On December 27, 1831 Charles Darwin set out for the tour that would eventually revolutionize science. This is the story we all hear. But the real golden nugget can be found in the not-so-sexy times in-between, while on the boat. The first couple weeks of the trip, the 21 year old Darwin found the crew unbearable. Coming from an educated background, he had a hard time relating with the other shipmates.
After weeks of wishing he had never gone on the trip, Darwin took a new approach. He decided to study the life ON BOARD the ship. This practice allowed him discover the unwritten rules of his reality and enabled him to fit in. On another level, he slowly transformed himself into the most astute observer of nature that the world has known. He later practiced the same technique with Gauchos and other local communities, allowing him to fit in and gather specimens he could not have otherwise collected.
Darwin first observed and complied with the rules without preconceptions. Then with this base knowledge in hand, he changed science as we know it.
The Not-So-Sexy Chapter in the Book of Success
Over the years our culture has developed a fetish for rule breakers. They are intriguing to us, think about blockbuster hits like oceans eleven. Or any character that Clint Eastwood plays.
Unfortunately this type of ideology has spilled over into how we view success. The idealized story usually goes like this: Visionary comes up with idea, breaks all rules of an industry, shakes the earth beneath him, changes the world.
This is a true story, but we are only getting a snapshot of the sexy part. What we are missing is all the time the Visionary spent learning the rules
Before crushing an industry with a sustainable landmark innovation, you find that the visionary spent years observing and absorbing its reality as deeply as possible. They will often unknowingly act like an anthropologist, dropping all preconceptions and fully submitting to their environment.
Our opportunity is to take every task we are given, no matter how menial, as an opportunity to observe the world and industry at work. No detail is too trivial. Observe the unwritten rules of the industry, find the gap, and start shaking things up.
image credit: aboutdarwin.com
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Lyden Foust is a Research & Innovation Associate at The SEEK Company. A student practitioner of design strategy, Lyden is fueled by relentless sense of curiosity, and a desire to improve lives through innovation. His scrappy attitude has driven him to found and expand a successful business before graduating college & to curate the first TEDxXavierUniversity.