I often look at people and think – “Wow how did they get to do what they do?” “What choices did they make?” “What luck came along the way?” Fundamentally I think we are all interested in what and how other people live their lives. I read with interest a Business Insider list of what “21 highly successful people were doing at age 25.” Trump had just taken the reins of his father’s company, Hilary Clinton had just graduated Yale law school, Huffington was a reporter for the BBC & Mark Cuban was a bartender.
I’m in two minds as to whether I would want a crystal ball to be able to see the future – would I want to know? Or is part of the excitement of life discovering new things and taking opportunities when they arise? I guess the real question is did they have a plan? Did they have a vision for their life?
At 25, I was working for Apple. I saw my future as a businessperson – climbing the corporate ladder. The indicators that I might end up running my own show did not occur to me until I was in my early thirties. In my book “Live What You Love” I take about 70,000 words to tell my younger self all the things I wish I had known about passion, persistence, positivity and purpose.
The one thing I do not really talk about is patience – sometimes things just take time and experience before you get them right. In the startup world, people speak of ‘pivots’ but don’t often speak of the patience required to really scale and build something… we all think that if our idea is great then surely it will be an overnight success… patience too is important in building your future.
Last century, when my high school friends and I spoke of what we wanted to do – mostly we didn’t really know. One friend went off to university to study science – yet she dedicated her life to fashion design. Her husband finished university with a law degree yet has given his life to the love of music, jazz, and broadcasting. Another friend of mine started her professional life as an investment banker yet for two decades has been a film producer and most recently was acknowledged for her craft at the Vienna film festival. All of them are highly successful people in their own right.
At school, I remember my friend Jenny Ackland dreaming of writing fiction. She loved literature and the structure of great stories. I catch up with Jen most years and every time I have asked her ‘how is the book coming?’ – she has had a wonderful career as an educator, has started her own business – but still her passion for writing great stories sat behind it all. She wrote many stories, finally got an agent and how exciting for Jen that she published her first book ‘The Secret Son’. Of course, I read it because my friend wrote it – but I found I could not put it down. I got lost in the vivid, imaginative story and the journey of discovery for the lead characters…
There are so many lessons for us to learn from Jenny’s journey to being a published author; in fact they are the traits of highly successful people:
- Never give up on the dream.
- Invest in experience – practice mastery.
- Learn relentlessly.
- Be persistent but also patient.
I take so much inspiration from my high school friends and university buddies… some just now starting a business after working for many decades in corporate life…
In the world of instant gratification, imagine how rewarding it must be to dedicate 30 years to a craft – and finally delivering on your dream.