Why Being Naive Can Make Your Fortune

Why Being Naive Can Make Your Fortune

Reader Comments (249)

  1. Sonia, I love this post!

    The only words that ring in my head after reading it are “business success on your own terms, equals real business success.”

    Maintaining a sense of naivete (not ignorance) enables one to approach matters of business naturally and instinctively.

    As you said, “…I still believe that being naive is one of the best ways to make a company great — whether that company is made up of one person or 10,000.”

    I think you’re right on that mark with this because, allowing yourself to be “brave enough to ignore conventional advice that doesn’t apply to you, doesn’t make you happy, and may not even make you any money” sets you apart from the status quo.

    It lends itself to being remarkable (worth making a remark about), and after all that is how businesses not only make money, but make a difference.

    Intelligent naiveté….something to strive for I’d say.

    • Naivete has gotten me through life … my life story is one of being naive to win my life over the despair of nay sayers. Three cheers for naivete!. my work is related to an emerging not for profit organization so what I seek is people appreciating my wisdom with contributions to enable others to know a life of victory. Onward and upward I move forward playing in my sandbox of life exploring new ways to build sandcastles!

      BTW I am youthful in spirit in a body of life that has experienced much, the good, the bad and the evil now enjoying my victory of living by accomplishing what was deemed impossible.


  2. Great post to read as I start the first day of my new job. I’ve been tasked with revamping client service, project management, and operations. A little naivete will go a long way. Thanks, Sonia!

  3. I love this post, it really spoke to me! As someone who is also advised that they need to toughen up and be business-like, I get a perverse sense of pleasure (which I keep to myself) when that customer comes back – they miss the things that a cut throat business didn’t supply that we did. It’s always easier to run someone elses business for them 😉

    On a different note, as a founder of the Third Tribe, you are anything but naive and it’s a poor businessperson who swiftly comes to that conclusion without checking their facts or what you have achieved out before making that statement.

  4. Sonia,

    Thanks for this post.

    I’m interested in checking out “The Art of Possibility” now. Sounds like it’s right up my alley.

    Asking ‘why’ seems something there’s not enough of. Why can’t it be done like this? Easier to stick with the norm I suppose. But clearly not as much fun!

    Thanks again.

  5. Talk about the lattice of coincidence… I was just accused of being too naive to succeed at internet marketing. It wasn’t until I read this post that I realized that what my accuser was saying is that I’m not dishonest or conniving or selfish enough to use hype and sleazy tactics to sell people dreams that turn into nightmares.

  6. Great post Sonia!

    I’ve been “accused” of being “too nice, too honest” and “naive.” Each time I’ve been criticized I’d think: What’s wrong with being nice or honest or expecting the best from people? Being a consistently good and kind person in your business or personal life is a high aspiration not a character flaw.

    Thanks for this post, I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to write it.

    • “Naive”, “too honest” or “too nice” are actually charitable. Less complimentary are words like “stupid”, “ignorant” and “nonentity”. Sadly enough, I’ve been called all those names. Why? Simply because of a burning desire to be self-employed.

      Yet I’ve gone over the years to do well in my various businesses and continues till today to be the only one, in my family with disposable income to help others.

      Looks like this post by Sonia Simone was specifically written for me and my disciples. It captured a significant experience of the wild swings, twists and turns that made my business success a happy journey.

      So what made my journey such a good experience against all odds and prediction? A reservoir of fortitude, endurance, kind and good personality. Like Maryellen said, these are not character flaws but aspirational traits.

      Thank you, Sonia for this great post and for reminding me once again that I’m sane. What a good way to usher the week after a long labor day weekend here in the United States. Thank you too, Maryellen.

  7. Sonia,

    What a honest look at how we all started in business. I really enjoyed reading this.

    I can’t think of a single venture I’ve undertaken that wasn’t born in total naiveté. After the fact I usually end up trying to make a system and a science out of what I am doing, and I think there is a lot of value to that, but I do think we should all look at where we came from.

    It is the daring and the dreaming that makes room for giant mistakes and giant successes of life.

  8. Hello Sonia,

    I have frequently been accused of being too nice (as if it is some kind of sin in the business world). But 12 years after launching my own marketing and design firm, I have many clients who have loyally remained with me. Most importantly, when I go to bed at night, I can sleep soundly knowing I’ve treated people well today.

  9. Hi
    You are inspired by reading books.It’s good to see as I am also inspired by many great blogger.
    Awesome points you have shared specially Nothing matters more than people…love it
    Till yet I am not criticized…:P

    Thanks For Sharing

  10. I’ve been called naive my whole life! And as such, I loved this! I was told I was naive to think that I could establish a charity that was run entirely through good will and love. I was told I was naive not to take a salary and that it was not a workable model.

    Every time I strike up a conversation with a random stranger in the checkout queue, I can see my husband roll his eyes as he thinks ‘here she goes again!’ I love making people smile and teasing out their sparkle but of course, that’s not the way ‘normal’ people act (hence the eye rolls from my other half!)

    And yes, I have worried that maybe I’m not ballsy enough, that I’m too nice to play this game and for that reason more than any other, this post has brought a huge smile to my face. Thanks Sonia. 🙂

  11. Sonia,

    I’m certain I was called naive and worse during my time in the corporate world before I bailed in 1999. People were aghast when I declined meetings I didn’t really need to attend, spent more time mentoring direct reports than managing up, and retreated to conference rooms for 2-hour blocks of time to actually focus and accomplish something during work hours.

    But the more I did on my own terms, the more I could stomach the job.

    I’m sure it cost me advancement at the time, but I was happier doing what I believed in and having a work product or better relationship to show for it.

    Now naivete helps most when I can summon the ability to NOT know that I can’t do something. So I get it done to the best of my ability, focusing on making the client happy and learning something in the process.

    It’s way more fun being naive!

  12. My favorite is, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”

    That is nothing more than an excuse to treat people poorly for apparent, short-term, financial gain.

      • Especially when you consider the source – The original Godfather movie! Do you really want to be just like a major mob leader?

        When I was in middle school I staged a peaceful, non-disruptive protest about separating those who get school lunch from those who don’t. Yes they really went there. It worked, and I haven’t looked back.

        Whenever someone tells me it won’t work I simply think “Why not?” and set out to prove them wrong.

        Thanks for a great reminder Sonia!

  13. Bravo!

    I love this. I’m one of those folks that has always been looked at as the “crazy idea” guy. I prefer to think of myself more as the “I’m gonna do whatever I want” guy.

    I run an ornamental welding business, teach folks online how to weld, sell fight training gear, manage some ecommerce sites, and coach folks how to grow successful businesses while keeping their family first, and there’s a lot more in the tank.

    My (offline) friends think I’m nuts and that I’ll try anything. I always say they’re probably right. I’d rather be thought of as a nutcase who’s loving what he does everyday than a normal guy that’s always wishing life could better.

    What they don’t see is how each step has been analyzed and calculated. If it doesn’t make sense (to me), I’m not going to do it. I loved the “Leap and the floor will appear” line. Even as cooky as some of Branson’s decisions have been, I’m sure he’s given each on careful thought in his own mind.

    Good stuff Sonia

  14. I have been called mad, mental, crazy, loony, naive, stupid, inexperienced. Call me an optimist but I have always believed I shall be a success, even with no money I class myself as a success!

    Great post.

  15. Thank you Sonia. This a beautifully written and inspiring article. A great way to begin the new work week!

    It is not naive to be “true to yourself and to your beliefs.” It is rare to find this quality in many people and organizations.

    Believing in yourself and in your ideas – especially when the going gets rough – is a hallmark of many successful people. You gave us some wonderful examples of people who had the courage to follow their dreams, to engage their passions, to inspire others to join with them.

    Thank you for following your dream and engaging your passion. You inspiried me this morning.

    Danny Rocks

    The Company Rocks

  16. Intriguing stuff, Sonia. Branson is one of my business heroes. The guy has defied traditional business practices, and is now reaping the rewards.

  17. Sonia, printing this and hanging it on the wall! This comes at a time when I have been trying to cleanse my head of what I know and approach things without those “should, must, do it this way” rules that have accumulated over time. I recently commented about those new to business, fresh and naive, who succeed because they are not burdened with the rules “we” impose on them. They operate on instinct and determination. Knowing “stuff” is great but knowing when to throw it out and write your own script is even better. Thanks for the right on time inspiration. It is exactly what I needed today.

  18. What a fantastic post!

    I’ve been told for years that I am to naive to run a business. To nice. I lack that “killer instinct”. Too bad, I’m running my business anyway.

    I believe that deals should be fixed with a handshake, and then later backed up with a contract full of pesky details. Ludicrous, right? I’ve been burned once, then landed four contracts because that was my “refreshing take” on trust in business.

    Thanks for writing this post!

  19. I think that the world is rocked by the naive, clueless, and irrational. I know people are thinking that about me, but they know better than to tell me to my face. 🙂

    Success does quite a bit to shut up the naysayers.

  20. I’m with Jef (and you Sonia) definitely naive and hoping never to get jaded by life or any part of it.

    My brother got made redundant last year and them applied for a job he wasn’t well qualified for and got. Surprised, he asked them why they picked him and they said it was because when asked about his worst qualities he’d said he was too nice (it’s true!) But it goes to show that good guys and girls can win:) Hooray!

  21. If only more business people thought like you! I really enjoyed this post. It reminded me of what businesses used to be like…you know, the small “mom and pop” type of business. My goal as a writer is to help small businesses to not only succeed but to thrive. I don’t like the current trend of big business where people are “expendable” and profit is king. I say there needs to be much more naivete in the world!

  22. Brilliant!

    Naivety IS brilliant! And all we need is the guts to turn a derogatory accusation on it’s head and it’s a compliment – and people who don’t realise it, are the only showing their own naivety (in the negative sense) when they call you naive!

  23. Wonderful post, Sonia. Although it is often thought about in a different context in Eastern philosophy, they talk about having a “Beginner’s mind” that is open to the many possibilities that exist in every situation. For me being naive is having a similar beginner’s mind. Thank you for the post.

  24. An awe inspiring blog, thank you, I am always being thought as naive that I would ever get anything published but have just completed first book.
    So to tackle the sales, thank you pages and promotion but naively I will get there!!
    Thank you

  25. If i’d stayed working with one company I was in, I would have developed the wonderous ability to be “cynical” which was apparently the only way to do business (coupled with a healthy dose of paranoia).

    You were branded foolish if you didn’t just want to make money for the love of making money. I didn’t, I wanted to make a difference to other people’s business and wanted a clear conscience every day.

    I might not be making the 6 figures they were (yet ;-)) but I’m a million times happier running business my way.

  26. Simone,

    I hope to be this naive someday. I think the approach is refreshing compared to the uptight way of doing things. Being able to step our of the confinements that can be placed on us as individuals in a company helps us to be better employees and better businesspeople.

    Thanks for a great post!

  27. Great post! Reading through it I know what you mean by naive and I agree it can be a quality that helps rather than hurts. But I also think it has something to do with kind and forgiving. For example, if a client can’t pay right away, or needs a bit of pro bono work to get something done, giving that leeway or donating an hour of your time may seem naive, but in the end, I believe it leads to a better business. Thanks for a great post.

  28. Sonia your post is so true. I work in the printing industry with many corporate dinosaurs. They believe the internet is taking their market share away from them. Well they are right about that although this attitude is the same unbending philosiphy that destroys innovative employees and they wonder why they cant get good people.

  29. Great post!

    For all those who would be naive in business and life, do so but with open eyes. When we reject the common assumptions to which others are attached, we can expect to raise anxiety in those most fearful of being different from the crowd or who lack the open-mindedness to consider a new way of working. It is only after we persevere that others begin to see that their prior assumptions about business were just that, and then follow as you continue to stand behind a new set of (formerly naive) beliefs.

    And as long as you mention Zander and Zander’s great work (which is also on video), remember their advice on Rule #6 (Don’t take yourself so seriously). Good advice for all of us!

  30. Sonia
    Just resonated with this post …… Yes I have been called “naive” and for being “too nice” to be in business? and criticized for lacking the macho blood and guts you need to succeed? yes yes !!!
    Awesome post… just read it to my husband who is a linchpins in the company he works for .. inspiring.
    Thanks Kaye

  31. You story of when you worked in industry is so similar to my own! What!? Tell the customer the truth! Are you crazy? I left.

    I like the saying if you leap, the floor will appear! Great thought!!!

  32. Apart from being well written and appreciated by fellow readers this is quite an awesome representation. Imagine if no one was ‘naive’ what would we have done without philosophers? We would still be trudging around in mud no cars, not even electricity and so on *continue to the naive* it is a much better world!

  33. Thank you for this post. I recall the time someone I really respected spit out “You are SO naive” at me – and I was crushed. I felt insulted, humiliated and stupid because her tone, as much as her words, implied all of those things. After thinking about it however, I actually congratulated myself on her biting remark and wore her comment like a badge of honour. If it is naive to be honest, trusting and to act with integrity, then count me in!!

  34. What a great post! The best job I ever had was working for a “naive” boss who expected us to produce terrific work, on schedule. Once that was done, though, we were free to boogie on out of there and live our lives. How naive of him!

    I’ve been “naive” all my life, too. And I think I could use a big dose of it over the next few years, so thanks for giving me permission, Sonia! 🙂

  35. Fabulous Sonia!

    Way to stick up for the nice guys and gals. I can’t tell you how tired I am of hearing “too nice.” When did nice become such a rival to successful or hungry?

    I once interviewed for a very high-level, high-paying sales manager job. It was a grueling process and finally came down to 2 candidates – me and another guy. In the end they chose him and I was crushed. Later my recruiter was kind enough to explain the employer’s decision. They thought I just wasn’t enough of a “shark” for the job. It didn’t take me long to sing my praises for not getting that one… Clearly, I would not have thrived there.

    These days I’m building my own business – it’s ALL about being nice! Giving, sharing…ooey gooey cheery stuff! It’s fun and it fits. So thanks for the pump-up post today and cheers to all the beautiful fish who’d rather not be sharks anyway!

  36. Hi Simone,

    I’m still feeling a little weepy after reading your blog. Having just left a local government law enforcement job working as a line manager for over 12 years, where my face simply didn’t fit, I’m now in the big world working hard to market and promote my own company – and I’m loving every minute of it. Naive is probably the polite version.

    So glad I took the leap of faith and gave up the salery – at least I now sleep at nights and my equilibrium is slowly being restored.

    Your blog probably wasn’t intended to hit a raw nerve – but it certianly did. I’ll look out for more articles from you. Thank you


  37. Wow! your blog just gave me a happy boost!
    To be irreverent is also naive! It will get you in trouble with lots of people. Specially those snake-like ones in power. It will however set clear that you are not up for BS. Not receiving and not giving. It will state you are honest through and through.

    I am a web developer and I got sick of the common Content Management Systems (WordPress, Joomla and Dropal) so I spend the last 6 month developing my own.

    I was accused of being naive enough to make my own software while the world out there uses dozens of developers for a single project. Jet I succeeded!

    If someone is interested here is the link: http://stephan-ferdinand.org

    Thank you and please write more in copybogger you are amazing!

  38. Inspiring. Courageous. Just whatI needed to hear. Loved the Zander expression “enlarging the box” which makes more sense than the over-used “thinking outside of the box.”
    I too admire Branson. He takes risks, but he backs them up with a lot of research and planning. He surrounds himself with smart people. That’s hardly naive.

  39. “Naiveté is not willful ignorance. It makes plenty of room for curiosity and learning. It makes lots of room for experimentation and thoughtful observation.”

    I love this. Great article, Sonia! So many times I’ve been called naive/stupid and that’s fine. I’ll just continue to enjoy building empire like Branson.

  40. hi – yes, been called niave…but i refure to give up the fight.
    what’s so wrong about thinking good?

  41. Awesome blog.

    I too am naive… if naive means :

    – Questioning the status quo. Yes I know “it’s always been that way”, but is it working ? if it ain’t broke, check your definition of “broke”
    – Believing in people. I worked in the hotel business for years, and created a focus on “look after your team first, then they will look after the guests”. Empowerment, motivation, mentoring etc.. all flowed from that. Results ? Stunning levels of guest amabassadors, repeat business, word of mouth.
    – Being Positive. I am a hugely positive person. In a business sense, that lets me always be looking for improvements, and if you work hard and keep looking for positive change, you’d be surprised how often you can make it happen.

    In my time as a coach and consultant, I can’t remember one client who I haven’t been able to help through such “naivety”, but then again, I position myself so that those who come to me to help them are also open to change and positive in their attitude.

  42. “We’re told that some of that “human resources goody two-shoes stuff” can be applied, like mascara, to our businesses — as long as cash flow is good. But it’s a luxury. When times are tight, all that earthy crunchy crap has to go. Those irritating employees are lucky to have a job at all.”

    I may be young – but that’s probably the reason why most of the employers I’ve had over the years love telling me this. Yeah, it’s nice to be nice – but really, you should be working your butt off and if you’re not producing for us, just leave already.

    It’s one of the reasons I’m switching to self-employment. I want to make the rules about who gets to be nice or not.

    Anyways, great post Sonia! 🙂

  43. My husband and I were just talking about being naive over the weekend…the blessings and sometimes hardships that come with that. Not seeing the potholes….but it’s really a gift…as you also don’t let the potholes or perceived potholes stop you.

    It’s truly refreshing to hear you talk about the power of being “too nice” and “too honest”…my high school yearbook is full of…To a nice girl….I used to cringe and now I embrace it as who I am. It wasn’t valued in corporate but I value you in my business and so do my clients and readers.

    I believe that the world is aching for more nice – honest – optimist~

    Thanks for leading the way~

  44. Yes Sonia, I’m naive… now give me that permission slip so I can show it to my boyfriend and parents already! 😉 Not only is being naive looked down on, but being nice is considered something that’s secondary.

    I love that you brought Tony into this, since his ideas about people are incredibly important in our modern world… where we’re distrustful, especially of businesses. If we put the human touch back in, it makes a huge difference for everyone involved!

    • Yeah, god bless Tony Hsieh for taking these ideas and making so damned much money with them! Not that we all need to build billion-dollar companies, there are plenty of other worthwhile goals, but the money helps give that very objective validation. Another great resource to mine for “nice guy wild success” stories is Good to Great, which every executive in America bought, but apparently few read. 🙂

      I think I should ask our graphic design dudes to work up an actual permission slip for us that people can print out. 🙂

  45. Terrific article – I can certainly relate!

    I wish I had come sooner to the realization that instead of struggling to conform with the ways things are typically done in the business world, my “naivety” might be a bonus rather than a liability that I needed to try and hide! This finally hit me like a ton of bricks about a year ago and work and life has been infinitely more interesting ever since!

  46. Perfectly timed, just as I was tiring of people’s raised eyebrow reaction to my comments that I don’t watch the news or read newspapers. I don’t need to know all the bad news to get on with being happy doing a good job! In fact, all that bad stuff crushes creativity and who wants to live in a grey world.
    Great post!

  47. Sonia

    Amazing post! I can say being naive is the smartest way to go in business. It is about being real, being authentic.. Naive is about seeing the world the way it..

    I was very naive when I choose the field of Online PR consulting. People told me I was not educated in traditional college to do PR. So what.. My major was linguistics. english and teaching. I connected with people. I learned to find the best connection. I love writing and marketing. Well it is all a part of PR world. I believed that I could do it..

    I believed in myself and being naive is often not sign of ignorance but sign of strong belief in our life and our talents..

    I believe being naive helps to make decisions and have a perfect timing.. Sonia again thank you for writing this..

    Tatyana Gann

  48. Way back when, when I had a record store we had 14 reps per week call on us to sell us their wares. Every single one of them (or at least 13 because the other one already did) wanted to work for Virgin.

    Branson treated his staff like people and I even heard one year he hand wrote several thousand Xmas cards to all his employees. I suspect he can’t do that now, but I still LOVE the guy!

  49. Awesome post Sonia. Really. I spent 8 years as a Business Development Manager for a large corporation making gobs of money. I was naive enough to think that I was supposed to be “developing business”, which to (silly) me meant identifying the clients needs, providing them what they needed at a fair price, and treating them like gold for years afterward.

    Turns out I was just supposed to be selling selling selling selling selling. Did I mention the selling? I didn’t have the courage like you to consider multiple homicide (for me it was either quit or check myself into a private hospital..), so I leapt. …and found the floor.

    Or the floor found me.

    NO regrets. I even don’t miss the money because the price was too high. My kids, the lawn (who knew grass needed so much love?!), and other daily stuff are keeping my blogging at a slow – but steady – crawl, and I have found tremendous joy in how I spend my time. Making the rules (be nice, share, don’t steal) and following them has given me more career satisfaction than anything I have done in the past 20 years.

    Love your writing and your thought process.



  50. As a teacher I was told I cared “too much” about the children and that most of my goals were naive. When I tried to go into sales, I was told I “don’t have that killer instinct” and “wouldn’t be able to go for the jugular.”

    Happily, both statements were true. So far, being nice has served me pretty well in my own business – and I refuse to work with people or companies that are not also nice.

  51. Thank you for this Sonia…

    Lately I’m thinking that I need to be a little more naive. It seems like the more I think I know, the less it actually works out. The more “gung ho guns blazing, I’m going to make this work, I don’t give a fluff about what anyone has to say” the more it works…

    so.. for this post… you are awesome.

  52. If you look at the Wiki definition below for naive, the early use of the word meant natural or innocent, not inept. What a great way to be and an antidote to the ruthless, selfish values which so often drive the business world today.

    Great article Sonia, a real thumbs up for all us happy naive, natural, innocent people out there!!!

    Naïve (sometimes spelled naive) is a French loanword (adjective, form of naïf) indicating having or showing a lack of experience, understanding or sophistication; in early use, it meant natural or innocent, and did not connote ineptitude.

  53. Sonia: ps. I found a purse with $800 inside. My coworkers told me I was naive thinking this person would do likewise if they found my wallet. I believed otherwise.

    When I met her, she was crying uncontrollably, saying the money was her son’s college money he’d saved all summer. She hugged me endlessly.

    When I returned to work, those same coworkers snarked that she didn’t even give me a reward.

    I thought of her face with those tears, and her son at college enjoying a good meal and replied, “Yes she did, too!”

  54. I think you’re starting something here..

    People are so quick to apply limits to everything and everyone (especially ourselves), this post will help many of us cast those aside and tap into our inner kid again where anything is possible.

    This was really good Sonia! Best I’ve read in a while. 🙂

  55. Great Post.

    We have a golf company Zoom Boom Golf.com that is different than your ‘traditional’ golf company.

    Our belief is if you make the golfer better he will get more enjoyment out of the game.

    And, we believe that the golfer is more important than his equipment and that most golfers already have all the power they need.

    But that it is in the technique that most golfers are lacking.

    If anyone has any ideas of how to get this out to the public we are listening. (You can’t be any more naive than we are)

  56. Did you write this for me? The last line “being too nice” gave me chills. I am going through a kick-butt bootcamp (self taught ‘class’) and reading your post make me wonder if it’s all worth it. I kind of like being naive and nice. What I love about Branson (who was my hero on my backpacking trip around the world) is that even though he is naive and nice, he kicks ass.

    Thanks for writing!

    • Yeah, reading about Branson made me realize that I don’t, in fact, need to get some kind of personality transplant to be successful. Not that I’m good at everything he is good at, but he definitely lacks some of the traits that conventional wisdom says you “have” to have.

  57. I seem to be the queen of naivete amongst my friends. They always say something and I respond, following my own logic. Then they stare at me and wonder why I didn’t get their references or how I wound up with an imaginative story to explain an empty pond.

    While this isn’t really a business story, I think it applies. Being able to apply your own logic, whether in a social setting or a corporate setting, often gets you dubbed “naive.” I think that’s code for “smart.”

  58. Thank you for this artlcle. It made me smile; I guess that in my time in the work world created by others I was also one of those naive ones. Much of the time my approach worked out well in the end, but there were times I leapt into situations that ended messily, which is why I particularly like this:

    “I am not a big fan of the expression “Leap and the net will appear.” More often, it works out to “Leap and the floor will appear.”

    Ouch. I guess that if you find yourself on the floor, the only choice is to pick yourself up and start climbing again…

  59. Hi Sonia

    I love your writing about content marketing … and … this post was really really powerful. I’d love to read more of these kinds of ‘attitude’ posts from your experiences.

    A friend once said that I had no concept of the impossible … another recently said that I still had an innocence about me [at 51!] … and others have said I was ‘too … playful … intense … creative … silly …kind’

    That’s why I’ve been self employed for over 20 years … I can be creative and kind and playful … and show clients how to take a different kind of look at their present and future … without all the bullshit that can make good people lose faith in themselves and others.

    And a lot of the time fear drives this need to control people …thru systems and structures and rules … and a basic lack of trust in peoples own powerful capacity to imagine different ways of doing things.

    I’m successful [and that’s a whole other fun article to write! Do you define Success or do you let it define you?] because I’ve been open and creative and playful and passionate … and my clients love it.

    I also have a fundamental belief in other peoples capacity for the extraordinary … you just gotta give out a helping hand sometimes and believe in them.

    Brilliant post Sonia.

  60. First of all, this is a brilliantly wrote article and I can see parts of myself in how you described yourself.

    The problem with naivety is that it isn’t reliable, predictable and even with the best application of it the only person it’ll benefit is the person who’s been naive.

  61. Cluelessness certainly has its place, especially as an impetus. One of my favorite musical artists simply decided, with no idea of how the music industry worked, to drive to LA for a record contract. He tells the story of standing in the phone booth with his list of record company phone numbers and looking down at the floor of the booth to see a discarded piece paper there with the same numbers. The naivete got him to that LA phone booth. In other words, there can be a real benefit in not knowing any better.

  62. One of the most naive things I’ve ever done was thought that working in Human Resources meant I was there to help people. The company I worked for couldn’t stand that as an HR manager that I *liked* the people who worked for me. Trying to balance out corporate mindsets with trying to be there for the employees was like trying to fly a kite in a Class 5 Hurricane.

    I’ve often said the best thing they ever did for me was laid me off. Unlike you Sonia, I was naive enough that I would have never left on my own because I felt like I was protecting (or at least buffering) for my employees. I find it kind of ironic that most of them quit after I was laid off.

    I just got Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness in the mail today. And I’m ordering The Art of Possibility now (hadn’t heard of it before).

    I guess we’ll have to take our successful businesses and just go along being too nice and naive.

    • There were a few pressure points that squeezed me out, otherwise I don’t think I would have left. A lot of layoffs (and yet, so rarely of the people who needed to go), and some other dopey political maneuvering as well.

      The whole role of Human Resources in most companies is so frustratingly backwards. Very odd.

      • Sonia,

        “The whole role of Human Resources in most companies is so frustratingly backwards. Very odd.”

        Yes, why is this?

        I once asked a manager a question. I wasn’t getting an answer. I got a lot of yada yada but no answer. I thought it must be the way I am asking the question. I thought, I’m human, I deserve an answer even if it’s an answer that I don’t like. So, I figure I needed resources and then it hit me … Human Resources. I asked human resources and needless to say the whole place turned upside down because I asked a question.

        I was just asking a question. Naive.

        • Think about the expression: human resources.

          Since when is a human being a resource? What am I: ore, lumber, oil?

          The phrase kinda sucks the humanity out of being human, doesn’t it?

          Human resources. Yikes. Makes my skin crawl.

  63. As my wife and 6-year-old daughter and I embark on a life without a fixed place of residence, there is a nearly universal cry of “but what about stability for your little girl?” and we keep saying, who said ‘stability’ meant be physically inert? Isn’t stability about more time with Mommy and Daddy, seeing the world with her own eyes instead of on TV, learning that we make our own life, it ain’t delivered on some silver platter?

    Besides all that, in our test runs we have had a higher standard of living than we did at home. Nicer kitchens to cook in (man I love a good kitchen.) Nice houses in nice neighborhoods. Posh stereos and luxurious baths. Most folks who need a house-sitter live in nicer houses than we do. And some of them, oddly enough, go on vacation during the nicest weather of the year (can you say Vancouver BC in August, instead of being at home in NorCal, at 114 degrees?)

    Yeah, I’m the Lord High Mayor of Naiveville.

  64. And this is one of the many reasons why I love your work, Sonia. You will see more of why when my post goes up tomorrow, if you read my blog at all 😉 I write furiously all weekend so it’s pure serendipity.

    I haven’t been called naive, yet; too ambitious was what they called me, still do. Thing is, I expect the most out of me.

  65. Sonia, what a great article. Over my career I had the “crazy” idea to involve the services of some of my competitors…and the business owner I worked for at the time thought I had lost my mind. Then her had a change of opinion when he saw the plan work. I now employ a similar strategy in my own business…and it still works. So, yes being a bit naive can be a benefit to an organization, when the people are open to “seeing” something in a new way. Funny how one can go from being clueless to genius in a short span of years.

  66. @Shane, good for you. Honestly, the world would be a better place if we all did the right thing.

    Sonia, when I read this post I see a vision of my son (who turns 7 “IN TWO DAYS!!!”) staring at the sky at night saying, “Oooooo, look at them all–which are stars and which are planets? I want to touch one!”

    To be naive is to be open to learning and what’s possible, rather than limiting yourself to “shoulds,” and “how it’s always done.”

    I love being a naive businessperson and it has made me lots of money :-).

  67. Sonia,

    Thanks for this great perspective! The corporation I used to work for used The Art of Possibility as part of a leadership training course that I taught there. They recently revamped the course to be “more impactful” and ditched the book — too naive, I guess!

    I also recently left my corporate job during difficult economic times to pursue my passion! Naive means being able to see the possibilities and believe that you can make it happen. It’s being open to different perspectives and broadening your own view as you learn from others. And it’s being willing to make mistakes — and becoming a better person for the experience.

  68. For me, it was leave or “go postal” (hey, if a direct marketer can’t go postal, who can?).

    Yeah, I naively thought we were there to help people.

    Silly of me.

  69. When you look at it, a lot of those that are successful would have been called naive when they started. It is just once they proved that they were right to the skeptics, everyone then thinks it is just common sense.
    New goal for myself – try to be naive.

    • James I agree common sense is what we call it naive. Naive nature allows us to see things differently and more clear even

      We must act like kids. Have a child within us.. They naive and belief system is so much stronger than we adults do have..


  70. When people tell me “You’re too naive”, I simply interpret it as, “I sure wish I had the strength and courage to be as creative and unique as you are.” 🙂

  71. Sonia,

    Utterly loved this. It took me back to a place I remember far too well, and then shot me forward (hopefully) to my not too distant future as I embark on my own. Thanks for all of it!


  72. Excellent article! Being naive in this sense means thinking outside of the realm of acceptable business practices (or dinosaur thinking) depending on how you look at it. I also liked the fact that the importance of treating your employees well was included. Good managers and owners know that this is hardly naive behavior. But, compassion, kindness and employee appreciation do often get overlooked if it perceived to interfere somehow with the bottom line.

  73. One of my fondest memories from a past life in Corporate America is a time when my boss called me into his office and told me I was being too customer oriented.

    I had no choice but to plead guilty at the time, but in retrospect, I think I was just naïve.

  74. Sonia,

    You are always good for an uplifting post. I think being naive is one of the big reasons that people become so successful with their entrepreneurial ventures.

    When you don’t know that you aren’t supposed to be able to do something, then you aren’t telling your subconscious that it’s not possible.

    Being naive can be a real asset in many parts of business.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  75. Here’s how naive I am:

    I passed on 3 clients this month because I want to do something much different and much bigger.

    Even more naive:

    I love my day job. And my new wife. And the role I have in my church. I won’t sacrifice time and energy with any of the three while I build my next project.

    Isn’t that so naive? 🙂

  76. The Richard Branson references brought back some memories – as the band I run were one of the first suppliers that his Virgin Bride company put on their recommended suppliers list.

    But what is particularly interesting is how Virgin Bride came about.

    The Virgin Bride ‘line’ was suggested to him by one of his air hostesses from Virgin Airways (or Virgin Atlantic, I forget which name it was). She was American and was helping a friend organize a wedding in the UK and couldn’t believe there was a one stop wedding shop in the UK for weddings.

    So she took the idea to Richard Branson. Not only did he run with the idea, he made her VP of Virgin Bride, or an equally senior position. I was at the Virgin Bride launch and if you Google online you’ll probably find pictures of Richard Branson in a wedding dress.

    Another Branson anecdote if I may, this ties into the ‘people’ theme of the post – my Father in Law is in finance and was once interviewed by Richard Branson way back when. Can’t remember why he didn’t get the job, but not important. But they met again 20 years later at the recording of a UK TV show called ‘This Is your Life’ and Richard Branson walked past my father in law, stopped and said: I interviewed you once, years ago didn’t I?

    Hope that’s of interest.

    • Thanks Paul! It’s neat to hear accounts that aren’t quite so theoretical — everything I know about Branson comes from books.

      I’m impressed at the job the Virgin organization does of promoting from within, and particularly of promoting people who most companies can’t see as “executive material.”

      The book Funky Business used one of the photos of Branson in a wedding dress (very cleverly, as they didn’t tell you who it was when they talked about this “out of the box” entrepreneur — without the beard he’s hard to recognize — and then when you turned the page you discover it’s this brilliant billionaire). I will say, he’s not too pretty in drag. 🙂

  77. Sonia – as usual, you say what I’m kinda thinking! When I started in a corporate sales job I was so naive that it never ONCE occured to me that people wouldn’t want to meet with me. And you know what? It worked! I had a lovely career doing it all the “wrong” way and loving every minute of it.

    When we were bought by another company and I was no longer allowed to do it my way, I jumped and now do my thing my way.

    You put this in such beautiful context – and based on all the other comments there’s lots of us out here – plugging away, doing our thing and making it happen on our terms.


  78. Sonia,

    I thought your Post was “Great” today. You said a great deal. I would throw one word into the mix that has helped me more than any other over the last 30 years in business – Balance!

    Like You, I understand the corporate world; but 30 years of experience has shown me the things I have done right and what I would have done differently. Being Naive can be a good thing as long as we don’t take it too far. Being a sceptic can be good as long as we don’t make ourselves miserable. Balance is the Key – easy to say…hard to do.

    Today, I like the words “Quite Confidence” – Confidence reminds me I am responsible for the effort and Quiet reminds me I can’t do everything by myself. Thanks again…

  79. Sonia, are you sure we didn’t work for the same company? How did we miss each other in the hallway?

    I love this post. It reminded me of all the people who lined up to feed me my dose of practical, mature advice on leaving Corporate Money World to become an independent artist. I hear it can’t be done.

    Is it hard? Hell yeah. But the thing I could never give up now is the flexibility I have to try new things.

    There’s so much freedom in acting on what you see instead of getting stuck on “how it’s supposed to work.”

    Ahh. Freedom to be naive.

    • I remember at one company, our CEO (who bore an eerie resemblance to the Simpsons’ Mr. Burns) told me, “Don’t get me wrong, you’re a very valuable cog in our organization.” And yes, he was trying to be comforting. He was a weird, weird dude.

  80. Yes, yes, yes, yes and YES!

    I had a client back in the day who would tease me mercilessly for being “too nice,” and, yes, “naive.”

    He was very financially successful, but had a horrendous personal life. I said no thanks.

    My own joy at work, and the beginning of the expansion of my business came when I started to write about things that I really, truly wanted to say but was too afraid to in the corporate setting.

    I say, please run the world. I would be more than happy to support a “naive” person such as you.

    Lack of iron balls and proud of it,


  81. Sonia,

    Can you hear the virtual choir singing?

    I am giving you an around the world virtual handclap. Go ahead and take your virtual bow.

    I am smiling, because it is refreshing to understand exactly what you wrote in your article.

    Thank you for lifting the curtain of false perceptions and providing a brilliant and intelligent explanation of the benefits in being naive.

    I am happy to be naive.

    For example, in a cut-throat business environment, caring (emotionally and personally) for another human being is considered naive and a sign of weakness. However, I believe caring is powerful.

    What if you are able to completely remove your own emotions, thoughts and perception and put yourself in another person’s shoes?

    In my opinion, you will be able to see the situation from their point of view. You are now listening (really listening) and being proactive and able to meet and exceed their expectations. Yes, you can, but you have to care. You get your work done so much quicker. There is no sense in doing something that doesn’t meet the customer’s needs. You waste your time.

    In regards to business tactics, legal strategies and negotiations you need to take caring a step further.

    You need to dig down deep and Ya Gotta Love. Seriously!

    You need to love in order to remove yourself emotionally from the situation and put yourself in the other person shoes. This will allow you to recognize legal strategies, deception and tactics so much quicker, which you will need in order to be proactive.

    As technology and neuroscience evolve, coupled with the need to find innovative solutions, I agree, it does make sense to be intelligently naïve.

  82. I think the only truly naive people are the ones who think their stories are already written. They’re the ones that stay in jobs and do things a certain way because it’s “what they’re supposed to do.” They’re not thinking for themselves, which is a shame.

    Following your own path is brave, not naive. I’d rather fail than be complacent doing things I’m “supposed to do.”

    Amazing post. It’s nice to know that there are many people out there who feel this way.

  83. Great post, also I was just thinking about reading The Art of Possibility again, its a wonderful book.

    Very inspiring to someone who has just left the 9-5 world and is looking at opportunities to fly solo.

  84. Interesting how the universe works – my blog takes a similar point of view. People are what matter and we need to be in control of our thoughts, actions and activities and not have them dictated by the PTBs (Powers that be) Why are they in Power anyway – because they said?
    Thanks for the great blogs. I enjoy reading them

  85. Woo hoo! Lookit all these positive comments.

    I’m struck by how often the words “Hey, I’ve got a great idea…”are followed by “but it will never work…”.

    We actively replace that concept with this one: “How hard can it be, right?” and then get in and give it a go.

    It’s more fun, the activity generates more ideas and creativity, and this leads to opportunities, some of which we’ve taken and some we’ve given away.

    Because I’m interested in brains and stuff, there’s some interesting thinking here in how we can get to this point, or get teams to this point. To that end, I spotted a book the other day with the captivating title ‘iconoclast – a neuroscientist reveals how to think differently’ (Gregory Berns) which I’m excited to start.

    Love to hear any comments on it, or how people have created teams that ask the naive and curious questions that so often lead to gold!


    • Hey Brendon,

      “I’m struck by how often the words “Hey, I’ve got a great idea…”are followed by “but it will never work…”.

      We actively replace that concept with this one: “How hard can it be, right?” and then get in and give it a go.”

      Another question to ask is “Why not”. “Why wouldn’t it work?”

      If the answer starts with “because I” … I usually stop listening at that point.

      • One more thing Brendon ..

        I’m interested in the brain too. :0)

        I know its been said, you use only 10% of your brain. I don’t know who said this or what research was done, but it does not make sense to me.

        God created me with a big ol’ head with two eyes. If he only wanted me to use 10% of my brain than I would only have one eye.

        To me that’s like saying, I know I have two eyes, but I only want to see through one because someone said so.

      • Hey Marcy

        Thanks! I’m with you on this…

        If the answer starts with “because I” … I usually stop listening at that point. And then you get the “Yes buts…”. Game over for me too.

        Yeah, the 10% thing has been around for years. It’s something of an urban legend now. While there is some built in redundancy, you use most of the thing, just not all at the same time!


        • Hey Brendon,

          I agree, “You use most of the thing, just not all at the same time!”

          But….What if you could use it all at the same time.

          What equation would you have to use?

  86. Yep… labeled and put in a corner with a big fat “NAIVE” written on a post-it note, stuck to my head. Several times, in fact it hit me in the face yesterday after reading some old emails when I was thrown into a scuba business and had no clue what the 2nd stage was at the time.

    Well I prevailed then and try to swim above water now. I must be naive if I think I’m going to go NYT best-seller with my first non-fiction book, but I am still going to try. No harm in that, right?

    Great post, Sonia, by the way. I love your writing style and voice (and real voice too b/c I heard you in Jon’s interview with Guest Blogging). Thanks!

  87. this is soooooooooooo my story, I was thinking of forwarding it to my boss 😀

    “Naive”, “too honest” or “too nice” are actually charitable. Less complimentary are words like “stupid”, “ignorant” and “nonentity”. Sadly enough, I’ve been called all those names. Why? Simply because of a burning desire to be self-employed.

    Thanks for a great post :))))))))

  88. Sonia, I have found my twin sister! And our names even rhyme!

    I spent years in a corporate environment thinking they actually wanted to get it done right! What was I thinking?!

    Pro-activity and constructive criticism were no-no’s and you were subject to punishment or got a Scarlet Letter. The rule was: Don’t fix anything unless a customer calls attention to it.

    The rationale was always that we didn’t have the manpower to handle that. But somehow we had the manpower to answer the complaint call, forward it to 3 different people, have a meeting about what we should do about it, then fix it only half right, then get another complaint about it only being fixed half right, foward to 3 … and round and round.

    “The Peter Principle” is alive and well! That is why I am doing as you are and throwing in the corporate towel and starting my own thing…

    Good luck to us both!

  89. This is awesome. My friends all called me Naive for leaving everything behind to move to a new country on the complete opposite side of the world with no plans or anything. Now they are jealous of the life I have. Now who are the naive ones? 😛

  90. Perfect, Sonia. As a teacher of “rules” for correct business behavior for artists, I have to remind my clients every so often to ignore me, ignore everyone else and just break the rules. If I had been savvy about business, I would have never left my safe job 9+ years ago. I would never have lived in paradise. I would never have lived my dream. So glad I was naive.

  91. Yes, I frequently get the “naive” comment when I am advising on things like reorg’s and creating strategic plans. It often goes like this:

    Them: Shhh!

    Me: Why are we whispering?

    Them: We can’t let anyone know what we’re thinking. Don’t say anything to anyone. Ever!

    Me: Then how will we get them to, errr, do it?

    Them: (Blank stares)

    I think the trick is knowing when you’re being brilliantly naive versus sadly naive. I must admit that I struggle with that a lot, and sometimes it’s enough to hold me back on an idea. Your example of Branson (also one of my role models) is excellent–may I be so lucky as to be as clueless as him!

    Thanks, Sonia.

  92. Bwaaaaaahahahahaha

    “Leap and the floor will appear”

    I’m sorry but that’s the funniest thing ever, though quite possibly a fear that limits me. I might do well with the occasional bout of “leap and hope for a net” rather than analyzing and agonizing myself out of ever taking action at all.
    I loved your paragraph about Branson. I hadn’t realised he didn’t know much about the businesses he started. He clearly knew about marketing and publicity though.

    • I did LOL out loud at that too.

      I wrote a song about jumping from an airplane with a silkworm instead of a parachute. THAT, I do all the time. (A friend once said “I find your level of confidence disturbing.” I said “Thank you!”)

      • I need a transplant of that kind of self-confidence pullease. I come up with all kinds of ideas, then do nothing about them because I can’t believe they’ll really work. Then 6 months later, I see someone else take off with a similar idea and make a mint. It’s getting old, fast.

        You’re still here, so it was obviously a silkworm with superpowers, can I borrow him? 😉

  93. Great post, I couldn’t agree more.
    A naive employee of mine claims it is one reason for his success – I suppose it could be.
    As an entrepreneur that believes you and tries to practice it daily, I have to say that it is a fine line to walk and a frequent battle with those who’ve spent time in the corporate world.
    Nonetheless, it is possible and it does work.
    I’ve got an amazing group of people helping me run several successful companies, despite the times.
    Thank you for taking the time to post this!

  94. Sonia,

    You already know this, yet I’m sure it never harms you to hear it repeated: your writing style is brilliant. You craft whatever topic you touch into enjoyable reading prose.

    I bow to your writing prowess!

  95. Sonia –

    Great post (I just retweeted you)!

    I particularly like the concept of creating another frame to generate all kinds of opportunities. It reminds me of Feng Shui in a way. Though I don’t buy into the spiritual new-agey aspect of F.S., I do think it’s essentially the same concept – altering your frame of reference, thereby allowing you to see your world from a different perspective.

  96. Have I mentioned how much I love you recently? Nope, because we’ve both been busy being naive.

    I get told on a weekly basis that I’m naive and that what I’m doing won’t work. I’ve been told that for a few decades now, too.

    Funny how the people who are so quick to call you naive aren’t so quick to come back and tell you that maybe…just maybe…you were onto something. Maybe there’s a quota they need to fill?

  97. Years ago when I was transcribing medical records, my boss told me I could live anywhere and work for her, as long as I had high-speed internet. Anywhere? So to her surprise, I went to live in Europe for 10 months. Well, she said anywhere, didn’t she?

    After that, no one was really surprised when I decided to twist balloons for a living. The question wasn’t “why” but “how can I help?”

    I couldn’t have taken as many leaps of faith in my naive ventures if it hadn’t been for the support of my family and friends. I continue to surround myself with people who “get me” so I have a network of people to help me do huge things instead of people who constantly tell me it can’t be done.

    Be bold, be creative, and be part of a community that believes in what you’re doing, and you’ll accomplish more than you ever dreamed.

    p.s. Loved this article and I read your blog all the time. I’m slowly making it through every article on your site so I can train myself to be a blogger. The first of my friends to do so, too!

  98. You know that Jack Johnson song where he questions: ‘Where’ve all the good people gone?’ Yay.. I found you!!! Sonia, your brilliantly written post made me so happy and then I find all these positive comments and people who believe in the power of their goodness. Shine on all of you. We DO light up the world!

  99. Sonia, great post!

    You summed so many of the reasons why I found the corporate grind so insufferable. It’s great that there are people like you out there who point out that the emperor has no clothes.


  100. Hi Sonia,

    Sounds like you were too pro-active, bright and full of the right attitude in an environment that was dour, sour and had little life and ticker left in it. That tends to happen to positive people.

  101. Great post, thanks. To be honest, I lost track of the main message around the middle of the article, but going back to Richard Branson (who I personally admire too) catched all my attention. I consider myself a little naive too, and I only hope to be as “naive” as Branson is now.
    Thanks and congrats.

  102. I have been, and am still, called naive, innocent, soft, idealistic, etc. And, while I have tried to tow the corporate line, it has never been a success. It is not me and not what I want.

    The alternative is hard, not least because you are working against the tide of opinion. Working with BNI has helped – meeting other like-minded individuals who are striving in the same direction.

    Also the internet, blogs like this, social media, particularly thought and opinion coming from accross the pond. Thought in America seems far more open and intuitive, although you obviously still have the corporate machine to be wary of.

    In the UK, we are very much tied to a cynical viewpoint, both in business and politics and most people just assume this is the only way to be.

    Thank you for your post and your enlightening thought.



  103. Excellent post and inspirational for the rainy, dreary morning it is in Ireland. I became a Manager at the age of 20, so I had no choice but to be naive; and, as scared as I was, I followed my instincts and it all worked out fine. I see that now looking back 25+ years – at the time I wished I was an MBA – but I try to keep that open outlook, especially when dealing with people. I get burned sometimes, but then I learn some more.

  104. Great post!

    I once worked for a large corporation that royally “screwed up” a systems integration (despite what they told Wall St, their employees and everyone else who would buy into it) I was the Regional VP of Sales and my sales people were feeling the effects of this integration.

    During one particular conference call I was told that the project was going in one direction and I bit my lip as long as I could. I spoke up and told everyone on the call that “it wasn’t true”. I needed to speak up so that maybe it could get fixed.

    About an hour later I got a call from the Controller of the company who started screaming at me. He told me that I called the team “liars”. I listened…listened more…then asked him if he was finished. He said that he was finished.

    I proceeded to tell him that I didn’t appreciate anyone yelling at me and then I told him that I never called anyone a liar. But then I asked him a simple question, “if someone doesn’t tell you the truth, what does it make them?” I then hung up!

    He was gone 2 weeks later and I left to venture on my own about 8 months later.

    Thanks again for the inspiration!

  105. Two thumbs up for this post! What a way to look at being naive. 🙂

    I especially love this line: “Naiveté is about seeing a bigger picture. About being brave enough to ignore conventional advice that doesn’t apply to you, doesn’t make you happy, and may not even make you any money.”

    This truly a refreshing, inspirational post Sonia!

  106. Hey Sonia, Great article, it’s all about faith in human kind (former mankind) you have to trust to be trusted. If we all saw the great in people instead of seeing just their weaknesses the world would be a great place. People skills today are not part of the education curriculum, if they were I believe we would all be better for it. Keep up the great work.
    Best regards Steve

  107. One of the things that I like about Sonia is, not only is she a great writer…she’s a great story teller.

    Thank you for starting my day with this. I like the thought of being naive, especially if the alternative is being cynical.


  108. I enjoyed this immensely.

    But I don’t think Richard Branson is a naive as we like to think. He may have left school at 15 but he went to a very good one – http://www.stowe.co.uk. (Where I went incidentally…)

    Branson has made an art of appearing naive when all the time he is astute. I know someone who visited him when he was planning the airline. All over the floor of his narrow boat office the floor was covered in research papers and documents. He is a very thorough man.

    And Lord King who was the CEO of British Airways, ruefully admitted that he didn’t believe in the business capability of anyone who turned up to a meeting dressed in a casual sweater. Branson’s laid back naivite completely wrong-footed him.

    So, I would say Branson’s naivite is part of his brand.

    Who else can we think of who takes this approach? It clearly works for some.

    • I agree that Branson is astute. But he’s perceived as naive — which as you say (and he has cheerfully said), contributes mightily to his success.

      Also, while he’s astute, I don’t believe he is cynical. Often canny, but not cynical.

  109. Did not read through the entire post as I was looking for something else… But the first few paragraphs… You speak from the heart and directly to mine and many like me who have taken the bold step towards self-employment in today’s economic conditions.

    Will bookmark your page and read it again. Wonder where I can get my hands on that Zander’s book you have mentioned.

    PS. Now I really know what makes copyblogger.com so great.

  110. While nothing good ever comes from being reckless, it’s just as bad to paralyze oneself by being too careful. Sometimes, I find it easy to talk myself out of things because the rational side says ”way too risky”. Thank you, Sonia, for reminding us that sometimes we just need to dive in, throw caution to the wind, and be successful anyway.

  111. Very well written and entertaining with a sense of humor I admire. I think I’ve heard the information before, perhaps in a different package, but still freshly and creatively presented. Thanks for sharing.

  112. Hi Sonia,
    You’ve written a great post as usual. I’m criticized fairly often for being naive; I tend to go ahead and get to work on any ‘relevant’ idea that grabs me. I’ll do as much research as I can while I go and I find that I learn more ‘on the job’ than if I hid away to learn all the ‘important information’ in advance.

    One issue that does pop up though, is if my family think that I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve been running ‘little grey bird’ (successfully) for nearly two years now and a certain near and dear relative still doesn’t really see how it can work. When asked about what I do she says ‘Jacqui has a lot of work to do in the house.’ People then mistake me for a house-wife rather than someone running a business from home.

    I have no problem showing growly men in suits that, although ‘I lack the macho blood and guts’ that they expect me to need; I’ll succeed anyway.

    However, it becomes a little bit more difficult when it’s someone closer to you and they believe that you really are naive and eventually you’ll have to grow up.

    If you feel like writing a post one of these days on ‘how to sell your business to a non-believer’ or ‘how to overcome the effects of a nearby mood-hoover’, I’d really appreciate it.

    Thanks for this post thought 🙂

  113. Oh thank you thank you for this post! I was that naive girl back in my corporate days and it has been awhile since then. Sometimes I find myself wondering if I shouldn’t go back to the cushy world of bi-weekly paychecks and offices with doors, as I’ve forgotten the frustration of being the naive one!

    I needed to hear that so many others feel the same way. Perfect timing.

    Thank you!

  114. Sonia- awesome post as always! It took a long time for me to realize, but I get it now. A kind word. Sincere generosity. Making real connections with people. The trifecta of success!

  115. What a sensational read. I am astounded by how much of blogging about virtually any subject matter at all seems to reliably find its way back to motivating the misunderstood to press through the stereotyping, neigh saying and public ridicule. My story, like so many others, is peppered with struggle. And I hadn’t any idea when I began researching blogging how emotionally fulfilling this journey would be. As a nearly 40 year old dreamer, I have spent much of my life dividing my time between listening to the browbeaters and trying sincerely to account for myself and telling then all to go scratch. And now at again, nearly 40, I find myself – and this is plain funny – learning how to write a good headline from the same people who are helping me exercise my emotional demons. How critical it is that we forgive ourselves for doing it differently and how powerful is the urge to, as I said, get in line, well this post is my mantra these days. I’m singing it from the rooftops with my hands cupped around my huge word hole. I spent the majority of the 90’s trying to be a rock star. That didn’t work out, but I flirted with greatness. During that time I recorded a few records. At 23 I wrote in the liner notes, “I want to thank everyone for saying I am ‘too…’ This and that.” I still wish to thank them. They are responsible for reminding me with their rejection how different I want things done and how unwilling I am to concede and inch. Thank you for a wonderful beginning to my morning. Regards, Scott

    • Scott, that is interesting, isn’t it, that so many blogs are having a similar message of “don’t listen to all those naysaying voices.” I suspect it points to a real shift in our economy & culture. The early adopters are moving fast, and the rest of the population thinks we’re nuts. 🙂

  116. Naive? My middle name.

    I was called naive when I quit a good job to become a Registered Home Daycare provider……making upwards of $3,000/mo (that was about 12 yrs ago)…and I was free of babysitting costs, gas and clothes for work, and high lunch costs. My kids also had instant playmates- what’s so naive about that?

    Ironically, the company I used to work for went out of business a few years after I quit- so I would have been w/o a job anyway!

    After my daycare biz, I got a P/T low-paying part-time job and quit that to start working at home on the Internet….

    Oh yeah, I’m also too nice because I give everyone a chance…I have friends high places, but some in low places as well. I can find the good in almost anyone, which irks people that are naturally angry and judgmental.

  117. Sonia:

    I have always believed in the past that naiveté was a negative word, a synonim of “stupidity”, as it is mostly generally though, but with your wonderful article you have proved me wrong, or, more exactly, you have proved me that naiveté is a positive and powerful word.

    I am now convinced that all great ideas and inventions in this world have been inspired by the naiveté of their creators or inventors, and thank God I truly believe that same process is happening today in this online world where we try to survive and earn a living.

    It is funny how I got to your post. I am a subscriber of the wonderful Duct Tape Marketing newsletter, so I was reading today’s one, and I got to Cris Brogan’s blog. From his blog, I got to this article and after reading it twice, I am here writing a comment because I really felt touched by your words.

    I have always been a naive person. I have been called naive as an insult many times, but inside, I have always felt my naiveté is nothing but a weapon to fight cotidianity and commonness…
    and I am following that feeling day after day. I am sure sooner or later, I will make good money with my online ventures, and that day, for sure I will remember your wonderful article and my thoughts and ideas about it.

    Thanks Sonia, for reminding me about the power of naiveté.
    I wish you all the best, always.

  118. Nail on the head Sonia. I like to think I’m a pretty “nice guy”, and I don’t have the killer instinct that’s widely regarded as being essential to succeed in today’s world.

    When I’m freelancing I’d much rather finish my day on time having done what I can, having prioritised people above tasks and having had a giggle than stopping at nothing and working late to get things done. Gah.

    And when I’m coaching, it’s not about hustle, hustle, hustle – must get results for the client so I can get that testimonial. My relationship with my clients is what allows to go deep when we need to go deep and laugh ourselves silly when we want to. I don’t want to be an go-getting, goal-setting, alpha-coach, thank you very much.

    And funnily enough that’s how I get my best results. But to be honest with you, I’m guilty of falling back into playing by the assumed rules a little too often. This is a good reminder to me, thanks!

  119. Sonia, great work and words. This article is a perfect example of Blair Warren’s One Sentence Persuasion Course.

    We “the accused” have often been so focused on clarity of purpose that we just don’t get drawn into the drama of playing the game and getting a clue.

    Being naive lets you avoid the fears that hold so many back.

  120. Those of you who sometimes feel down about “not having what it takes” to make it, bookmark this post and re-read these comments when you’re getting blue.

    You’re not alone and you’re not on the wrong path. 🙂

  121. Sonia,
    Thanks for this. Ironically, Henry Ford didn’t know much about automobiles either and he very naively implemented the assembly like too. I love this post because forever people have said to me, “Shane, you will never be successful in business because you at too nice.” And that has never settled quite well with me. Being nice and being successful in business Are not exclusive of each other. One need not be shrewd and aggressive to get ahead. It’s actually refreshing to do business with a “nice” person 😉

  122. Sonia, you are so damn right about this naivety of a thing. I remember reading in Richard Branson’s book; “Business stripped bare” and he said something that went like this, “I don’t consider myself a business man because I don’t remember going into business at any point in my life. I only remember creating something that I really cared about!”

    This is particularly true of me; “For being “too nice” to be in business?”

    For many, all that seems to count in the world of business is the MONEY! When i started unleashing my passion to build SIGNIFICANT people, business and life online through creative writing for free many have called me a dreamer asking when this seemingly charitable art would turn into money. No one bothered to ask if I found fulfillment in it or not, what matter was the money.

    • Wow, Tito! Your last paragraph on MONEY, rings a bell. Too many people focus on MONEY in business instead of fulfillment. When you are passionate about what you do and give to other, money will come. Trust me!

  123. I have been called naive many times by a couple of my more conventional coworkers. My response? “Well, someone has to be; if we’re all jaded and without hope, then nothing will change. No progress will ever happen.”

    I have no problem with failure (except for not liking it), because my idea of success is wrapped up in my identity and the effort that is MADE, rather than the outcome (though I do thrive on a wonderful result, to be sure!). And, so, I embrace naivete as a virtue and use it as a tool. It’s a wonderful excuse to innovate. 🙂

  124. It looks like you’re doing okay with your naivete, Sonia. Thanks for trumpeting the cause of the “nice people.”

    When I was a brand new internet business person (I’m a writing coach for coaches), I used to hear:
    1. Don’t give it all away (in relation to content marketing).
    2. Don’t over-service your clients.

    And it bothered me because it didn’t feel right to hold back on either content or service. However, I was the new kid in town. What the heck did I know about doing business on the internet? Maybe I should follow the advice of the don’ters.

    Then I looked around and saw very successful internet business people like Dave Navarro and yourself doing exactly what I was being told not to do. I decided to ignore the don’ters and follow the doers. I don’t regret my decision.

    If that makes me naive, then I wear the label proudly. I’m in good company.

  125. Ahhh Sonia, you made my day.

    I too have been called naive. 20 years ago when I started my business teaching people “Customer CARE” I was told by a professor of business that I shouldn’t be trying to sell people something as soft as CARE.

    For years I’ve argued, spoken, evangelized, cajoled, proded and otherwise tried to get C-level execs to understand the hard value of soft skills and the advantages of a little right brain thinking in organizations.

    Today I teach Positive Leadership (so does Tal Ben Shahar at Harvard) and help leaders understand that by building positive capacity in an organization they are building emotional equity.

    Zappos it the poster child for what I call “ROH” a ReturnOnHappiness
    When I first became a “Happiness Coach” six years ago, people questioned my sanity as they felt I had taken soft even softer.

    Today the clients that really want to do something revolutionary in business – like speak the “H” word in public – seek me out to help them raise their Return on Happiness along with their employee and customer engagement.

    Oh yeah. When the customers are happy, they come back with friends and money.

    Yep, I am naive too. I’m glad to be part of the club. Thanks for raising the flag

  126. Thank you for a most inspiring article. While “the System” would have us believe that we are obliged to wear its straitjackets, your post is a timely banner raised for all who would think and act independently and intuitively regardless of the diatribes of “naiveté” and “cluelessness.” Consider where these impositions have their earliest impact: is it not in the education system? I often told my students, “At the age of four or five years, you were geniuses, but then you were sent to school …”

  127. Sonia, if you ever tire of your current career, you might want to consider teaching yoga 🙂 The ability to stop believing the stories in your head – the ones you’ve been told and the ones you may have made up all by yourself about how you’re not good enough or smart enough – is the essence of yoga. I’ve struggled with how to help the corporate world embrace individuality, creativity and sensitivity….. I think the principles behind social media is a start and exposure to more of this type of insight is key. Thanks for doing what you do and inspiring us to be who we are.

  128. Oh yes… throughout my corporate career I battled bosses who followed the traditional methods of managing people. I just couldn’t do it. So I went ahead and followed my instincts. Of course, I would be reprimanded but because my team had good sales results, I wasn’t fired. The funny thing is, the bosses never “got it”. They would ask “why is your team so loyal to you” and “how do you get them to sell so much”. Da!

  129. Serious question here, if you ever get down this far, Sonia (oh, wait, you did a couple of comments ago, so maybe I’m in luck):

    I absolutely, totally, utterly believe everything you say in this post. But frankly, as someone who has spent the last couple of years online infogobbling from the best (and I include you there), I think what you describe is becoming the next Way to Do Online Business Properly.

    So that now if we want to be successful bloggers or online entrepreneurs, rather than adopt the cold-blooded, hard-charging businessperson model, we have to become more like the freewheeling, left-of-center, take-a-stand folks who are leading their tribes to new ways of making a living.

    In other words, it’s given many of us a new method of self-flagellation.

    “But I’m not loony enough! Naive enough! Creative enough! Funny enough! *Different* enough!”

    Know what I mean?

    None of that, incidentally, is meant to take anything away from your well-written and really, really helpful post, mind you. 🙂

    • Oh, I totally know that one.

      Sometimes it seems like everyone is saying “Be more outrageous! Be weirder!” But I think this is more about “Follow your conscience and don’t be so sure your ideas aren’t sound.”

      You might find the Tony Hsieh book inspiring. He’s unusual in that he really put his beliefs into action and defended them when they were under attack. But he’s also kind of a boring guy. 🙂 It was more about following the vision he knew was right than it was about being really eccentric or an oddball. Zappo’s has a quirkiness to it, but it doesn’t seem to come from Hsieh.

    • I’m also thinking about writing a post about the “purple elephant in the living room,” which is my phrase for the blogger who attracts tons of attention, but for all the wrong things. Sure he’s outrageous and gets links and gets lots of eyeballs, but they don’t translate into any business because he’s not trusted.

      Sometimes “remarkable” is just “remarkably useful.”

      So keep an eye out. 🙂

      • Sonia,

        “Follow your conscience and don’t be so sure your ideas aren’t sound” is a motto I can get behind. That, and “Sometimes ‘remarkable’ is just ‘remarkably useful.’” Ever think about epitaph-writing as a hobby? Oh, wait. You’re sort of doing that here already. 🙂

        I’ll add the Tony Hsieh book to the top of my ever-growing and dangerously teetering ‘to read” pile–thanks. (When will someone give me one fully-financed year off the rest of life just too reeeeeeeeeead?)

        And yes, I’d love to see that post about the Purple Elephant!

  130. “Naive” and “unrealistic” got thrown at me a lot because I dared to believe that a woman could have a career as a rock musician (in the early 80s). It’ll probably get thrown at me again, when I announce—IF I announce—to my inner circle my intentions to emerge from my self-imposed musical hiatus and relaunch my career in my *gasp* late 40s.

    I’ve been accused of being “generous and honest to a fault”. Meaning, too nice, easy to take advantage of. Perhaps I was just sharing the abundance (in the first instance), knowing full well it would return to me down the road; perhaps the honesty was necessary to allow someone else to grow.

    Obviously, someone who is naive, unrealistic, generous to a fault (and easy to take advantage of) and too honest for her own good (not to mention nowhere near 20 anymore) isn’t cut out for the cutthroat, Photoshopped, completely manufactured, youth-centered music industry, now, is she? 😉

    • You can do it! My husband just started in a band again after a 15 year hiatus. He’s having a blast!

      There’s a forgotten generation of people here who were once the young fans and still love music but now feel rather creepy watching Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus. (Ok, I have no clue what style of music you like. Please don’t be upset I compared you to Miley. 🙂 )

  131. I’ve had a lot of business dealings with older, more experienced business people… been call “naive” a few times. The great part is after working with these business types, I always show them something they don’t know.

  132. Hi Sonia – did you write this post just for me? I think I have spent my entire life being naive. Naive by whose standards though? Let’s face it. we’re just a different breed – creative, kind, generous, accepting – and well rid of the play-by-the-standards models that clearly you and I left behind.
    Great post!

  133. This article is so timely. Many time I’ve been called naive, but I never took offence to it. It comes with comments about being “too nice” “trusting” and seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses.
    I’m struggling in a “Corporate” world where Power and control has become more important than people. I’m taking steps to follow where my heart leads me.
    I like to make things & I like people. So I’ve started a small on-line handicraft, giftware and jewelry business, where I learn as I go. I’m a long ways from being self-employed, but a lot closer than I was a year ago.
    “Sometimes I think I’m lucky to be naive. If I’d known how much time & effort it would take to get to this point… I probably wouldn’t be here 🙂 “

  134. I have been told I’m ‘too nice’ more times than I can count. I just cling to the daydream (which will become reality!) that my approach to people and work is the right one. That the corporate world doesn’t have to be stuffed to the gills with buzz words and stuffed shirts. That people are cool, and nice guys don’t always finish last. They grow, they lead, and they run awesome businesses with happy employees while other people swim in their riches feeling miserable about themselves and their lives.

    I’ve always followed the ‘you get more with honey than you do with vinegar’ adage, and so far it’s worked. I may not be rolling in riches just yet, but I’m forming some really solid relationships which will hopefully blossom into great things in the future.

  135. Interesting, as most experts would say stick to the expertise you’ve gained within the area you work and expand on it, like Nike I guess. Your Branson analogy cannot be dismissed thou, as his ventures do appear quite random sometimes, but he has partnered with experts and great things have happened, sometimes.

    Virgn is a culture, which has driven the technicians to deliver great results through great leadership. That’s another blog…

    • I’ve become a convert to the ideas outlined in Good to Great, that you need a unifying idea/obsession that you can be best in the world at. Virgin is very unusual in the way they diversify, but there are underlying concepts that link the brand. Also, Branson doesn’t micromanage (NAIVE!), for most of his businesses he finds someone smart and passionate and then lets them run. It does mean he has lots of misses (Virgin Cola, Virgin Trains, ouch), but that’s fine.

  136. I love this article! I’m one of those people whom are “naive” and “not ruthless”. Someone even said that I lack killer instinct. Uh, so what? I’m happy. I don’t define my success by the amount of money I make by ripping people off, even if you do.

    Business doesn’t have to be cold and based on capital alone. People are the most valuable asset. Why? Because people are on both sides; the employees and the clients/customers. And surprise, surprise, the happy ones stay. I think that’s why smaller but friendlier businesses often have a certain charm to them that makes us keep coming back.

  137. I read this whole post smiling! For many years I was not clueless nor naive the term used to describe me was crazy! I turned a little cottage industry into a thriving business.

    It is not the idea that fuels the business it is the passion and curiosity wedded to a powerful drive to turn ideals into reality!

  138. Ah, you reminded me of my old days – An angry young man. I challenged the status quo even when I was in university. Did it pay me? No, at least not at that time. Did it harm me? Yes, I could never get into the line I loved – Physics. Some teachers hated me.

    When I got into a job my boss hated me, kicked out of office at least twice.

    Naivety comes at a price – a very high price and most of us are afraid to pay it from our core, that’s why we make compromises all our lives.

    If you now ask me was it worth it? I say yes, it’s totally worth it. Life pays you back in one way or the other…

  139. Oh Sonia – this post speaks to my soul… and my mind. As a former reporter I was often startled to see how many people were doing what they were expected to do, not happy and not changing.

    This theme reminds me of a Mason Williams saying:
    “Naive you are if you believe life favors those who aren’t native.”

    + it sounds like you might be interested in Steven Johnson’s new book, Where Good Ideas Come From

  140. This post is deep!

    Sometimes, it’s good to be clueless. That way, you have to task yourself and explore possibilities. But when you know too much, your mind is closed and there is little room for inspiration or creativity.

  141. Hello Sonia Simone. What a refreshing article. I “stumbled upon you” a few years back. I used one of your articles in a presentation. You referenced Dr. Spock, one of my fav’s. No wonder you have so many readers. You use fine silk thread to spin your stories. The reference to the Virgin..dare I say ‘Naive’ mogul was a nice touch.

  142. This post really resonated with me. I’ve been called naive by many that in my mind are cynical and resigned, yet I remain, hopeful, optimistic and in awe of what I am capable of when I believe in and apply myself.
    I quit my full time job with a child on the way to work for myself as a hypnotherapist. Some people said I had my head you know where. Now I have two kids and I’m still in business.
    I’ll check out The Art of Possiblity. I’ve taken Landmark Forum courses and it’s all about the language of possibility.
    Thank you for this wonderful post. I’d like to feature it on my own blog, I’ll be in contact with you about that.

  143. G’Day Sonia,
    I’m old enough to remember the “goodoledays” of Transactional Analysis.
    We were taught that when someonr gave you “permission” you should take advantage of the offer.

    So i’m sending you separately, a piece I wrote for a couple of clients about the value of creating expectations in sales.

    I’m no expert about sales and marketing. I know only what I’ve learnt in 32 years of running a business. My field is improving employee performance without using training courses.

    Please excuse me if I’ve overstepped the bounds of your permission. As Peter Sellers once said, “It does you good to have a fling once in a while.”



  144. Wow… its so refreshing to see that others don’t buy into the dogma crap that we have been shoveled day in an day out.

    Very Refreshing Post Sonia, thanks so much for sharing it!

  145. Being man and being naive does not mesh well for many but heck yeah I have been called naive often time to be labeled as such.

    I am happy things worked out for you. Being true to yourself always does in the end. I am glad for it.

  146. Thanks Sonia. Great post! Reminds me of the philosophical stance I have embraced since my days as Psychotherapist of “not knowing.” The more you come from a position of not knowing, the more open you are to explore options and let your creativity flow.

    Thanks again for the refreshing ideas.


    • It’s funny how the truly Big Ideas resonate across virtually any aspect of human life. A spirit of inquistiveness and beginner’s mind is worth cultivating for so many reasons.

  147. There are two more things that makes me scratch my head and say, huh?

    Unspoken rules:

    What? How can someone break an “unspoken rule” if the rule was never told.

    Cut-throat business environment:

    I scratch both sides of my head on this one. For example, if you intentionally cut someone’s throat you will have to keep looking behind your back and hope the person never gets up.

    I do feel for those in a cut-throat environment and to those I would say it makes sense to be child-like (baby) and crawl around those who choose to cut each others throat.

    I am thankful for those in the cut-throat environment playing the same game. I think we are a team and need each other. I picture the game of football. I will confess – I don’t watch football, but there is a role for each player for a reason in order to win the game.

  148. Thanks for reconnecting me with my naive self, Sonia.

    Naivete got me through my first career (ad agency account mgmt) , but somewhere during my second career (magazine ad sales), I must have traded it in for cynicism. That’s not serving me well at all in career #3 (freelance copywriting), especially as I try to open my mind to new media and jettison the old rules.

    Thanks again for reminding me that one person’s weakness is another’s strength. If I had a dollar for every time my husband asked “how can someone so smart be so clueless?”, I’d send you a big check!

  149. Thanks so much for reinforcing the way I have lived my life. I have done a great many things (Calling on congressman and going on trade missions) because I didn’t know I was supposed to do that. LOL

    Now I have to re-monetize my naiveness.

    Thanks so much for this article.

  150. Sonia, I just ran across this article and want to thank you so much for posting it! What a breath of fresh air this is. I truly believe that a genuine desire to help others using our unique ideas and gifts is essential– otherwise what’s the point? It never felt right to me to fit into a business model that disregarded people- for years I felt out of place but I now realize that old outdated system is what’s out of place. Here’s to the idealistic “naive” people making a profitable difference in the world!

  151. Amazing article. Just love the Cluelessness can be an asset part.
    can we measure how Naive are we? We are all naive to a certain extent.

  152. That is pretty true. Everybody’s naive or once have been. It’s amazing how you can make it become something you can generate revenue from. 😀 nearly.

  153. Thank you Sonia for the post. It came in handy today after someone accused me of being naive. After reading your post and a few comments on this blog, I now know that I can take ownership and acceptance ofn seeing the good in other people. Now, if that is being naive, I accept that too.

  154. I think the leadership that you wrote about is not naïve. I think that kind of leadership is always listening for the next new thing and appreciates the people that help the team to get to that next new place. As you are proof, you were in the wrong environment, but your leadership philosophy was on point. There are a lot of people that have visions in their minds, that restless spirit to try new things and see past the current. You have found happiness doing what do. You are still in corporate, you just don’t know it because you are enjoying yourself so much. Those of us who have not made a successful jump from a shackled corporate to a liberated corporate see you and have hope that one day when we take another leap with our eyes open, we will not hit the floor. In your writing, it is obvious that you are lite-hearted because are liberated. In my writing, it is obvious that I have jumped before, falling, and now prepare to leap again. I’m happy that you made the jump. Your story is like the child in the Batman movie that jumped for life. Bruce Wayne made the jump only after he realized that only a jump for life would be a successful jump. Congrats on your jump. Maybe I’ll make it to your ledge. I have to go now. It’s time for me to jump.

  155. I’ve recently gone all in on my business and have left a full time profession to build my own company. I’ve read many books that have influenced me to believe that happiness is helping others-but getting paid to do it. (Think and Grow Rich is foremost in my mind) but I love the quote you quoted:

    “It’s all invented anyway, so we might as well invent a story or a framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.”

    This article has given me a boost in spirits so thank you for the inspiration!

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