maternal like love and nuance. You have to ask yourself if this undertaking is really a calling for you. Only then do you have the chance at being one of the best, if not the best at what you set to accomplish. Is this something that you feel is worth caring for or are you doing it for an end goal of making money or gaining recognition? Those end-goals are fine, but they are more likely to be achieved if one is true to what it is they love and thus care enough to make the sacrifices and fully uncover the nuances of the core idea.

You can buy the book HERE!

To learn more, see some of the Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck video interviews and take the self-awareness (E.A.T) survey go to www.hsgl.com.

Write Your Comment

  1. DP

    I saw a writeup on your work from an interview taken by Vinod Mahanta which appeared in Guru Speak in CD (Corporate Dossier) in the Economic Times (26 October2012) issue. I have ordered a copy of your work from amazon.com and should get by early next week. Also took the EAT survey. Best regards, DP

More Comments
How AI Can Elevate Spiritual Intelligence and Personal Well-Being
September 17, 2024
Scroll Up