HR & Management

Business success: Strange tactics that will get you to the top

6 min read

10 July 2014

Bollywood's Shah Rukh Khan once said that success is an extremely strange thing in the fact that “a successful person doesn't actually know why he or she is successful.”

Millions have tried to pinpoint exactly what led them to the top and came up with generic answers such as having a balanced diet and being ambitious, but the secret ingredient may be a little more unique than that.

A recent article on parody news site The Daily Mash claimed to reveal one unusual tactic: Folding your arms. 

It quotes a “limo rental millionaire” who said: “No matter how much money I made, nobody seemed to respect me. Then, one day, I caught myself in the mirror and saw my arms dangling uselessly at my sides like the trailing fronds of a jellyfish. Slowly, I picked up my right arm and placed it over my left and a glow of cocksure self-satisfaction suffused through me.” 

“No longer did I look lost or confused. My facial expression said ‘Look at me, I could buy and sell your bottom-feeding life on a whim. And you know why? Because, unlike you, I know what to do with my arms.’”

That’s right, it’s all in the arms! Something as simple as crossing your arms could be the missing factor of your business success equation.

But there are plenty of examples from the real world where strange tactics and habits have often been deemed the crucial factor in success. 

Take Yoshiro Nakamatsu, for example, one of Japan’s greatest inventors. He racked up a whopping 3,300 patents and created the karaoke machine, sauce pump, taxicab meter and the digital watch.

In broader terms, inspiration and creativity led him to develop so many objects used today. More specifically, it’s because he holds his head underwater until he almost drowns. He once explained that pushing his brain and body to the limit fed his inventiveness. “To starve the brain of oxygen, you must dive deep and allow the water pressure to deprive the brain of blood. Zero-point-five seconds before death, I visualise an invention.”

All of this done in a swimming pool.

Thomas Edison, however, believed that success lay in the team that worked along side you, and to pick the perfect team, you had to put them through a rigorous recruitment process.

His idea of a tough examination? Having candidates drink soup in front of him. While scrutinising them, Edison would check whether they seasoned their soup before even tasting it. If they did, it led to an immediate dismissal. Apparently, the test aimed to remove those who started with too many assumptions.

For French historical writer Honore de Balzac, success came in the form of caffeine addiction – which most of us are probably familiar with. It was said that when he started a project he would drink as many as 50 cups of coffee each day and barely slept until he completed something.

In an article published in the 1830s, Balzac explained that “coffee falls into your stomach, and straightaway there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army of the battlefield, and the battle takes place. Things remembered arrive at full gallop.”

British artist Francis Bacon took a completely different approach! Instead of coffee, he decided that getting drunk was the best way to get your creative juices flowing. His daily routine involved drinking at public clubs and pubs throughout the day.

“I often like working with a hangover,” he said, “because my mind is crackling with energy, and I can think very clearly.”

Like Ernest Hemmingway famously said: “Write drunk; edit sober.”

And sometimes, you just need a repetitive personal life. Leo Widrich, co-founder of Buffer, says it has all got to do with making fewer decisions when at home. This allows you to make better corporate decisions.

“Every day I wear the same outfit and eat the same dinner. As an entrepreneur there are hundreds of micro-decisions I need to make, and decision fatigue can be a huge problem, so I try to eliminate any decisions I don’t have to make,” he said.

“For example, I only own five white t-shirts. In the morning I never need to think about what I’ll be wearing: it’s going to be a white t-shirt. I also only own two pairs of pants. I do the same thing with meals. I have the exact same dinner six times a week (one sweet potato, chicken breast, red bell pepper, and zucchini, pan-fried with tomato sauce) for the exact same reason.”