“So, what exactly makes somebody a great Praxis applicant?”
I probably get this question a few times a week when talking about the kinds of people we want joining us in Praxis. The great applicants are not just extraordinary among young people, but they defy traditional definitions of success.
“Do they all have high high school GPAs and SAT scores?”
“Were they all in 25 different extracurricular activities in high school?”
“Did they all drop out of elite colleges?”
While some participants and alumni do certainly meet traditional profiles for success, many of the best applicants to the program don’t. Many had mediocre high school transcripts and/or were accepted to average colleges. They may have been told by high school guidance counselors that they should set their sights lower based on their performances in classes, or maybe they were only active in a small handful of extracurricular activities.
The best Praxis applicants are those who have certain characteristics that are shared by a sizable portion of America’s most successful entrepreneurs — they’re courageous, self-motivated, have a can-do mindset, honest, and eager to build their lives for themselves.
1. They’re Courageous
Courage isn’t just a buzzword when it comes to the best Praxis applicants. We want those who aren’t afraid to do something different than even a typical high-achieving 18-25 year old and who aren’t intimidated by the idea of doing business with successful entrepreneurs and representing their companies in deals involving more money than most people have the pleasure to see in a lifetime.
There’s no easy, safe route to success for most people. You will be criticized along the way and will likely get some of that criticism from some of your closest friends and family members. If that makes you deeply uncomfortable, that’s okay — you may not be cut out for doing something different to get there. You can settle on a comfortable, easy career that doesn’t make anybody upset and doesn’t go against any grain. But if that is your personality, then it’s unlikely that you would be a great Praxis applicant.
A majority of self-made successful and wealthy people in the United States are not defined by IQ scores or GPAs or SAT scores — in fact, many would admit to having been mediocre students. They’re defined by courage. Most of these people are entrepreneurs who built successful businesses — the kinds of people who are Praxis business partners — and those businesses are only possible through not being afraid to see things differently than everybody else.
We want the kinds of people who aren’t afraid to try something different, go against the grain, and who see opportunities others are too afraid to acknowledge joining us in Praxis.
2. They’re Self-Motivated
Recall that many of the self-made successful in the United States today were not particularly great students. Contrary to what college recruiters and popular lore will tell you, a 4.0 GPA and a 2200+ SAT score does not translate into success later in life.
They’re not motivated by gold stars and honor rolls. They’re self-motivated instead (some great students are self-motivated, but many are motivated by the carrot on the stick that is getting into a great college/grad school/prep school/etc.). This is why more self-made successful are entrepreneurs rather than high-status careers like doctors or lawyers — they are more interested in building something for themselves than impressing friends and family.
The Praxis experience is not like a school setting. We don’t have proctors that guarantee you complete assignments. We don’t have a mandatory curriculum that you absolutely must accomplish. There’s no Praxis staff standing over your shoulder at your business partner on a day-to-day. We won’t call you to get out of bed if you oversleep for your business partner. And we don’t have to.
The best Praxis applicants are self-motivated. They might be attracted to the idea of a payoff for their hard work and creativity later in life, but they aren’t looking for a credential or the adulations of happy aunts and uncles saying “congrats! I’m so proud of you!!!” on Facebook at a college graduation ceremony. They’re like the self-made successful in America — getting themselves up in the morning and diligently doing their work for their own sakes, not for somebody else.
3. They Have a Can-Do Mindset
Praxis isn’t easy. It’s not for people who have a “I can’t do this” mindset and it’s not for those who aren’t willing to learn something new every day. The best applicants have a “can-do” mindset and are eager to take on new problems as they arise. They’ll never say, “it just seems like I can never get something right!” or take on an attitude of personal pessimism.
Related to courage, a can-do mindset is one of the factors that go into a strong personal armor when dealing with critics and skeptics. Friends and family might tell you that you might as well as pack up and go take a safer, more traditional route to success because things are just too difficult going at them a different way. Most people will listen to them and be relegated to a class of “can’t-do” thinkers. The self-made successful know that this isn’t a productive way of thinking. They have an optimism that is directly related to their ability to build and deliver on things.
We look for people who are excited about overcoming new and big problems when reviewing Praxis applicants. These are not people who are looking for easy answers and for a roadmap from point A to point Z. They’re excited about charting this course for themselves and overcoming the biggest challenges.
4. They’re Honest (with themselves and others)
Honesty is one of the leading self-described characteristics of the self-made successful and one of the top characteristics we want in Praxis applicants. We put the Praxis stamp of approval on our participants and send them to companies with whom we enjoy doing business. To have a dishonest person representing the program would not only hurt our business partner but hurt our reputation itself.
Honesty isn’t just telling the black-and-white truth — it’s not purposely misleading yourself and others. Some things that aren’t lies are still dishonest if not presented with the full picture in mind. It’s important to develop an attitude of honesty by first being honest with oneself. Ask yourself what you want from your career, family, and self over the next 3-5 years. Actively strive for those things that align with those goals and remove those that don’t. Too many young people tell themselves they want something that sounds “successful” only to find that they don’t actually want that — this is how a quarter-life crisis starts.
Being honest with yourself bleeds over into being honest with others. People won’t remember your GPA or your alma mater in time — they will remember how you treated them. Place a high emphasis on being honest in order to preserve and build your social capital. Years of hard work at getting A’s and impressing instructors can go down the tube with one dishonest interaction.
I was recently having lunch with a Praxis business partner who told me about how he built his business. He expressed a skepticism and distrust of working in the stock market and of those who claim to build a lot of wealth this way.
“It’s gambling. It’s just gambling.”
I nodded my head in agreement — most people who claim to build a lot of wealth quickly in the stock market sound like those who actively go down to the poker table at the casino.
He then told me about some trading he did when he was younger. He was talked into it by an acquaintance from college who claimed to have amassed a fortune through trading cheaper stocks over several weeks. He did it for a short while and backed out, not feeling comfortable with the situation.
“Turns out the guy who talked me into it was being investigated by the SEC. What I was doing was fine — but him? I won’t talk to him to this day. You can make mistakes, but be dishonest with me and I’ll cut you out of my life.”
5. They’re Eager
We give an amazing opportunity to those who are accepted to Praxis — go work near and around a successful entrepreneur for ten months. Show them what you are capable of doing and achieving. Get started in your career with an opportunity most people don’t get in a lifetime.
We want those who this excites.
Eagerness combined with discipline is a powerful tool. There are plenty of opportunities that excite people in a lifetime, but few people have the discipline to actually follow through on the top opportunities.
Praxis alumnus James Walpole offers a case against paying your dues here on the blog. This is the attitude we want for those with eagerness:
Anything above and beyond the skill, creativity, and work we need to be successful is a a deadweight loss. Life is too short, and all of us have too many successes to chase to spend unnecessary time going through shit for one.
If you are thinking, “these describe me perfectly!” while reading this, apply to Praxis now. We want to meet you.
For more information on the traits of the self-made successful in America, see The Millionaire Mind for survey data and case studies.