What lessons have highly-effective CEOs, entrepreneurs, and innovators learned throughout their lives?
After countless hours of research and digging for unconventional nuggets of wisdom, that's the exact question we set out to discover.
As a result, we compiled a MASSIVE list of extraordinary advice, coming from entrepreneurs from all walks of life. Examples include:
- Billionaire CEOs of technology companies (ex. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg)
- Aggressive hedge fund managers (ex. George Soros, Ray Dalio)
- World-class athletes and performers (ex. Serena Williams, Tiger Woods)
- Music industry moguls and businessmen (ex. Jay Z, Russell Simmons)
- Highly-effective authors, actors, directors, and movie producers (ex. JK Rowling, Steven Spielberg)
The following advice is powerful, deep, actionable, and incredibly valuable.
It's designed to help us skyrocket our productive output, push meaningful relationships to the next level, effectively manage our time, clarify our life's purpose, and ultimately create a powerful business that withstands the test of time.
Without further ado, here are 100 lessons from 100 entrepreneurs worth over $100 million.
1. Steve Jobs: Remember you won't live forever.
Every morning Steve Jobs would ask himself this question:
"If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I'm about to do today?" - Steve Jobs
If too many days went by with the answer being “no,” he made changes in his life.
He did this until he hit a consistent yes, which drove him to countless innovations and a company worth $702 billion.
2. Michael Dell: Never be the smartest in the room.
According to Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers, the key isn't being a big fish in a small pond ... but being a small fish in a big pond:
"Never be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you find a different room." - Michael Dell
Dell adds that, "In professional circles it’s called networking. In organizations it’s called team building. And in life it’s called family, friends, and community. We are all gifts to each other, and my own growth as a leader has shown me again and again that the most rewarding experiences come from my relationships."
3. Chip Wilson: It's okay to ask for help.
Between managing important projects, sending effective follow-up emails, and balancing family time ... we are swamped. We need help, but are either hesitant to ask for it, or don't know how.
Chip Wilson, founder of the women's clothing brand Lululemon, suggests learning this skill quickly:
"It took me a long time to understand it, but the best advice I ever received was to ask for help when I need it. People love to help. I don't have to be insecure and know it all. I was reticent to rely on anyone else around me and balked at the thought of asking for help, counsel, or assistance. But when you're in a business partnership with two other guys, this thought process is going to create serious problems."
4. J.K. Rowling: Failure is the foundation of success.
J.K. Rowling knows a lot about success. But she knows even more about failure. Seven years after college, she had failed ... and failed epically:
"I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless."
What happened next? She sat at her typewriter and let her imagination run wild. The result? A billion dollar book series called Harry Potter.
Sometimes when we've think we've hit rock bottom, we've got something world-changing coming up around the corner.
5. Jack Ma: Unite everyone around a common goal.
Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, is the richest man in China and the 18th richest man in the world. Through his successes, he's learned the power of one valuable piece of advice:
You cannot unify everyone’s thoughts, but you can unify everyone through a common goal. - Jack Ma
He states that it's a lot easier to unite the company under a common goal rather than uniting the company around a particular person. Why?
He says because, "30% of all people will never believe you. Do not allow your colleagues and employees to work for you. Instead, let them work for a common goal."
6. Jack Dorsey: To be more productive, theme your days.
Jack Dorsey, Silicon Valley billionaire, cofounded both Twitter and Square. He stays sane working eight hours at each company every day (16 hours total/day) by adhering to a structured, themed schedule:
"Mondays at both companies, I focus on management and running the company. Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is focused on marketing, communications, and growth. Thursday development and partnerships. Friday is focused on development and recruiting. Saturday I take off and hike. Sunday is strategy, reflection and feedback and getting ready for the rest of the week. There are obviously interruptions all the time, but this I can quickly remember 'Oh it's Tuesday, today I'm doing product' and get right back into what I was doing."
7. Ray Dalio: Meditate to calm (and extinguish) your ego.
What do you picture when you think of a hedge fund manager?
For me, I certainly didn't picture a billionaire doing Transcendental Meditation. But that's precisely what Ray Dalio, founder of the world's largest hedge fund called Bridgewater Associates, does every single day to check his ego and tarnish any fears of being wrong:
"Anyone's main obstacle to improvement is his own fragile ego. So at our firm, I started to make constant, unvarnished criticism the norm, until critiques weren't taken personally and no one held back a good idea for fear of being wrong."
As a result, people didn't hold back ideas and Bridgewater Associates became vastly more productive.
8. Tiger Woods: There is no "correct" way to be successful.
Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest professional golfer in history, gave some sage advice when asked for golf advice:
"There is no perfect way to play the game. All the greatest golfers all have different swings. We all have our own unique fingerprint. Find the system that works best for you."
The lesson? Don't obsess over the "right" way to do things. Whether that's in sales, marketing, or software development. Write your own rules.
9. Bill Gates: Unhappy customers are the best customers.
We're always obsessing over making our customers happy, but in order for that to happen, we must understand what makes them UNHAPPY first:
Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. - Bill Gates
If we understand our unhappy customers, that's how we don't make the same mistake twice. Gates has also said:
"It’s fine to celebrate success, but more important to heed the lessons of failure." - Bill Gates
10. Eric Schmidt: For email, use the O.H.I.O. and L.I.F.O. methods.
Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, has two acronyms he follows religiously for managing and sending email - O.H.I.O. and L.I.F.O.
O.H.I.O. stands for Only Hold It Once. That means if you see an email that takes less than two minutes to respond to, respond immediately.
L.I.F.O. stands for Last In First Out. That means handling newer emails first. He says this works because then the older stuff gets taken care of by someone else.
Read more about his thoughts on managing email in this article.
11. Sheryl Sandberg: Your career is a jungle gym, not a ladder.
Sheryl Sandberg has held a wide array of impressive jobs -- ranging from Chief of Staff to the United States Treasury, to VP of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, to her current position as the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook.
Throughout her journey, she's noted that our career more resembles a jungle gym than a ladder:
"Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym. The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfillment." - Sheryl Sandberg
12. Walt Disney: Stop worrying all the time.
While working on our next big project, we worry about getting it perfect. We worry about not making mistakes or others won't like it. According to Walt Disney, the best way to quell our worries is to eliminate the worry inside our minds:
"Why worry? If you have done the very best you can, worrying won't make it any better."
- Walt Disney
13. Mark Cuban: Treat customers like they own you.
It doesn't matter if we're in finance, programming, marketing, journalism, or in sales ... the only reason we're employed is because we have customers.
For that reason, we need to put them above all else, showering them with gratitude and delighting them beyond their expectations. That's precisely what Mark Cuban suggests:
"Treat your customers like they own you. Because they do."
- Mark Cuban
14. Warren Buffett: Create a "NOT to-do" list.
We can do anything ... but not everything.
Warren Buffett's key to success is writing down a list of 25 career goals ... then cutting that list to five goals.
For the other twenty, turn that into a "Not To-Do" List. This means any time you start doing any of the other twenty things listed, stop.
This will force you to focus on the five things that matter most. This stops the bad habit of not narrowing our focus:
"Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they're too heavy to be broken." - Warren Buffet
15. Marc Benioff: Meditate.
Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce says,
"One of the most important things that any of us can do when we're getting ready to create something, and when we want to make the world better, is first and foremost to take a step back. The next step I advise entrepreneurs to do is to clear your mind, make room for some new ideas, and get back to a beginner’s mind.”
16. Charles M. Schwab: Encouragement always outperforms criticism.
Charles M. Schwab created Bethlehem Steel in the 19th century, which eventually became the second largest steel manufacturer in the country.
His secret? Encouragement instead of criticism:
"I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.”
- Charles M. Schwab
17. Dave Thomas: Adding a new product won't save your business.
When business seems to be going downhill, often we'll think we need to just release new products to keep our business fresh.
But Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's, believes the problem with a failing business isn't from stale products ... but from stale management:
"Too many people want to hit a home run with the latest fad menu item, rather than having a sparkling, clean restroom. Well-managed operations are more important than any product you sell.”
- Dave Thomas
18. Elizabeth Holmes: Wear the same thing every day.
Elizabeth Holmes is the youngest self-made female billionaire on the planet. As the creator of Theranos, affordable do-it-yourself blood-testing kits, she's constantly battling new problems.
Her solution? Wear the same thing every day:
"Black turtlenecks makes it easy, because every day you put on the same thing and don't have to think about it—one less thing in your life."
- Elizabeth Holmes
19. Jeff Bezos: Build a business around timeless human desires.
Instead of speculating what might change over the next ten years, Jeff Bezos suggests asking what WON'T change:
"I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time."
With Amazon, Bezos knows customer's will always want low prices, fast delivery, and vast selection. So he's built a business, and makes key decisions, with those timeless human desires in mind.
20. Evan Williams: Do less.
Evan Williams has an incredible track record, co-founding three successful Silicon Valley startups: Blogger, Twitter, and Medium.
He says the biggest fault he sees from entrepreneurs is they try to do everything, when they should be doing much less:
"When I meet with the founders of a new company, my advice is almost always, 'Do fewer things.' It's true of partnerships, marketing opportunities, anything that's taking up your time. The vast majority of things are distractions, and very few really matter to your success. When you're obsessing about one thing, you can reach insights about how to solve hard problems. If you have too many things to think about, you'll get to the superficial solution, not the brilliant one."
21. Mark Zuckerberg: Done is better than perfect.
Mark Zuckerberg, the genius behind Facebook, rallies his team around the unifying principle that done is better than perfect:
"Move fast and break things. If you're never breaking anything,
you're not moving fast enough."
- Mark Zuckerberg
When we're obsessed with perfecting everything before anyone sees it, that's when we fall behind. It's better to get our stuff out there and encourage feedback, using the minimum viable product philosophy.
22. Michael Bloomberg: Never stop learning.
Bloomberg believes regardless how "successful" you've become, learning never stops:
"I dislike this concept of proficiency in education. … I've never met a Nobel Prize winner who didn’t think they had an awful lot more to learn and wasn't studying every single day."
- Michael Bloomberg
23. Jim Koch: You're better off being happy than being rich.
Jim Koch, founder of the company that makes Sam Adams beer, was once asked a question at a Harvard Law School Q&A session.
The student asked Koch if it'd be smart to start a craft brewery business in today's crowded market. Koch's response:
“Two craft breweries open every day in this country. It is very competitive. But if it makes you happy, do it. You’re better off being happy than rich. Being rich is a booby prize for people who didn't get what they really wanted.”
Although money doesn't equal happiness, from the look on Koch's face, it looks like beer may do the trick.
24. Jeff Weiner: If you want to receive less email, send less email.
Jeff Weiner, CEO of Linkedin, has a solution for email:
"I've found this to be the golden rule of email management: Send less of it."
And this works, validates Jeff Weiner in this essay on Linkedin:
"I decided to conduct an experiment where I wouldn't write an email unless absolutely necessary. End result: Materially fewer emails and a far more navigable inbox. I've tried to stick to the same rule ever since."
25. Elon Musk: To erase the fears of failure, live your worst-case scenario.
When Elon Musk decided he wanted to be an entrepreneur at 17 years old, he forced himself to live off $1 per day (the typical struggle of an early-stage entrepreneur), eating hot dogs and oranges.
He didn't do it because he was poor. He did it to see if he had what it takes to lead the life as an entrepreneur:
"I figured if I could live off a dollar a day then, at least from a food stand point, it's pretty easy to earn $30 a month."
- Elon Musk
26. Oprah Winfrey: Learn how to slow down.
Life is hectic. We're running in and out of meetings, finalizing important projects, and managing our insane inboxes ... all while squeezing in time for family, friends, and hobbies.
It's easy to feel overwhelmed, but as Oprah says, somethings we just need to slow down and smell the roses:
“Sometimes in the thick of life, when my call list is longer than the day and people are lined up waiting for meeting after meeting, I just stop. I still myself. And look at a tree. A flower. The sun’s light reflecting off the window. And I remember love is available. I inhale it, exhale, and get back to work.”
27. Kevin O'Leary: Leverage the strengths of others.
For independent, aggressive, and entrepreneurial-type people ... we often try to do everything ourselves.
When in reality, that's probably the worst mistake we could make, according to Shark Tank star, Kevin O'Leary:
"My partners taught me that in order to create wealth, I needed to pair up with people whose strengths compensated for my weaknesses."
- Kevin O'Leary
28. Mohamed El-Erian: Family always comes before work
As the CEO of a trillion-dollar company, Mohamed El-Erian quit his job after his daughter listed all the milestones he had missed in her life.
As we climb the corporate ladder, start our own businesses, or just plain ole' love our jobs .... it's easy to fall into the trap of prioritizing work over spending time with those we love most.
In the end, will we remember people praising our projects? Or closing a big deal? Or will we remember watching our daughter take her first steps?
Our jobs are only a fraction of our lives ... they are not our lives. What we will remember most is spending time with those we truly love.
29. Steve Case: People are essential to everything.
Steve Case, a co-founder of AOL, explains how people are the foundation behind everything:
"No matter what you do in life, your ability to succeed will be largely dependent on your ability to work with people. Indeed, it has often been said that what you do is less important than who you do it with – that the people you surround yourself with, whether a spouse, or friends, or coworkers, will ultimately be the principal determinant of the course your life will take. So don't just focus on the job descriptions, or the brand name of the organization you're going to join – also focus on who you'll be working for, and with."
Need better people skills? Check out Dale Carnegie's book How To Win Friends And Influence People.
30. Marissa Mayer: "Don't forget to be bold."
As Marissa Mayer, former Google employee, was walking out of Google co-founder Sergey Brin's office ... he said to her five words that have stuck with her forever:
"Don't forget to be bold."
She says that moment changed her life. She considers those five words every day as the CEO of Yahoo ... and gives similar advice to others:
"If you really want to create something transformational — if you really want to make a difference in your life and other people’s lives — yes, it’s always easy to take the safer incremental choice and to iterate … But remember to be bold.
31. Reid Hoffman: Want to connect with successful people? Help them.
Reid Hoffman, co-founder of Linkedin and successful venture capitalist, gets requests from people he's never met every day.
Yet according to Ben Casnocha, Reid's chief of staff, he was stunned how few requests to Reid offered to help him ... not the other way around:
"Amusingly, many requests were framed as if the asking party were doing Reid a favor by giving him the opportunity to help them: 'It'd be fun to get your feedback on something I'm working on.' Why not figure out what he’s working on and send an article of relevance? Or offer to share a perspective that could be useful?"
The key here is simple: Focus on providing value before asking for favors.
32. Drew Houston: Be a dog chasing a tennis ball.
We continually hear "be passionate about what you do" from successful people ... but that's the first piece of the puzzle.
Next is having endless drive and determination, just like a dog chasing a tennis ball:
"For any of you who had dogs, you know what a dog chasing a tennis ball looks like. Nothing will get in the way. Finding something you're obsessed with. The founders of companies who go for a long time are solving problems they're obsessed with. That for me was the start of Dropbox."
- Drew Houston
33. Gina Trapani: Use the "three-folder system" for managing email.
Gina Trapani founded Lifehacker, the well-known productivity blog, in 2005. As a result, she's discovered plenty of productivity tips and tricks.
One of which is her three-folder email system. Basically, that means she has three folders organized like so:
1. Follow up - For when she needs to send a follow-up email.
2. Hold - For emails to handle in the future
3. Archive - For emails that don't need a response.
Read more about her unique system in her blog post here.
34. Howard Shultz: Discover those who share the same values as you.
According to the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Shulz, a secret ingredient of business success is finding those who share the same values:
"You can't build any kind of organization if you're not going to surround yourself with people who have experience and skill base beyond your own -- only as if those people have like-minded values. That's the key to starting anything. If you discover people who don't share your values, perhaps it's best to part ways."
If someone's integrity or beliefs go against our own, it may be time to cut ties with that person, even though it's painful to do so.
35. Brian Chesky: Study the habits of successful people.
AirBnB co-founder, Brian Chesky, realized he didn't have the management or business acumen to scale his room-sharing startup after graduating from art school.
So he got his real-world MBA by reaching out to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, investors, and executives to ask for advice.
Likewise, he studied them until he understood their habits, their goals, and their mental frameworks.
He considers this a turning point in AirBnB, and doubts if AirBnB would've taken off if he didn't study their habits or ask for advice.
36. Ross Perot: Travel while you're young.
Our 20s are interesting. Whether you're currently in them or you've far surpassed them ... it's a time of self-reflection and self-discovery.
Ross Perot, founder of EDS (sold to General Motors) Perot Systems (sold to Dell), encourages younger people to leverage this time to explore:
"In your 20’s I encourage you to travel and explore the world. Get to know and respect the citizens of this planet. Have some adventure and learn about yourself and discover your true passions. And then I hope you bring it all back."
- Ross Perot
37. Jack Taylor: Ask these three questions over and over.
Since Jack Taylor started Enterprise Rent-A-Car in 1957, he's been asking the exact same questions:
1. Are our customers satisfied?
2. Are our employees having fun?
3. Are we doing things the right way?
Those three questions laid the groundwork for Jack Taylor to grow Enterprise Rent-A-Car. He believes the most successful CEOs are the ones who listen most closely to the customer.
In other words, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
38. Dustin Moskovitz: Do something you can't not do.
Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook, believes there's one burning reason on why you should or shouldn't start a business:
"You should start a business when you're super passionate about an idea AND you're the right person to do it. This breaks down into two reasons. One is you're so passionate about it that you have to do it (and you're going to do it anyways). The other way to interpret this is the world needs you to do it."
Do you have a business idea that doesn't go away? Perhaps it's time to take it more seriously ... and turn the idea into reality.
39. Daymond John: Be open about your mistakes.
We all want to feel important. In the process, we tend to hide our mistakes and flaunt our successes.
Except according to Daymond John, founder of FUBU and member of The Shark Tank, it's actually better to flaunt your flaws:
"Sounding too perfect is the biggest and most common mistake I see entrepreneurs make when pitching their product. With me, you'll be more likely to get my money, or any potential investor's money, by sucking it up and talking openly about the mistakes you've made. Be real."
40. Serena Williams: Luck is fake. Concentration and tenacity is real.
Growing up in Compton, CA, Serena Williams had an rough childhood:
"If you can keep playing tennis when somebody is shooting a gun down the street, that's concentration."
Her childhood built the foundation for her laser-sharp focus and endless tenacity. And those factors combined are what led to her success:
"Luck has nothing to do with it, because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come."
41. Steven Spielberg: More doesn't equal better.
We have so many options. As a result, we're always reading more, learning more, and wanting to try more things.
Steven Spielberg explains why more is not always better, which applies to various aspects of our busy lives:
“Bloated budgets are ruining Hollywood – these pictures are squeezing all the other types of movies out of Hollywood. It’s disastrous. When I made The Lost World I limited the amount of special-effects shots because they were incredibly expensive. If a dinosaur walks around, it costs $80,000 for eight seconds. If four dinosaurs are in the background, it’s $150,000. More doesn't always make things better.”
42. Henry Ford: Be great, no matter who's paying attention.
It's easy to fall into the trap of constantly impressing others. On getting compliments and praise for what we do.
Yet for Henry Ford, it wasn't about impressing people. It was about building something great, regardless of who's paying attention. And that's precisely how Henry Ford grew the Ford Motor Company:
"Quality means doing it right when no one is looking."
- Henry Ford
43. Larry Page: Pursue ideas others are afraid of.
Larry Page, CEO of Google, believes if you tackle lofty goals that everyone else is afraid of ... then there is no competition:
"I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. I know that sounds completely nuts. But, since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition. There are so few people this crazy that I feel like I know them all by first name. They all travel as if they are pack dogs and stick to each other like glue. The best people want to work the big challenges. That is what happened with Google."
Find the fearless ones, and create something remarkable.
44. Sergey Brin: There is no limit to improvement.
Sergey Brin, the other half of Google, has various mental frameworks built into the minds of Google's employees.
One of the strongest, without a doubt, is that there's no limit to improvement. Anything and everything can always be better.
"It's clear there is a lot of room for improvement, there's no inherent ceiling we're hitting up on."
- Sergey Brin
And that's how Google has remained one of the world's top companies, valued at over $395 billion.
45. Martha Stewart: Never settle (even with a secure job).
Many know Martha Stewart, but few know her story.
She had two fantastic and comfortable jobs before her reign as a media behemoth -- a modeling career for world-class fashion brands and as a stockbroker in Manhattan.
She could've stayed on her current career path, making plenty of money with secure and safe jobs, but she felt the urge to push herself further.
As a result, she became a household name and build a media empire, growing her net worth to over $600 million.
46. Dr Dre: Study the losers, not the winners.
Dr. Dre, a successful hip-hop producer, artist, and businessman, has a unique approach.
Instead of studying the greats of music production, he studies the mediocre stuff on the radio. This way he knows what NOT to do, which automatically translates to helping him realize what to do.
"I listen to the bad stuff more, so I know what not to do. The stuff that's not selling."
- Dr Dre
47. Nick Woodman: Don't be your own worst enemy.
In our pursuit of success, both professionally and personally, we tend to beat ourselves up. We tend to be perfectionists.
Nick Woodman, CEO of GoPro, found this to be his greatest flaw. That's until he realized how to turn it around, transforming self-doubt into self-confidence:
"In your personal life and in business, you are your own worst enemy. Or you are your own greatest supporter. What I mean by that is nobody can help you hurt you ... as much as you."
- Nick Woodman
48. Bernie Marcus: Listen to anyone that talks about your business.
Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot, says the majority of their success is attributed to one principle ... the art of listening:
"The CEO who's successful is the one who listens."
- Bernie Marcus
Listening is everything, he explains further:
"I could tell you so many instances when we had kids loading cars in the parking lot that would tell me about things we're doing wrong. I learned SO MANY THINGS from listening to different people."
49. Giorgio Armani: Obsess over details.
Giorgio Armani created one of the most successful luxury fashion brands when he was 40 years old by focusing on the details:
"To create something successful, your mindset must be relentlessly focused on the smallest detail."
This advice is identical to Steve Jobs. Apple employees would be overwhelmed about constantly re-doing projects, because Job's wanted to see the smallest changes made. Over and over.
Armani had the exact same habits. As a result, he grew a multi-billion dollar fashion company.
50. Ingvar Kamprad: Never, ever, waste resources.
Ingvar Kamprad, the outlandish CEO of IKEA, grew his empire by never wasting resources.
In fact, he considers wasting resources "a mortal sin:"
"Waste of resources is a mortal sin at IKEA. Ten minutes are not just one-sixth of your hourly pay; ten minutes is a piece of yourself. Divide yourself into ten units and sacrifice as few of them as possible in meaningless activities."
What's the point? Time is the ultimate non-renewable resource. Once it's gone, it's impossible to get it back.
51. Charles Koch: Embrace change.
Yes, we can set goals and relatively plan our lives. But the unexpected happens, often when we're least expecting it.
Charles Koch, billionaire businessman of Koch Industries, suggests instead of fighting change, we should welcome it with open arms:
"Embrace change. Envision what could be, challenge the status quo, and drive creative destruction."
- Charles Koch
52. George Lucas: Don't forget the fundamentals.
We are so easily distracted by new technology. New to-do list apps. New productivity techniques. New hacks and tricks.
George Lucas, award-winning movie producer, says forget that. Don't get blindsided by the next new fad. Focus on the fundamentals instead:
“Don't forget the basics. Don't get enamored with new technology. The medium we're working in may be new, but that doesn't change anything."
- George Lucas
53. Steve Ballmer: Don't have passion, have tenacity.
Everyone preaches the same retired advice: be passionate about what you're doing.
But the honest truth is we'll go through tough times. And tenacity, not passion, is the true judge of a successful entrepreneur according to former Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer :
"Passion is the ability to get excited about something. Irrepressibility and tenacity is about the ability to stay with it. If you take even a look at the companies that have succeeded, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, you name it, all of these companies went through times of hardship. It’s how tenacious you are, how irrepressible, how ultimately optimistic and tenacious you are about it that will determine your success."
54. Reed Hastings: Make as few decisions as possible.
Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, is the opposite of a control freak:
"I take pride in making as few decisions as possible, as opposed to making as many as possible. It creates a sense in others in the company that ‘If I want to make a difference, I can make a difference.’"
- Reed Hastings
For example, Netflix’s decision to produce the popular House of Cards was a huge one, but the meeting only took 30 minutes for Hastings to sign off on the decision.
He focuses on hiring great people, then leaving the decisions up to them.
55. Phil Knight: Define your "focus statement."
It's easy to get distracted by new ideas for your business. I'm very guilty of that myself, actually.
But if we clearly define our mission and focus, stating our end goal, we'll achieve success much faster. Phil Knight gives a great example here:
"Ultimately, we wanted Nike to be the world’s best sports and fitness company. Once you say that, you have a focus. You don't end up making wing tips or sponsoring the next Rolling Stones world tour."
- Phil Knight
56. Larry Ellison: Fear of failure begets success.
Why are we so obsessed with being successful?
Perhaps it's not because of our desire for achievement, but because we're afraid to fail. And according to Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, that could be our greatest motivator:
"Great achievers are driven, not so much by the pursuit of success, but by the fear of failure."
- Larry Ellison
57. John Paul DeJoria: Have optimism (even when you're homeless).
John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and Patron tequila, grew up in the slums:
"I lived off $2.50 per day. When you're down and out, you make with what you have and you learn how to survive ... if you look at the glass half full."
The optimism helped him when Paul Mitchell was founded in 1980, when inflation was 12.5%, unemployment was 10.5%, prime interest was 17%. Not exactly ideal conditions to start a new business.
Yet he stuck with it, focused on creating create products that would drive re-orders. At his current net worth of $2.8 billion, the optimism paid off.
58. Peter Thiel: Focus on one thing until you master it.
Peter Thiel, notorious Silicon Valley investor and former co-founder of PayPal, believes in the power of a focused workforce:
"The best thing I did as a manager at PayPal, was to make every person in the company responsible for doing just one thing. Every employee’s one thing was unique, and everyone knew I would evaluate him only on that one thing.”
This gives employees autonomy, while still holding them accountable to a goal. He found that having each person focus on one activity pushed the needle faster than any other method.
59. Miuccia Prada: Age with passion.
We're all going to get old. But the problem is when we age, we tend to "mature" and stop acting like wild children.
Yet according to Miuccia Prada, creator of the luxury fashion brand Prada, perhaps we should be doing just the opposite:
"Women always try to tame themselves as they get older, but the ones who look best are often a bit wilder."
- Miuccia Prada
60. Ralph Lauren: Listen to your market.
Ralph Lauren says the greatest business mistake is creating products around our desires, versus the desires of our market:
"The key is to tune in and pay attention to your market."
While he was CEO, he listened to whoever would inform him of where the market is headed.
At company meetings, he offered his interns the opportunity to speak out. He wanted to hear the opinions and tastes of the up-and-coming generation ... because in the grand scheme of things, they would be the ones deciding his fate down the road.
61. Dietrich Mateschitz: With relationships, it's quality over quantity.
Dietrich Mateschitz, founder of Red Bull, is a reserved billionaire who rarely gives interviews. But in an interview with Bloomberg, he made an interesting point of quality over quantity in relationships:
"I don't believe in 50 friends. I believe in a smaller number. Nor do I care about society events. It's the most senseless use of time. When I do go out, from time to time, it's just to convince myself again that I'm not missing a lot."
It's not about how many friends (or employees) we have ... it's about the quality of every single one.
62. David Geffen: Confidence breeds success.
David Geffen is a controversial billionaire from the entertainment industry who co-founded Asylum Records, Geffen Records, DGC Records, and Dreamworks SKG.
In his outspoken antics, he dropped some unconventional knowledge that may have some truth to it:
I don't think people get to be successful unless they have very strong egos.
- David Geffen
63. Tory Burch: Put the right people in the right positions.
Tory Burch is an American fashion designer and CEO of her clothing company, Tory Burch.
One lessons she's learned since starting her company is the importance of putting people in the right positions:
"When you have the wrong people in the wrong position it affects the entire company. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it has a ripple effect."
- Tory Burch
64. Evan Spiegal: Focus on something you can't give up.
When Evan Spiegal, the CEO of SnapChat, turned down an offer for $3 billion from Mark Zuckerberg ... the media went wild.
How could he turn down that kind of money?
That's the exact question, to no surprise, he gets asked most often. Here's his response:
“I’m asked one question most often: ‘Why didn't you sell your business? It doesn't even make money. It’s a fad. You could be on a boat right now. Everyone loves boats. What’s wrong with you?’ Someone will always have an opinion about you. Whatever you do won't ever be enough. So find something important to you. Find something that you love.”
65. John D. Rockefeller: Pave a new trail.
John D. Rockefeller was the richest man in American history.
In modern-day terms, adjusting for inflation, he'd be worth $340 billion. That's about 4x the value of Bill Gates.
His number one bit of advice?
"If you want to succeed, you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success."
- John D. Rockefeller
66. Eli Broad: Never settle, keep moving.
Eli Broad is the only person to create two Fortune 500 businesses in different industries.
He's known for his generous philanthropic efforts, publicly committing to donating over 75% of his wealth. How has he gotten there? Endless drive and determination:
"Someone once told me I'm a sore winner, and they're right. I rarely take more than a moment to enjoy a success before I'm moving on and looking for the next challenge."
- Eli Broad
67. Travis Kalanik: Obsess over solving problems, not making money.
Travis Kalanik, the CEO of Uber, discourages people from obsessing over making boatloads of money or any other material outcome:
"Sometimes people get attached to an outcome, and then you get there and you realize it ain't all that."
Instead of targeting outputs, Kalanik suggests focus on living in the moment, working on problems you can solve:
"Basically I have two lists when I go to work in the morning. One is what are all of the crazy f'ed up awesome problems that I can solve? What is all the crazy, awesome shit that I can invent?"
68. Richard Branson: Have fun.
If we're stressed, we aren't happy. If we're not happy, we're not having fun. If we're not having fun, we won't enjoy our work. If we don't enjoy our work, we'll be pretty damn terrible at our jobs.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, says not enjoying ourselves is one of the worst mistakes we can make:
"Fun is one of the most important - and underrated - ingredients in any successful venture. If you're not having fun, then it's probably time to call it quits and try something else."
- Richard Branson
69. Beyonce: Surround yourself with talented friends.
Beyonce, one of the most powerful women in music right now, believes in the power of surrounding yourself with talented and driven friends.
Her management team, and best friends, are comprised of some of the best people at Sony Music.
Her philosophy? Working with the best will only make you better.
70. Vince McMahon: Use exercise as a mental reset button.
When Vince McMahon created the WWE, people laughed (and still do) at it's absurdness. But since he's grown a brand that's valued over $1 billion ... it looks like Vince has the last laugh.
What's his secret? Exercise.
It's the only thing that gets him in the zone for business work:
"I train for my head—not my body. The ancillary benefits [of training] are that I'm healthy as a horse. It really does clear my mind. It’s an opportunity to wash anything from my head, business-wise or personal. That’s my moment when I can get into a zone.”
71. Jack Nicholson: We regret what we don't do, not what we do.
Jack Nicholson is an outspoken actor, with an eccentric personality, who believes in one thing -- live with no regrets:
"When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do."
- Jack Nicholson
If you're considering starting a new business, would you regret trying and failing? Or not trying at all?
72. Jay Z: Have a mentor; become a mentor.
Jay Z is a Grammy award-winning artist, music producer, and incredibly successful businessman. But he didn't get there alone.
While he was coming up, his mentor was the late-and-great Notorious B.I.G. He taught him everything Jay Z knows about the industry.
As he became successful, he returned the favor, giving those he believed in the chance. Examples include Kanye West and Rihanna, both whom have become worldwide superstars.
By learning from others and passing knowledge down, we can build powerful relationships in both directions.
73. Herb Kelleher: Lead with love, not fear or power.
As the CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher encourages all executives to leave their ego behinds and lead with kindness:
"Power should be reserved for weightlifting and boats. A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than by fear."
- Herb Kelleher
74. Russell Simmons: Meditate to attain a quiet mind.
Russell Simmons founded the wildly successful record label, Def Jam, and the internal clothing brand, Phat Farm.
Identical to other famous leaders (such as Salesforce founder Mark Benioff), Russell Simmons harnesses the power of meditation to be more present during interactions at work:
"Life's goal is a quiet mind. A comfortable seat. So if we can get a comfortable seat and operate from a place of needing nothing, then that's a good thing. And from a business standpoint, needing nothing attracts everything. If that present mind is at work, you attract everything. You're much more effective and productive. Those who are present at work are the ones who do amazing things."
75. James Patterson: Be confident (even if you're not yet).
James Patterson has wrote successful novel after novel. But he didn't start off with the utmost confidence:
"I remember, I won an Edgar Award when I was 26 for Best First Mystery, and even though I knew I won, on the night of, I was worried. I felt like there might have been a mistake. That’s the kind of lack of confidence you can have early on. You're writing this thing and you hope people like it. You're rewriting and rewriting and get lost in the sauce. Confidence is a big thing."
When we're early to adopt a new skill, it's easy to get discouraged. But remember that confidence will take us a long ways.
76. John Grisham: Emotional experiences create opportunities.
John Grisham, an award-winning fiction author, explains that if you want to be a better writer, you need to experience things for yourself first:
"See some of the world, go through things–love, heartbreak, and so on–, because you need to have something to say."
- John Grisham
This applies beyond writing, to business ventures as well. To truly create something remarkable, we need to experience the world until we've discovered what truly gets our attention.
77. Stephen King: Shut off your TV.
Stephen King, award-winning fiction author, has been very outspoken about one thing ... shutting off television:
"If you're just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far. Just an idea."
His message is clear, and one which I've personally adopted into my life. Creating something new is vastly more rewarding than consuming something old.
78. Aaron Levie: The final 10% is the difference between good and great.
The Pareto Rule, or 80/20 principle, states that 80% of our output is dependent on 20% of our inputs. For the most part, that's true, but it'll only get us to "good enough."
If we want to go from good to great, Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, suggests working through the final stretch:
"The 10% between "90% done" to "100% done" takes the most time, causes the most stress, but is all of the value."
- Aaron Levie
79. Roxanne Quimby: Small decisions lead all massive outcomes.
Roxanne Quimby was a hippie-esque woman, living in a remote cabin in the backwoods of Maine when she started Burt's Bees.
She started selling honey on the side of the road. That led to selling candles. That led to moisturizer cream. Until eventually, led to their flagship product - Burt's Bees Lip Balm. All because of the small decisions that eventually brought her to that point.
"Success doesn't come from one brilliant idea, but from a bunch of small decisions."
- Roxanne Quimby
80. Sean Combs: Only invest industries you know.
Sean Combs, music industry mogul who started Bad Boy Records, suggests only investing in what you know:
"Make sure the odds are in your favor. And to do that, make sure that you are a master of that category that you are investing in, or you are trying to start a business in. Any business I get into, I go and I do the proper studying and I do the research to make sure I thoroughly understand that business."
Sean Combs has never invested outside of the music industry, his area of expertise. Don't invest your money outside of what you know.
81. Howard Stern: Ignore requirements to conform.
Howard Stern has become a household name, due to his controversial antics on the radio. Yet it was a bumpy road to get there.
He'd been fired, harassed, and threatened to be sued for constantly disobeying orders from "superiors." He was give rules to follow, then completely ignored them, creating a controversial and racy show.
The result? A net worth of $580 million.
Break rules. Be different. Because those are the people we remember.
82. Andrew Carnegie: Don't ask for permission; beg for forgiveness.
Andrew Carnegie, the 2nd wealthiest man in the 19th century, believed that his ability to be proactive was the key to his success. He didn't wait until someone told him what to do ... he just did it himself:
"There never was a great character who did not sometimes smash the routine regulations and make new ones for himself."
- Andrew Carnegie
83. Kanye West: If you admire someone, tell them.
Beyond Kanye West's polarizing, controversial, and outspoken antics ... he has a quote that's stuck with me forever:
"If you admire someone, tell them. People never get the flowers when they can still smell them."
- Kanye West
Too often we forget to tell other's how much we admire, appreciate, and/or love them.
And by the time we muster up the courage, it's too late.
84. James Cameron: Failure is an option, but fear is not.
James Cameron has produced award-winning film and film, such Titanic, Avatar, The Terminator, and more. How?
He says it's all about taking risks:
"Don't put limitations on yourself. Others will do that for you. No important endeavor that required innovation was done without risk ...."
Always remember that failure is an option. But fear is not.
- James Cameron
85. Cher Wang: Place higher value on company culture.
Tawainese entrepreneur Cher Wang co-founded HTC, which has manufactured one out of every six cell phones in the United States.
When asked what makes a tech company great, she believes it all boils down to one thing ... the company culture:
There is usually an "X factor" that is hard to define [what makes a great company]. For HTC, I think it is our culture. We embrace the best of our Eastern roots and combine it with the best of the Western cultures where we have leadership and offices. It makes the culture colorful as well as energetic and creative.
86. Andrew Mason: You're building a business, not a piece of art.
Andrew Mason, the CEO of Groupon, grew Groupon out of a failed business called ThePoint. It was a platform that let users donate to specific causes.
Looking back, Mason realized it failed because he was more focused on the vision of crowdsourced giving, versus and end result users wanted ... they wanted to save money.
"You're building a tool, not a piece of art. Don't get blinded by the vision."
- Andrew Mason
87. Robert Herjavec: What you know is equally important as who you know.
Sure, it's easy to become wrapped up in the cliche advice, "It's not what you know, it's who you know" ... but that's not always the case.
Robert Herjavec, as seen on ABC's Shark Tank, sees it differently:
"It’s not all about ‘who you know’ when becoming successful - if you don’t know anybody, you have to become that person that others WANT to know. You must be brutally honest with yourself."
- Robert Herjavec
88. Madonna: Ask for what you want.
Although Madonna is a powerful and successful woman now, she wasn't born into fame or wealth. She was raised by Italian immigrants in a middle-class household. Nothing was given to her.
She fought and crawled her way to the top through one principle she lives by: Ask for what you want.
"A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That's why they don't get what they want."
89. Kevin Systrom: Behavior speaks louder than words.
Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, didn't start with Instagram ... they started with an app called Burbn.
Burbn was like FourSquare, letting users check in to locations and upload photos. Yet he noticed people really used ONE feature -- photo uploading.
So they watched behavioral trends and pivoted their product based on the actions of current users. Systrom explains the power of viewing behavior:
"Focus on what your users love most. It's all about feedback based on data and behavior. Behavior speaks much louder than words."
90. Ray Kroc: Take risks (or don't start a business).
By the time Ray Kroc passed away, McDonalds had 7,500 locations with a total value of $8 billion. Yet it all began with a contract with the McDonald's brothers, where Kroc took a HUGE risk.
He gave them $2.7 million for the rights to their franchise in 1961.
If he didn't take that risk, believing his investment would return dollars in his favor, McDonald's wouldn't be in existence today.
"If you're not a risk taker, then you should get the hell out of business."
- Ray Kroc
91. Ted Turner: In tough times, keep moving forward.
Ted Turner, the creator of CNN, experienced heartbreak at 24 years old.
His father, whom he worked for, ran an advertising agency. When Turner was 24 years old, his father had a nervous breakdown and committed suicide.
Devastated, he took over his father's business. Problems arose, people doubted him, and roadblocks kept coming. But he kept charging forward through the tough times.
As a result, he created CNN which was the first 24-hour news channel -- what many considered outrageous to start at the time.
Through tough or sad times, all we can do is keep moving forward.
92. Justin Timberlake: Try new things. You'll never know where they might lead.
Justin Timberlake is a diverse entertainer. From boy bands, to Saturday Night Live, to major feature films ... he's everywhere.
Much of which is attributed to his philosophy of experimentation:
"If I'm not learning from something that I'm doing, then that means I've done it before. Trying new things makes more sense to me than making a career out of doing the exact same thing over and over and over and over again."
Try something you've never done before.
93. Gurbaksh Cahal: To befriend successful people, don't ask for favors.
Gurbaksh Cahal started three advertising networks, which continually got acquired by larger companies (such as Yahoo!) for millions of dollars.
As he's become more famous, he found it increasingly difficult to make genuine friends, because everyone wanted something from him.
His advice? If you want to make friends with successful people, don't ask for anything:
"When it comes to making friends, what it comes down to is finding people who don't need anything from me. That's the test."
- Gurbaksh Cahal
94. David Karp: Limit your mistakes by seeking mentors.
At 27 years old, David Karp sold Tumblr to Yahoo! for a whopping $1.1 billion.
At that age, business experience is limited, so he relied on the advice of people who've walked that path before him:
"I've made so many mistakes through the years, but I've made so many fewer mistakes thanks to some really experienced, thoughtful people I've met along the way."
- David Karp
95. Thomas Edison: Vision and execution are mutually important.
Thomas Edison once said:
"Vision without execution is hallucination."
- Thomas Edison
Vision is vital. We need to have a vision and goal to stay motivated.
But if we cannot execute, we are simply wasting our time, daydreaming about something we don't have the capacity to complete.
96. Jerry Seinfeld: To create sticky habits, don't break the chain.
Jerry Seinfeld, notorious stand-up comedian and television producer, created a unique approach for habit building.
He decided one day he'd write one joke every day. Every day he wrote a joke, he'd put a big red X on a calendar. The goal was then to never break the chain.
Eventually he'd get a long streak going of red X's and that'd encourage him to keep going, leveraging the psychological effect known as loss aversion.
97. John Doerr: Use OKRs to set goals.
Highly successful companies, such as Google, Intel, and Linkedin, all have one thing in common: They use OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to set goals.
This system was developed by venture capitalist and entrepreneur, John Doerr. He emphasizes how OKRs are the machine that keeps successful companies charging forward:
"The success of companies in this day and age hinges on the ability to execute. Ideas are important, but they are easy compared to execution. Thomas Edison once said, 'Vision without execution is hallucination.' I'm a big believer in this and I feel strongly that goal setting is the best way to keep the execution machine on track"
98. Jan Koum: For serious thinking, grab pen and paper.
We've become so obsessed with technology and the ability to take notes digitally ... we forget the art of pen and paper. Yet if we DO use pen and paper studies have found that we retain information better.
This is what co-founder of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, did while working on the early product:
"Early WhatsApp kept crashing or getting stuck, and when Fishman installed it on his phone, only a handful of the hundreds numbers on his address book—mostly local Russian friends—had also downloaded it. Over ribs at Tony Roma’s in San Jose, Fishman went over the problems and Koum took notes in one of the Soviet-era notebooks he’d brought over years before and saved for important projects."
99. George Soros: Recognize when you're wrong.
George Soros, a Hungarian hedge fund manager, is known as "The Man Who Broke The Bank of England" from his short sale of $10 billion. He's a liberal philanthropist who's donated $8 billion to various causes.
What's the secret to his success? Recognizing when he's wrong:
"I'm only rich because I know when I'm wrong. I've basically survived by recognizing my mistakes."
- George Soros
100. Tony Hsieh: Have fun, enjoy the ride.
Growing a successful business is stressful.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Tony Hsieh, founder of online shoe retailer Zappos, lives and dies by the philosophy to have fun throughout the process and don't let stress overwhelm you:
"Have fun. The game is a lot more enjoyable when you're trying to do more than just make money."
- Tony Hsieh
Originally published Aug 4, 2015 3:13:18 PM, updated March 30 2018