Dark Horse


Todd Rose and Ogie Ogas

Personalized success

  • Living a life of fulfillment and excellence.

  • Achieve personalized success by harnessing your individuality in the pursuit of fulfillment to achieve excellence

Four elements on the Dark Horse mindset

  • Know your micro-motives

  • Our schools and jobs were never designed to help you figure out what whets your appetite

  • These institutions believe in universal motives, but one size doesn’t fit all

Game of judgment

    1. Become aware when you’re judging someone/something
    1. Identify feelings, vivid reactions, when you’re judging someone/something
    1. Ask why you are experiencing those feelings
  • The game of judgment isn’t about other people/things at all. It’s about you. It’s all about the details. The specifics.

Motives can be contradictory

  • Example: you may want to be around around people and be alone

  • Don’t follow your passion

  • Engineer your passion

Know your choices

  • Be the same as everyone else, only better - that’s not choosing, it’s picking

  • Picking is like using a menu at a restaurant

  • Choosing is going to the grocery market and cooking dinner

Choosing vs Picking

  • Choosing is an active process

  • Picking is a passive process

  • The true power of choice is to find and select opportunities that activate the greatest number of your own micro-motives

Standardization mindset

  • Luck isn’t a dark horse strategy

  • Dark horses are ok with the worst-case scenario too

  • What separates dark horses is how they evaluate risk


  • Standardization mindset says risk is determined by odds

  • Dark horse mindset says risk is determined by fit

  • Because if something is a good fit, the opportunity is low risk. If a poor fit, the opportunity is a high risk

Susan Rogers

  • She took a job as a receptionist at a studio

  • The odds say an average person successfully going from receptionist at a studio to musical engineer are low. But Susan said there was a good fit between her motives, so it wasn’t a high risk

  • A small difference in fit can lead to a large difference in fulfillment and excellence

Know your strategies

  • Standardization says there is one best way

  • The truth is there are alternatives

  • Knowing your strategies is a new way of thinking about the nature of your strengths


  • Your micro-motives are part of your core identity, these are resistant to change

  • When we want something, we feel it

  • You know with confidence whether you want to go skydiving or eat a plate of eel sushi or watch the latest Marvel movie

Strengths are the opposite

  • Inaccessible, contextual, and dynamic. Fuzzy

  • Everything you label as a strength is a artificial construct or ability

  • Abilities like programming or performing ballet are done through effort or learning

Natural talent

  • How naturally gifted are you at riding a hippopotamus?

  • The only way to know is to try

  • You discern your strengths through action, not introspection

Contextual strengths

  • Say you have trouble reading text

  • That’s a shortcoming if you want to be a literary critic

  • If you want to be an astronomer, it might be an unexpected strength

  • If you have trouble reading, your brain is better detecting images like black holes

Examples of strengths/weaknesses by context

  • Empathy is an asset for a nurse, and a shortcoming for a drone pilot

  • Being tall is good for an NBA player, and bad for a coal miner

Dynamic strengths

  • Improve with practice, deteriorate through neglect

  • Your approach should be different when choosing a strategy than when choosing an opportunity

  • It’s all about trial and error not staying the course or choosing the one best way

Choosing a strategy

  • You should expect failure

  • It’s necessary to develop excellence with strategies

  • It unearths your fuzzy strengths

Why know your micro-motives?

  • When you learn to know your micro-motives:

  • You engineer your own passion

  • Which endows you with energy and authenticity

Why know your choices?

  • When you learn to know your choices

  • You engineer your own purpose

  • Which provides you with meaning and direction

Why know your strategies?

  • When you know your strategies

  • You engineer your own achievement

  • Which gives you a deep sense of pride and self-worth

Ignore the destination

  • Unlearn things

  • Destinations are catastrophic for fulfillment

More on standardized mindset

  • Standardized time (120 credit hours, MBA, certain degree) is to benefit institutions, not you

  • Fixed dates makes it easier to assess people

  • This makes you believe that getting better is simply a matter of time

Dark horse mindset says

  • Time doesn’t matter

  • The correct answer is it depends because time is relative

  • Don’t ask how long it takes to master something?

  • Instead ask if this the right strategy for me to master something?

Goals and destinations

  • Ignoring a destination is not the same as ignoring goals

  • A goal emerges out of your individuality

  • An active choice you have made.

More on goals and destinations

  • A destination is someone else’s idea of an objective that you acceded to. It’s always contingent

  • For example, getting into Harvard Law is a destination

More on goals and destinations

  • A goal is winning your next debate club match, reading more philosophy books, and trying to get an internship

  • It’s possible you will end up at Harvard Law. The self-knowledge you gain from these goals will open up new opportunities for you

Gradient ascent

  • It’s like climbing to the highest peak

  • First, you start climbing in the direction of the steepest slope

  • Next, you pause and look around to gain a new vantage point to see if that’s the right path to the peak

  • It’s not fast. You repeat this until you reach the peak

World believes in standardization mindset

  • Talent isn’t rare, there is a talent quota

  • This makes us believe very few have the potential for excellence

  • Standardization mindset selects talent

  • Dark horse mindset is about developing talent

Fairness on talent

  • A lottery system would be the only way to meet a quota and objectively evaluate candidates

  • Use a jagged profile to show that everyone has talent

  • Quotas lead to a negative-sum game (you win, I lose, if I win, you lose)


  • All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

  • Standardization qutoacracy, you don’t need talent or hard work to climb the ladder, you need the right family or a fat wallet

  • Redefine equal opportunity as equal fit

Best version of yourself

  • A dark horse mindset says your goal is not to become the best in the nation, but to become the best version of yourself

  • Equal fit is about guaranteeing individual choice

  • Ask if an institutions provide both personalization and individual choice?


  • Choice without personalization is picking (food menu)

  • Summit Public Schools example: have a dedicated mentor who meets with them one-on-one every week

  • Summit uses a lottery system to accept students, everyone has an equal chance

More examples in education

  • Southern New Hampshire University started College for America

  • It eliminated grades and credit hours, replaced with competency-based evaluations

  • Every student has a mentor helping them make the best educational choice

Southern New Hampshire University Example

  • No formal instructors, only academic coaches and reviewers

  • Greater freedom of choice comes greater personal accountability

The book in one sentence

  • Get better at thing things you care about most