Born with Every Disadvantage One Needs to Succeed – When Anger Works

Sports can teach us a lot about raising capital.  That statement is unconventional like all of my posts.  Remember, as an entrepreneur raising capital, if you do what everyone else does, you’ll get the same results as everyone else does which is not much.  So pay attention.

Meet Jim Abbot.  He was born without a right hand.  He’s also a major league baseball pitcher.

Abbott pitched in the majors for 10 years.  He threw a no-hitter with New York in 1993 and came close to winning the coveted Cy Young award.  He also won a gold medal in the 1988 Olympic Games.

Many people overcame disabilities and the biases that go with them.  Here are some you may know:

  • Stevie Wonder — a blind musician
  • Stephen Hawking — a physicist with ALS
  • Nick Vujicic — a motivational speaker, swimmer, surfer with no arms or legs
  • Frida Kahlo — a famous Mexican artist with polio
  • Helen Keller — a deaf and blind author
  • Andrea Bocelli — a blind opera singer
  • Haben Girma— the first black deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School

“I don’t think of myself as a poor, deprived ghetto girl who made good. I think of myself as somebody who from an early age knew she was responsible for herself-and I had to make good.”– Oprah Winfrey

We could discuss the thousands of other people who prevailed against prejudice and bias.  We could discuss the tens of thousands who overcame poverty or lack of formal education.  But that is not the point of this article.

The way they think, their mindset, is the point.

The shared characteristic of all these people is:

  1. They overcame their disadvantages
  2. They chose to use their disabilities to create success

They decided to succeed.  They decided NOT to internalize the bias of others.  They decided NOT to doubt themselves just because others did.

I do not want want to downplay your struggles. But the fact is, we all have to face bias. Humans all have biases, unconscious or not. 

The trick is to use their bias against them.  How?

Use your rage to get motivated.

Take Jim Abbott.  Starting at age five, with his father’s encouragement, he spent hours throwing a rubber ball against a brick wall and catching it on the rebound. His father helped him develop the technique for handling his glove-hand switch which allowed Jim to throw and catch the ball with the same hand. Over the years he continued this drill, moving closer and closer to the wall and making the glove transition faster and faster.  What do you suppose motivated him all those years?

He was mad as hell.

He worked like a crazy person because there was a bit of madness in him. And it didn’t end when he’d made it.  While he was in the major leagues, he used media attention and personal popularity to prolong his career.

There are two life-changing lessons to learn—one for entrepreneurs and the second for investors.

1. Entrepreneurs use their disadvantages to succeed, not simply overcome them. Biases are not always racial, gender, or cultural. Suppose you are pitching to a group of investors that are Harvard MBAs, and you went to Pepperdine. You are facing ivy league bias. Suppose you are pitching a tall investor and you are short. You will likely face a short bias. Be alert for bias and plan to neutralize it. My prior posts on bias have great strategies for dealing with bias that can prejudice investors’ thinking. (link)

2. Investors must understand that their biases limit the chance of success. There are other schools than Harvard. To devalue all other schools may bite you in the end. If you are a male investor, you may think that women are not as competitive as men. Yet, statics show that women have much to offer the success of companies both in valuation and team strength. Why would you discard potential or turn a blind eye to an advantage?

Vision Masters, I challenge you to succeed by leveraging your disadvantages.  And the key to that focus your disadvantage into an advantage and add a bit of mad. BUT, don’t turn your anger against others; turn it against your own self-doubt, against the bias within you about the world and investors. 

Use anger in a healthy way. Turn your anger against the self-doubt within you. Get mad, get ahead.