Do You Have Animal Smell?

October 23, 2014

Masayoshi Son, who sits atop the Japanese Forbes List, due in part to his early investments in both Yahoo and Alibaba, described his impression upon first meeting Alibaba founder & CEO Jack Ma: “It was the look in his eye, it was an ‘animal smell’“.

Jack Ma (L) and Masayoshi Son in an early meeting.

That’s it, that’s how he decided to pull the trigger, becoming one of the first investors in what later would become the largest IPO ever. Animal smell.

What is animal smell? In a nutshell, animal smell can be described as such: I make a clone of you: same look, talents, skills, experience, pedigree, training and resume as you. I have $100k to invest, and it will go to either you or to your clone.

How do I pick? Who do I bet on? The answer is the one with animal smell. Maybe it’s a crazy look in the eyes, a smirk, or a manner of storytelling. It’s a way of being that sets you apart.

What is animal smell, and do you have it? Read on below.

16 Signs You Have “Animal Smell”:

  • Cannibalize yourself. You aggressively look for ways to improve upon yourself. Animal smell means every day you’re an updated version of yourself. You see through your own bullshit, you know your habits (good & bad), and always want to improve. You care 10x more about tomorrow than about yesterday. Believe you have an unfair advantage. Your way of viewing the world is just more “right” than most other people.
  • Focus intensely on one thing at a time. Grab a task and hold tight until it’s completely done. Then let it go completely and move onto the next thing.

A cheetah picks a prey and chases it down. Being randomized by multiple goals at once is distracting and inefficient.

  • Fail every day. You have failed in the past and you don’t care. You learn your lesson, accept that failure is part of the game, and continue the journey. Powerful memory. You have a nearly perfect memory of the important stuff. As soon as you hear something that’s important or valuable, you internalize it, write it down, tell it to friends. It becomes a part of you.
  • In high demand. You don’t have enough time in the day to go to all the meetings, events, panels, and lectures that people invite you to be part of. Everyone wants you to be on their team.
  • Have an itch to scratch. A very big itch. You want to travel to Mars, get a billion pageviews, build a skysraper with your mom’s name on it. You can’t go too long without working towards your goals, or you get itchy.
  • Contagious energy. You see people getting visibly excited when they talk to you. Your enthusiasm is contagious. People tell you you have crazy eyes.
  • Work more, not less. You choose to do things because they are hard, not because they are easy. You want to be trusted with big jobs, not little ones, because you know you can handle it. You work on wildly ambitious things because you get bored by mediocre pursuits. “Why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? … We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” – JFK in 1962
  • Decisive. You are especially good at saying no and shutting down unproductive threads. Anyone can say “no” to bad ideas - but those with animal smell are good at firmly saying “no” to medium-quality plans, making room for greatness.
  • Strong-willed. Animals are not self-conscious — a shark is a shark, a cheetah is a cheetah. While you are introspective and highly self-aware, you do not dwell on what other people think of you.
  • Understand power dynamics. You can quickly read a room to see who is wearing the pants. More often than not, it’s you.
  • Punch above your weight in terms of network. You have friends, colleagues, and role models who are far more successful and accomplished than yourself, and they believe in you.
  • Follow the path of least resistance. You pick up the phone when you want an answer. You’re blunt, you get to the point quickly. You don’t waste energy, but you also don’t give up when the path runs into obstacles.

A river is pulled along by gravity. While it’s not necessarily a straight line, it’s always (by definition) the path of least resistance from high ground to low ground.

  • Talkative. But in an information-dense way. You have opinions on everything and are always connecting the dots from one area to another.
  • See your own potential and want it to come true. You’re a huge fan of yourself - the world is better with you in it.

Many great thinkers, builders, and artists have animal smell - behaviors and attitudes that gear them towards inevitable success. They are driven from within, and their ambitious characteristics are apparent to others.

Do you have animal smell? Share this article with someone you think has animal smell.

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