what biographies have in common

I just finished up watching The Defiant Ones on HBO, which is a four-part documentary series about Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre.

I watched the first episode with a friend of mine and he said offhand, “I never know what I’m supposed to take away from stories like this.”

A lot of my friends are big on reading biographies and history of well-known or successful individuals. I’ve never been as drawn to them personally, but it seems to me that there are usually a couple common takeaways.

1. Humble origins

The individuals rarely come from a privileged upbringing. They are often raised in a middle or lower class family.

2. Following genuine interests

After becoming exposed to some idea or skill, the individuals generally find an interest and then follow it to some opportunity related to that interest. And more often than not, that opportunity is very low, entry level work.

3. Opportunity seeking

Once they are doing work related to this interest, they seem to keep an eye open for new opportunities in that space. They meet others in the space, come up with ideas, and pursue those new ideas or opportunities

4. Starting with limited information or knowledge

Whenever starting down the path of a new idea or opportunity, they generally do so in spite of not knowing how things will go or how to do the actual work. They trust that they will navigate the process and figure it out as they go.

5. Surrounding themselves with great people

In these biographies, other notable people are almost always mentioned. The individuals in focus seek out other talented or passionate people who are also climbing their own way up.

More than tactical takeaways, I find these stories to be inspirational from the standpoint of how relatable the beginning stages are. Hard work, an eye for opportunity, surrounding yourself with positive people, the willingness to jump and take risks – this seems to be the formula.

Eventually, these individuals seem to get a little lucky and hit on one of these opportunities in the right place or at the right time. But, they couldn’t do that without being open and aware of that opportunity.

Easy enough, right?


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