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Business, Career, and Life advice from the world’s most successful entrepreneurs – Part 4

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Richard Branson

Welcome to part four of a four part series:

Business, career, and life advice from the world’s most successful entrepreneurs.

In this article:

  • Reid Hoffman – LinkedIn
  • Richard Branson – Virgin
  • Robert Kiyosaki – Rich Dad
  • Steve Jobs – Apple
  • Steve Wozniak – Apple
  • Travis Kalanick – Uber

Let’s begin…

Steve Jobs – co-founder of Apple (Net worth: $10 Billion) 

Be a thinker-doer

“My observation is that the doers are the major thinkers, and the people that really create the things that change this industry, are both the thinker-doer in one person.

If we go back and we examine Leonardo Da Vinci, he was the artist, but he also mixed all of his own paints. He was a good chemist, he knew about pigments, he knew about human anatomy, and he combined all of these skills together, the art and the science, the thinking and the doing, and that was what resulted in the exceptional result.

And there is no difference in our industry. The people that have really made the contributions have been the thinkers and the doers.

Of course it’s very easy to take credit for the thinking, but the doing is more concrete. It’s very easy for somebody to say “I thought of this 3 years ago”. But usually when you dig a little deeper, you find that the people who really did it, were also the people who worked through the really hard intellectual problems as well.”

Death

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”

It made an impression on me, and since then for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Don’t settle

“If today were the last day of your life, would you want to do what you are about to do today?”

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

Leadership vs management

“The greatest people are self-managing, they don’t need to be managed. Once they know what to do, they’ll go figure out how to do it and they don’t need to be managed at all. It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.

What they need is a common vision. And that’s what leadership is. What leadership is, is having a vision, being able to articulate that so the people around you can understand it, and getting a consensus on a common vision.”

“Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”

Passion + persistence 

“People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing, and it’s totally true and the reason is because it’s so hard, it’s really hard, and you have to do it over a sustained period of time. So if you don’t love it, if you’re not having fun doing it, if you don’t really love it, you’re going to give up.

And that’s what happens to most people actually, if you really look at the ones who ended up being successful in the eyes of society, and the ones who didn’t, often times it’s the ones who are successful, who love what they did, so they could persevere when it got really tough. And the ones that didn’t love it, quit. Cause they’re sane. Right? Who would want to put up with this stuff if you don’t love it?

I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance. It’s so hard. You pour so much of your life into this thing, there are such rough moments in time, that most people give up. I don’t blame ’em. It’s really tough. And it consumes your life. It’s pretty much an 18 hour job, 7 days a week for a while. So unless you have a lot of passion about this, or you’re not going to survive, you’re going to give it up.

So you’ve got to have an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right, that you’re passionate about, otherwise you’re not going to have the perseverance to stick it through. And I think that’s half the battle right there.”

Products vs profits 

“If you keep your eye on the profit, you’re going to skimp on the product. But if you focus on making really great products, then the profits will follow.”

“Quality is the best business plan, period.”

Act, ask, and be willing to fail

“Most people do not ever pick up the phone. They never ask, and that is what separates the people that do things from the people that just dream about them. You have to act, and you have to be willing to fail, and to crash and burn, because if you are afraid of failing, you will not get very far.”

Question everything

“Throughout the years of business, I always asked why you do things. And the answers you would invariably get is “Oh that’s just the way it’s done”.

Nobody knows why they do what they do, nobody thinks about things very deeply in business, that’s what I found.

In business, a lot of things are folklore. They’re done because they were done yesterday, and the day before. What that means is if you’re willing to ask a lot of questions, and think about things, and work really hard, you can learn business pretty fast. It’s not the hardest thing in the world. It’s not rocket science.”

Understand your customers goals

“Your customers don’t care about you. They don’t care about your product or service. They care about themselves, their dreams, their goals. Now, they will care much more if you help them reach their goals, and to do that, you must understand their goals, their needs and deepest desires.”

You can change the world

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life.

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

Reid Hoffman – founder of LinkedIn (Net worth: 3.3 Billion)

Effective networking

“A networker likes to meet people. I don’t. I like accomplishing things in the world. You meet people when you want to accomplish something.”

“In a sentence, as you meet your friends and new people, shift from asking yourself the very natural question of “What’s in it for me?” and ask instead, “What’s in it for us?” All follows from that.”

“One lunch is worth dozens of emails.”

“It’s better to be the best connected than the most connected.”

“Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people. If you’re looking for an opportunity, you’re really looking for a person.”

The importance of decision making

“Keeping your options open” is frequently more of a risk than committing to a plan of action.

Making a decision reduces opportunities in the short run, but increases opportunities in the long run. To move forward in your career, you have to commit to specific opportunities as part of an iterative plan, despite doubt, and despite inconvenience.

While you don’t want to make career moves on 0 percent information, you also don’t want to wait till you have 100 percent information—or else you’ll wait forever. The biggest and best opportunities frequently are the ones with the most question marks. Don’t let uncertainty lull you into overestimating the risk.”

The importance of speed to market

“If you aren’t embarrassed by the first version of your product, you shipped too late.”

The most important questions

“The most important questions to ask yourself every day is:

How do I invest in myself?

How do I make myself better?

What do I need to know?

How am I better at the end of the day, than I was at the beginning of the day?

On a daily basis that’s probably staying informed of what’s going on in your industry.”

Great opportunities 

“Great opportunities almost never fit your schedule.”

How to change for the better

“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.”

Start a blog

“Start a personal blog and begin developing a public reputation and public portfolio of work that’s not tied to your employer.”

20 Years of experience doesn’t mean much

“For many people “twenty years of experience” is really one year of experience repeated twenty times.”

Robert Kiyosaki – founder of Rich Dad (Net worth $80 Million)

Don’t be afraid of losses and mistakes

“Most successful entrepreneurs have got bust. Henry Ford went bust 5 times. Steve Jobs own board fired him. Bill Gates was taken before the supreme court for monopolistic practices. Donald Trump went down a billion dollars. I only went down a million.

The average person is so afraid of those losses, they never get ahead, because at school they teach you if you make a mistake, if you fail, you’re a failure. But that’s not real life. A baby learns to walk by standing up and falling down. A person learns to ride a bike by falling down. But our school system punishes you for making mistakes. In school you make a mistake, and you’re stupid. In business you make a mistake and you’re fired.

In real life the person who makes the most mistakes and learns something wins. You have to make your own mistakes, it’s called practice. Anybody who is successful, practices. In the theater, it’s called rehearsal. In golf it’s called practice. The people that practice and make the most mistakes win. The people that make the least mistakes lose.”

Business is a team sport

“I love Lebron James – but one guy cannot take on a team. And I think Lebron scored 60% of all the points… but a better team beat him (referring to the Cleveland Cavaliers being defeated by the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA finals).

Business is the same thing, business is a team sport: I have to have good accountants, good attorneys, good marketing guys, good tech guys, great staff, and great leaders.

In the real world, the guys that have the biggest teams win. So all I focus on is putting the best team together. I don’t want to be the smartest guy on my team, but I want to have the best team. I don’t have to be the best, but I have to hang out with the best.”

The importance of networking

“The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work… Marinate on that for a minute.”

Travis Kalanick – founder of Uber (Net worth: $5.1 Billion) 

Don’t fake it till you make it

“Fake it till you make it” – I’ve heard this from a couple of entrepreneurs. Fake it till you make it is bullshit. If you fake it till you make it that means you’re living a lie. And if you live a lie long enough, you’re going to be in pain. Faking it until you make it is not a long term strategy. It’s an insecure strategy. This comes back to fear. If you’re afraid, go hustle, it’ll solve your problems. But don’t fake it.”

Fear is the disease, hustle is the antitote

“Fear is the disease. Hustle is the antidote. I see a number of entrepreneurs who don’t have that hustle, and they’re afraid, and they act out of that fear, and when you act out of that fear you make big mistakes.

If you’re an entrepreneur and you find yourself afraid of something, start hustling. Hustling is the antidote to fear. Whatever it is that you’re afraid of, go after it.”

Look for problems to solve

“The way of the entrepreneur is looking at the world and finding problems. Some people think that’s a negative mindset. It’s not. It’s a curious mindset. You’re out there looking for problems, looking for things that aren’t the way they should be, or could be.”

“Every day I have a list of problems that need to be solved, and I just start with the most important problems and work my way down the list.”

Make things difficult for yourself 

“If you get to a place where it’s easy as an entrepreneur… it’s about to get really, really, hard. Really good entrepreneurs are constantly making things difficult for themselves…

I like to say you push until it hurts. You always want to be pushing beyond what you’re comfortable with, and what you know is possible.”

Steve Wozniak – co-founder of Apple ($100 Million)

Build things for yourself

“I spent a long time in my life just building little devices for fun. For fun is one of the key things. Because it drives you to think and think and think and think, and make it better and better and better than you ever would if you were doing it for a company.

Build things first for yourself that you would want, because when you’re designing for other people, then you don’t have as much motivation to make it beyond excellent.”

How can I make it perfect?

“Here’s the biggest key I can give to anybody in the world: If you’re working on some project, maybe it’s software, maybe it’s hardware, once you know enough to complete it, don’t stop there. Say how can I make it perfect? How can I make it better than any other human being would? Can I shorten the code? Can I redo it a little cleaner structure?”

“Don’t stop building something until you’ve gone very far, and you know it’s ahead of what other people are doing. Try to imagine yourself as the best engineer in the world, and try to think of little tricks you can do in your design, one thing different, one thing that would make it better, that other engineers wouldn’t do. That’s a pursuit of excellence.”

Richard Branson – founder of Virgin (Net worth: $5.1 Billion) 

Richard Branson

Don’t wait for the perfect moment – create it

“Successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for the perfect moment – they create it.”

How to treat staff 

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

Learn from failure

“Don’t be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.

The best lessons are usually learned from failure. You mustn’t beat yourself up if you fail – just pick yourself up, learn as much as you can from the experience and get on with the next challenge.”

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”

Learn the business 

“If I’m setting up a new business I’ll spend three or four months learning everything there is about that business, everything there is about that subject and then I will find good people to run it on a day-to-day basis, but whilst they’re running it at least I know what they’re talking about when they come back to me.”

Listen

“Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak.”

Love what you do

“My number one rule in business, and in life, is to enjoy what you do. Running a business involves long hours and hard decisions; if you don’t have the passion to keep you going, your business will more than likely fail. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, then you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Make it amazing

“Don’t think what’s the cheapest way to do it or what’s the fastest way to do it…think ‘what’s the most amazing way to do it?’”

“Quality brands never go bankrupt.”

Say yes

“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes, then learn how to do it later!”

“Life is a hell of a lot more fun if you say yes rather than no.”

Take risks

“You’ve got to take risks if you’re going to succeed. I would much rather ask forgiveness than permission.”

“You can’t run a business without taking risks. The brave may not live forever – but the cautious do not live at all!”

What makes a great leader

“As a leader of people you have to be a great listener, a great motivator, and you have to be very good at praising and looking for the best in people. People are no different from flowers, if you water flowers they flourish, if you praise people they flourish, and that’s a critical attribute of a leader.”

“The key to being a good business leader is how good you are with people. I think if you genuinely care about people, not just your fellow directors, but the cleaning lady, the switch board operator, and everybody else throughout the company, if you praise and don’t criticize, people will flourish. It’s really your people skills that will set you apart – and I don’t think that can be over emphasized.”

MY FAVORITE ADVICE & QUOTES FROM HISTORICAL ENTREPRENEURS

As we close out this series, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite quotes from famous historical entrepreneurs…

ANDREW CARNEGIE – FOUNDER OF CARNEGIE STEEL CORPORATION (NET WORTH: $310 BILLION) 

“The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.”

“Young man, make your name worth something.”

HENRY FORD – FOUNDER OF FORD MOTOR COMPANY (NET WORTH: $200 BILLION) 

“A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits: They will be embarrassingly large.”

“Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the government take care of him, better take a closer look at the American Indian.”

“Employers only handle the money – it is the customer who pays the wages.”

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

“It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.”

“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.”

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.”

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER – FOUNDER OF STANDARD OIL (NET WORTH: $310 BILLION) (THE RICHEST MAN IN BOTH AMERICAN AND MODERN HISTORY)

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good and go for the great.”

“I always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity.”

“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.”

“I would rather earn 1% off a 100 people’s efforts than 100% of my own efforts.”

“Perseverance can overcome all obstacles. Even the laws of nature cannot stop it.”

JP MORGAN (NET WORTH: $40 BILLION) 

“Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see farther.”

“I made a fortune getting out too soon.”

“No problem can be solved until it is reduced to some simple form. The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form is a very essential element in thinking.”

“Nothing so undermines your financial judgement as the sight of your neighbour getting rich.”

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”

“When you expect things to happen – strangely enough – they do happen.”

SAM WALTON – FOUNDER OF WALMART (NET WORTH: $100 BILLION) 

“For my whole career in retail, I have stuck by one guiding principle. It’s a simple one, and I have repeated it over and over and over again and I’m sure you’re sick to death of it. But I’m going to say it again anyway: the secret of successful retailing is to give your customers what they want.”

“Great ideas come from everywhere if you just listen and look for them. You never know who’s going to have a great idea. Our best ideas come from clerks and stock boys.”

“If one of our customers comes into the store without a smile, I’ll give them one of mine.”

“If you don’t listen to your customers, someone else will.”

“Leaders must always put their people before themselves. If you do that, your business will take care of itself.”

“Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody else is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction. But be prepared for a lot of folks to wave you down and tell you you’re headed the wrong way.”

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

WALT DISNEY – FOUNDER OF DISNEY (NET WORTH: $80 MILLION) 

“A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know he has been alive.”

“I can’t believe there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C’s. They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy, and the greatest of these is Confidence. When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.”

Summary  

That concludes the final part of this series: “Business, Career, and Life Advice, from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs”

Let’s recap the lessons in this article:

  • Act, ask, and be willing to fail. If you aren’t willing to fail, you’ll never succeed.
  • As a leader of people you have to be a great listener, a great motivator, and you have to be very good at praising and looking for the best in people
  • Be a thinker-doer. Anyone can think of an idea, but it’s the thinker-doers that really change the world and are the people that really work through the hard intellectual problems as well.
  • Build things for yourself that you would want, and ask yourself how can I make it perfect? How can I make it better than any other human being would?
  • Business is a team sport. You don’t have to be the smartest guy on your team, but you want to have the best team. You don’t have to be the best, but you want to hang out with the best.
  • Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. In real life the person who makes the most mistakes and learns something wins. A baby learns to walk by falling down. A person learns to ride a bike by falling down.
  • Don’t be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again more intelligently
  • Don’t think what’s the cheapest way to do it or what’s the fastest way to do it…think ‘what’s the most amazing way to do it?’
  • Do what you love, and don’t settle until you’ve found it
  • Fear is the disease. Hustle is the antidote. If you’re an entrepreneur and you find yourself afraid of something, start hustling. Hustling is the antidote to fear. Whatever it is that you’re afraid of, go after it.
  • Find and hire people smarter than you, give them good work, then get out of their way and trust them
  • Focus on making really great products, instead of on profits. If you make really great products, the profits will follow
  • Great opportunities almost never fit your schedule
  • If you’re looking for an opportunity, you’re really looking for a person
  • It’s better to be the best connected than the most connected
  • Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak.
  • Making a decision reduces opportunities in the short run, but increases opportunities in the long run. To move forward in your career, you have to commit to specific opportunities as part of an iterative plan, despite doubt, and despite inconvenience. While you don’t want to make career moves on 0 percent information, you also don’t want to wait till you have 100 percent information – or else you’ll wait forever. The biggest and best opportunities frequently are the ones with the most question marks.
  • Question everything. Don’t just accept the answer “Oh that’s just the way it’s done” – find out why
  • Start a personal blog and begin developing a public reputation and public portfolio of work that’s not tied to your employer
  • Successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for the perfect moment – they create it
  • The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be
  • Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to
  • Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition

This is part 4 of a 4 part series: Business, Career, and Life Advice from the world’s most successful entrepreneurs:

Business, Career, and Life Advice from the world’s most successful entrepreneurs – part 1

Business, Career, and Life Advice from the world’s most successful entrepreneurs – part 2

Business, Career, and Life Advice from the world’s most successful entrepreneurs – part 3

If you’re looking for more career advice, I highly recommend you check out the following articles:

150+ Career tips from the CEO’s of Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, JP Morgan and more!

35 Interview Mistakes to Avoid

How to get your Dream Job

25 CV Mistakes to Avoid

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Footnote:

Reid Hoffman image credit: By Joi [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Richard Branson image credit: Prometheus72 / Shutterstock.com 
Robert Kiyosaki image credit: By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Robert Kiyosaki) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Steve Jobs image credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com
Steve Wozniak image credit: Viappy / Shutterstock.com

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