What Is Rugged Individualism? And Why You Might Be Guilty Of it

Dan Sullivan

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Why Rugged Individualism Limits Entrepreneurial Growth

Choosing to become an entrepreneur (and assuming all the risk this entails) requires a certain do-it-yourself spirit, or “rugged individualism.” You’re confident about what you have to offer, whether that’s a product, service, or other commodity, and you believe you’re capable enough to get it into the marketplace. You also accept that, in the absence of a traditional work structure, you’ll have to do everything yourself.

It’s a mindset that is not only necessary in the beginning, but serves you well and allows your business to grow.

Eventually, however, you reach an entrepreneurial ceiling. More growth means more demands on your time and energy, but because you’ve always done everything yourself, you get stuck in this operating system.

It’s important to realize that you’re simply not good at everything involved in having a successful business, and you probably don’t enjoy all of it, either. You’ve also been in charge for so long that you don’t trust that anyone else can do it as well (much less better).

Finding your multiplier.

I say this all the time, and it’s true: You have to simplify to multiply. If you’re putting the majority of your energy toward things you don’t like and aren’t good at, you’ll never reach your full potential, in business or otherwise.

You have to narrow your focus. The fact is, we’ve all got things we’re great at and give us energy, and when we allow ourselves to focus on them, we tap into our best selves and creative potential.

And because we’ve all got things we’re great at and enjoy—and those things are different for everyone—there will always be other people who can not only do the things we don’t like but do them well and with their own best selves and potential behind it.

The backbone of a great business.

And so, despite what Hollywood might suggest by portraying cutthroat businessmen and rugged individualists dominating the marketplace, good business is founded on trust and cooperation. When you combine your talents and passion with someone else’s, you actually end up multiplying your potential. It’s not a one plus one equals two situation, but in fact a one plus one equals three, or ten, situation.

So while it takes a great leap of faith to trust others, especially after you’ve only trusted yourself for so long, it’s also the only way to keep growing your business. Rugged individualism will only take you so far.

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Breaking free.

So, how do you break the habit of isolation and mistrust that’s guided your career so far? How do you abandon the hallucination that everything will fall apart if you aren’t there to manage it every step of the way?

It all comes down to trust. It’s human nature to expect danger in the absence of information, so if you’ve never trusted others to help you and do a good job, you’ve got no positive experiences to draw from. You assume the worst will happen and get stuck in a kind of fear mindset. This is the hallucination.

Once you begin to understand that everyone has a Unique Ability that, when combined with others’, produces exponential results, you can take your first steps toward creating a Self-Managing Company, and then a Self-Multiplying Company—one that can achieve 10x growth.

If rugged individualism is your growth ceiling, teamwork is the hammer that will break through it.

Attracting the right people.

What’s more, when you adopt this mentality of “me plus you equals more,” you attract other people with that same mindset, and everyone grows together. It’s a win-win scenario.

So the secret, then, to achieving greater success and exponential growth is simply to practice cooperation. Practice it in all areas of your life. Practice it at home, practice it at work—even at the supermarket, if you can manage it—until it becomes habit. Because it’s this habit of cooperation, which is the opposite of rugged individualism, that will free you from doing things that are draining. It’s the habit that will give you the space to focus on things that bring you energy and joy—which, incidentally, are the same things that lead to great ideas and exponential growth.

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