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It is easy to look at the
accomplishments of famous entrepreneurs and conclude that their level of
success is simply unattainable. Of course, reaching a 10-figure income is
extremely unlikely for most in the business world, but can we still learn
anything about life and success from those at the top of the socioeconomic
ladder? A close look at the recently published Forbes 400 offers a
definitive answer. There is much to learn from America’s wealthiest.
Looking beyond the obvious shared
traits—a work ethic and commitment to their industries and fields—there are
broader insights the rest of us can act upon. Even if we never make the Forbes
400, these insights can help each of us take our career to the next level.
Today’s technology entrepreneurs
strive to succeed, without question, but their first love is innovation, not
the wealth and fame it can bring. Need proof? Just take a quick look at how
self-made billionaires spend their precious time.
Peter Thiel, PayPal cofounder, is chairman of Palantir Technologies, a big
data consultancy he helped fund and launch. Thiel also remains an active
investor whose track record is enviable. Remember, he was famously an early
investor in Facebook, not to mention Airbnb. The 46-year-old billionaire
doesn’t stop with his own enterprises and investments. He is on a mission to
drive innovation by changing mindsets about technology. “That’s
what dominates our culture . . . this deep, deep, distrust, dislike of
technology in all forms,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is another relentless innovator.
Back in 2009, well before Twitter’s successful public offering, he had already
turned to his next game-changer: the startup Square. Launched to
transform today’s mobile payment systems, Square
has had a rocky time of late (reports say it lost $100 million in 2013),
but it is still valued at $5 billion.
Dorsey’s take? Struggles are part of the life cycle of a startup. Where does he see it going? His
ambitions are hardly modest. He sees Square growing into a product that
resonates with every person on Earth. In other words: innovation first, success
All too often, we equate entrepreneurship
with the need to secure investors and funding for technology start-ups, yet
several members of the Forbes 400 boot-strapped it at first.
GoPro’s Nick Woodman built his
first camera with his mother’s sewing machine and a drill. A passionate surfer,
he wanted a waterproof way to capture riding waves as never before. He sold his
first GoPro out of a van. Fast-forward 12 years: GoPro is leading the
wearable device revolution and went public this summer, turning Woodman into a
not forget Under Armour. While playing on the University of Maryland’s football
team in 1995, Kevin Plank realized that the shirts he and his teammates wore
under their pads and jerseys didn’t absorb sweat. Postgraduation, Plank
designed a stay-dry shirt, maxing out his credit cards at $40,000 to get Under
Armour off the ground. Today, it’s the industry standard, worn by countless
professional and amateur athletes. Inspiration and perspiration—in this case
literally—came first for Plank. Just as they did for many on the Forbes 400.
Modesty has its place, but when
you consider how the larger-than-life personalities of some Forbes 400 members
have helped them succeed, maybe we all need to learn to put on more of a show?
Few can teach us more about
putting on a show than Donald Trump. He turned his appropriate last name into a
global luxury brand. But casinos, golf courses, and high-rise luxury condos
Trump is a pop culture icon. He is
the star of the breakthrough reality show The Apprentice, and his less-than-serious forays
into presidential politics generate real buzz, from The Wall Street Journal to People,
all making the Trump name more famous while expanding his empire.
Richard Branson, a truly self-made billionaire,
also cuts quite the figure, but with his own particular style. His stunts both
build Virgin and his personal brand—from breaking boating and hot-air balloon
records to humanitarian pledges to give away half his wealth. Plus there is his ambitious, world-changing business projects,
such as space tourism pioneer Virgin Galactic. Can Branson make space travel a part of our everyday lives?
Perhaps. But even if another company does it first, Branson—and Virgin—will be
remembered as pioneers.
Last but surely not least, Oprah Winfrey went from a local
Chicago talk-show host to the first African American female billionaire. “On my
own I will just create, and if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, I’ll
create something else,” she told Forbes. “I don’t have any limitations on what I think
I could do or be.”
Ambition does not get any bigger or bolder than
Oprah’s. It takes a large personality to pull it off, without question. But
Oprah’s vision also demands putting innovation first and success second—money
alone will not make it happen. Oprah has the inspiration, backed by
perspiration, to put it all together to succeed, or try again and again.
It’s these attitudes and traits that make Oprah
Winfrey, Peter Thiel, Jack Dorsey, Donald Trump, Richard Branson, and others
models for us all. Learn about types of careers that will inspire you.
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If you are considering pursuing higher education, we
invite you to find out more about Kaplan University’s programs and explore our undergraduate and
graduate degree offerings.
University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement. National long-term projections may
not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not
guarantee actual job growth.
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