Gordon Segal, founder and CEO of Crate and Barrel, says lack of wisdom is the reason his store got off the ground.
“We didn’t know anything about retail,” Segal recalled. “I had grown up in the restaurant business, so I knew about service but not about retail. We didn’t know a market from a markdown. We didn’t know anything about importing. In fact, if we weren’t 23 and totally lacking wisdom, we would never have done this. You just go ahead with your passions, and you rush forward without a great deal of thought,” Segal reflected…
“We were truly a counter-culture story of the 1960s,” Segal said. “We literally turned over packing crates, stacked up the merchandise and went into business. We just thought that was nothing special. Of course, everyone walked in and was amazed that these two young kids were starting this business, that we could find French pottery and Swedish glass and Danish flatware and bring it to a small, little street in Chicago called Old Town. It was really crazy, when I think back, that we felt that we could import product into a little 1,700 sq. ft. store.”
Makes you wonder: How many others have succeeded because they didn’t know the rules? Because they didn’t realize that they were doing things they weren’t supposed to be doing?
We’re always taught to look before we leap, but it’s interesting to hear about the Segals of the world — those who succeed by rushing forward without thinking.
But doesn’t wisdom lead to success? Sure, it often does. But sometimes the winners are those who don’t have a lot of wisdom. Look at NFL quarterbacks. Routinely the best ones aren’t the brightest.
All quarterbacks drafted into the pros are required to take an I.Q. test—the Wonderlic Personnel Test…Of the five quarterbacks taken in round one of the 1999 draft, Donovan McNabb, the only one of the five with a shot at the Hall of Fame, had the lowest Wonderlic score. And who else had I.Q. scores in the same range as McNabb? Dan Marino and Terry Bradshaw, two of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game.
Maybe these quarterbacks succeed in part because they don’t have the highest IQs. Maybe they go with their gut instead of overanalyzing things.
Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m celebrating ignorance. Leaping before you look isn’t the best way to, say, invade a foreign country. But if you’re doing something with a little less downside — like starting a business — maybe you’re better off ignoring all the naysayers who tell you that you need to spend tons of time and money on planning, researching, testing, educating yourself, studying the competition, etc. Sometimes there’s real value in not worrying about what you don’t know and just putting something out into the world.