Are you an innovator? Do you have revolutionary and radical ways of thinking? Do you have zero tolerance for ignorant people? If you answered yes to these three questions then you are most likely a Maverick.
Mavericks are essential to top performing organizations. They think differently, act differently, and often times piss people off. Think of some of the most successful people in the world, they are typically Mavericks. Think Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs. However, we will look at three people you might not have thought about when you think of Mavericks. These three completely buck the status quo and disregard traditional ways of thinking.
So, let’s take a look at what a Maverick is, how you can embrace a Maverick mindset, and why you should protect the Mavericks in your organization.
Do What You Can’t!
“The haters, the doubters are all drinking champagne on the top deck of the Titanic and we are the f***ing Iceberg” – Casey Neistat
If you have ever been told you can’t do something, then you must do that thing. Casey Neistat is a fascinating person with a strong message. There is no question Neistat possesses a Maverick mindset.
“Keep your head down, follow the rules, do as you’re told, play it safe, wait your turn, ask permission, learn to compromise… This is Terrible Advice!” 1
Neistat suggests we should do what we can’t. A simple rule here is to pay attention to people when they tell you that you can’t do something. The rule… do that thing.
Mavericks do not play well with others, yet this is not a bad thing. Why should we play well with others? Should you compromise with a person who seeks to hold you back, NO!
Neistat provides the perfect analogy for Maverick thinking in a short video. Here is a brief description of the video:
- Life is like going the wrong way on a moving sidewalk.
- Walk and you stay put.
- Stand still and you go backwards.
- To get ahead… you have to hustle!
Got Beat? Good!
“You want to improve your mental toughness? Try this: Be Tougher.” – Jocko Willink
Former Navy Seal and author of Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win is the perfect example of a Maverick. John Eagan nicely sums up an interview between Jocko and Echo Charles during a Q&A in 2015. 2
Echo Charles: “How do you deal with setbacks, failures, delays, defeats, or other disasters?”
What a perfect response! Let’s take a deeper look at what Jocko meant by his simple response—Good.
Oh, the mission got cancelled? Good. We can focus on the other one.
Didn’t get promoted? Good. More time to get better.
Didn’t get funded? Good. We own more of the company.
Didn’t get the job you wanted? Good. You can get more experience and build a better resume.
Got injured? Good. Needed a break from training.
Got tapped out? Good. It’s better to tap out in training, then tap out on the street.
Got beat? Good. You learned.
Unexpected problems? Good. We have the opportunity to figure out a solution.
“When things are going bad, there’s going to be some good that is going to come from it.”
Protect Your Mavericks
“What keeps you awake at night? Nothing… I keep other people awake at night.” – James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, 26th United States Secretary of Defense
As I mentioned before, Mavericks typically do not play well with others. They create conflict and generally make people feel uncomfortable. Yet, they play a critical role to success in an organization and senior leaders must protect them. 3 Bob and Gregg Vanourek provide the following advice,
“Mavericks are essential to innovation. Senior executives play a critical role: leaders must protect the Mavericks in their organizations. They must step up and give Mavericks space to operate, providing organizational cover for Mavericks to work their magic and keep the flame of innovation alight.”
United States Secretary of Defense James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis is a believer in this credo and is a Maverick himself. Look no further than the following three powerful quotes from the Mad Dog.
- “There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, cunning, obedience and alertness, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.”
- “You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.”
- “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
Carnivores Eat Herbivores
So, how can you adopt a Maverick mindset? It’s actually pretty simple. Become a Carnivore. Let’s end with these five simple tips to becoming a Maverick.
- Do what you can’t. If someone says you can’t do something, do that exact thing.
- Be tougher. If you get beat or fail at something, remember Jocko’s advice. Good.
- Become a hunter. Confront the brutal facts of the world and decide to be a hunter.
- Don’t be afraid to give people a piece of your mind. Don’t allow yourself or others to be bullied, in essence, bully the bully!
- Use sage advice from Cornell Professor and author of Systems Thinking Made Simple: New Hope for Solving Wicked Problems Derek Cabrera and ask, “What pisses you off the most?” Your answer will be what you are most passionate about, go after it!
Finally, remember there is no easy path to success. To become a Maverick, you have to work hard. There is no magic formula or magic pill. People are not born to be a Maverick, they must embrace it and work for it.
“There’s no talent here, this is hard work. This is an obsession. Talent does not exist. We are all equals as human beings. You could be anyone if you put in the time. You will reach the top, and that’s that. I am not talented. I am obsessed.” – Conor McGregor