Success: It is what you make of it

When we think about successful people, we usually reflect upon the person that they had become. It doesn’t matter if they are successful business people, teachers, doctors or whatever, our picture of the person is generally rooted in our view of their successful self. Often, it isn’t what they become that is informative, it is where they began their journey and the obstacles and challenges that shaped them on the way.

Lets look at three successful entrepreneurs, if you looked at where they started, would you have predicted the success that they would eventually enjoy?:

Cher Wang

Cher took a job at First International Computer in 1982 after graduating from Berkeley. She sold motherboards before progressing to oversee the personal computer division. Cher had a dream of designing mobile phones because she became sick and tired of lugging a giant computer box through the train stations of Europe where she was selling her motherboards.

Cher is now better known as Chairwoman of HTC (the mobile phone company she co-founded) and VIA Technologies. However she was born in Taipei in 1958. She was one of seven children and described her upbringing as “strict”.

Steve Jobs

Steven Paul Jobs was born on February 24, 1955 in San Francisco, California and was adopted at birth. He grew up in a neighborhood of engineers working on electronics and other gizmos in their garages on weekends. This shaped his interest in the field as he grew up. He went to college at Reed College in Oregon but only lasted a semester before dropping out. He moved to a hippie commune in Oregon where his main activity was cultivating apples.

A few months later, Steve returned to California to look for a job. He was hired at the young video game maker Atari, and used his wages to make a trip to India with one of his college friends, in order to ‘seek enlightenment’. He came back a little disillusioned and started to take interest in his friend Stephen Wozniak’s new activities.

Richard Branson

Richard Charles Nicholas Branson was born on July 18, 1950, in Surrey, growing up he struggled with dyslexia, so had a hard time with educational institutions. He dropped out of school at the age of 16 to start a youth-culture magazine called Student. The publication, launched in 1966 and run by students, sold $8,000 worth of advertising in its first edition. The first run of 50,000 copies was disseminated for free because Branson had covered the costs with advertising.

By 1969, Branson was living in a London commune, surrounded by the British Music scene. It was during this time that Branson had the idea to begin a mail-order record company called Virgin to help fund his magazine efforts.

None of these people had an easy start in life. However, all three of them made impressive achievements in their lives and careers. However they didn’t leave their pasts behind either. Jobs met Steve Wozniak when he was 13, the start of a life-long journey. Cher is a well know philanthropist, an interest she developed when visiting hospitals with her father, as a young child. Branson has spoken greatly about dyslexia and often offers advice to other dyslexics. In fact on his web site he says:

I see my condition as a gift, not a disability. It has helped me learn the art of delegation, focus my skills, and work with incredible people.

So, what can we learn from these examples:

  • You have a choice, your past can hold you back, or it can be a rich source of inspiration to take you forward.
  • When you encounter setbacks, challenge them, overcome them and adapt (#changesomething).
  • You have to take responsibility for your future. The book that you keep meaning to write will never get written if you don’t pick up a pen (or sit at a keyboard) and start. The qualification you need for the dream job won’t earn itself.
  • You have to take action, or else you future will always remain a dream (#startsomething)

Above all, have a vision, keep focused on it and do something about it. That is how Cher, Steve and Richard were able to become the people they were capable of being. Of course your vision could be more altruistic, such as starting a charity. However, ask yourself this:

Is what you are doing getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow?

If it isn’t then why are you doing it? Why are you allowing this to happen?

Don’t presume it is easy either. Success takes hard work and dedication and you have to be prepared to take the first step. If you have a dream but feel that there is something holding you back in going for it, why not work with a coach? Coaching can help you start from where you are (#achievesomthing together). The future lies ahead of you and is unwritten, so don’t be held back by things in the past that you can’t change. Embrace them, learn from them and move on. Change what you can change (#changesomething) or begin a new journey (#startsomething). All you have to lose is what you could have been and the only person who will regret that is you.