In August 2nd, 2016, I applied to Praxis. Almost one month later, I was accepted. It wasn’t easy, it required a lot of self-knowledge and effort.
But it was simple. If you stop to think, nearly everything in life is simple. We are constantly overthinking life. I think it should be approached as a game: you are always trying to get to higher and higher levels, and satisfying yourself with each small win.
And how do you win those smaller games? I’m going to give you a formula.
The Praxis application was the first time I felt really challenged in my life. I feared a “No” more than anything. Even then, when I applied, all I needed to do was to think: what do they want?
So, I built my application around it.
There’s the formula. People are self-interested, they have incentives for everything they do. If you understand and play with those incentives, you have the keys to heaven.
Once I had the opportunity to ask a big indirect mentor of mine, Gabriel Goffi, this question:
“What is the one thing an ambitious young professional should do to leverage her career?”
His answer? Create value to someone who’s where you want to be.
It all comes back to incentives. What do successful people want? I don’t know. Each one may want something different. My job is to discover it and provide it to them. Then, I have impacted them positively, and they’ll probably recognize it. Even if they don’t, you’ve learned something along the way. Keep going, you’ll get there eventually.
So, here’s the formula: value creation mindset + actual value creation = level up.
If you know that you can learn a skill, do a job, or become better at anything that would be beneficial to someone who can help you go further, and you actually do that, you’ve leveled up. As simple as it sounds, keep doing, keep going.
Maybe that’s a little too abstract. I’m going to share with you exactly how I got accepted into Praxis.
1) Understand what are their incentives (term a: have a value creation mindset).
They’re a for-profit business, but they have a 15% acceptance rate. Why does it happen? What kind of participant do they want?
Some research in the Praxis website, and even on staff members’ personal websites show that. They have buzzwords. What is value creation? What is conveyor belt? Bias for action? Value proposition? They seem to have a strong philosophy against college. Why? Do I agree with it?
It was so simple, that I found two articles on their website: The Extraordinary 5 Traits of the Best Praxis Applicants, and Five More Traits of the Best Praxis Applicants. Do you realize how easy they’re making it for you? You don’t even have to read between the lines, they’re explicitly saying: please, read this.
Of course you should read it and analyze if you fit into what they’re looking for. You shouldn’t pretend to be someone just so you can benefit from the situation.
But if you actually have what they want, use it in your favor. Here’s how I began my application:
“My values are similar to those that Praxis is looking for – I have a mindset that results in my desire to develop my unique skill set, invest in the startup of myself, get things done and further myself through the creation of value, always aiming to transform the world into a freer place.”
2) Show how you can create value (term b: actually create value).
My focus during the application wasn’t to create value for Praxis, because I’m its customer. My focus was to show that I am qualified enough to be their customer. How? Showing that I have the right mindset (step 1 discussed above) and that I can create value to my Business Partner.
One of their questions during the application was: “What will make you an excellent Praxis participant? What talent, skills, and experience will you bring to the program?”
Again: They’re making it so easy that you don’t even need to realize you need to show that. They ask you. All I needed to do was to show my results from past experiences, think about my skills and mindset, and tailor my communication so it shows how I would benefit a business.
For example, instead of saying: I worked without supervision and I learn at a fast pace (which is mostly okay), you could say: I don’t need to be told more than once how to do something. If I can’t do it, I’ll figure it out.
This shows how you add value to the employer. You don’t need much training, so he has fewer costs and doesn’t need to be all the time talking to you. Awesome, right?
In a situation different than mine, in which you’re actually trying to create value to a business or to someone, it’s even simpler. You’ve already figured out what she needs. Now just do it. Don’t ask for permission. Send them a proposal, not an idea. Ideas are cheap, products are more valuable.
3) Level up (I’ve been accepted!)
So, I’ve been accepted.
Was it hard? Yes, I needed to have tons of self-knowledge, willingness to leave my comfort zone, and I spent quite some time devouring content about Praxis and its team members. Nowadays, I’ve read 4 books published by the staff and hundreds of articles.
Was it complex? No, I just needed to follow a two-step model.
The next time you’re interacting with someone – anyone – ask yourself: what does she want to listen? What does she want to receive? Am I capable of providing it? If so, do it!
Simple, right? Quite hard sometimes.