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9 Sources of Inspiration for Highly Successful People

Richard Branson, Naomi Simson, and other top influencers talk about what drives them.
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LinkedIn recently published a series featuring a wide range of things that can provide inspiration.

In the series titled "What Inspires Me," LinkedIn Influencers shared what keeps them working, from a harsh rejection they received at the beginning of their career to the hard-working people they see every day in the office.

The people who didn't believe in her

Naomi Simson, founder of RedBalloon, will never forget the pet name given to her by classmates during college: "Num" because it rhymes with "dumb."

"I had an idea that I was not the smartest academic in class -- and that there were definitely cleverer students on campus. In fact my own father said to me as I was finishing my degree: 'Just in case your university education does not get you a job -- let me send you on a touch-typing course, at least you will have that to fall back on.'"

"At some point I said to myself 'you just wait--I will show you, I will be a success.' I have never thought that people took me seriously. It is as if my need to 'prove' myself has fueled my relentless pursuit to create a best work place, for growth and for being 'world-famous' for what we do. To show all those people that said to me 'you can't'--that in fact I can."

Game-changing people

Richard Branson is inspired by something Steve Jobs once said: "The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."

"My professional inspiration has no separation from my personal inspiration: it is people who will stop at nothing to make a positive difference to other people's lives," Branson writes. "I am fortunate to come across quite a few of these game-changing people, and the desire to help (and keep up with them!) is what drives me.'"

A harsh rejection letter

In the winter of 1976, CNBC's Herb Greenberg interviewed for a job with the Detroit Free Press, but was rejected because the city editor believed the newspaper could find "somebody better."

"Those words inspired one of those, 'Well, I’ll show them!' moments. Being told 'we can find somebody better' is crushing. But at the same time, those words resonate and continually inspire me."

"I keep that memory in my hip pocket and pull it out whenever anybody questions or criticizes my work--or whenever I feel I’m stepping out of my professional comfort zone."

Dreaming the Disney way

BuzzFeed's Jon Steinberg was once a high school intern at Walt Disney Imagineering and hasn't stopped dreaming on building the impossible since then.

"When I'm faced with a challenge or a project that seems too large, I swivel my desk chair and look at the picture of Walt or my badge from my days at Imagineering: It makes me realize that anything can be built, and that decades ago, people with far less technology built things that seem even daunting even today. One day at a time, brick by brick, anything can be built."

Reading 200 books each year

"Reading has been my favorite pastime since my earliest memory, and in my adult years books have become some of my greatest inspirations," says Twitter head of social innovation Claire Diaz-Ortiz. "I read more than more than 200 books a year, and most of these books are non-fiction. Business, inspiration, and leadership top the charts in terms of what I spend most of my time reading, and I the reason I put so much of my energy into reading these particular categories is because books in this genre, again and again, have changed the way I think."

Doing something unsafe

While on a "solid promotion track within academic health care administration" in the 1990s, Steven J. Thompson followed a unexpected opportunity in the emerging biotech sector in Singapore, which he knew nothing about. It worked out, and today he is the senior vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine and runs Johns Hopkins Medicine International.

"What the leader who gave me the assignment knew, and that I didn’t, is that people with leadership potential often don’t discover it and tap into it until they are faced with a truly difficult challenge, one that pulls them out of their comfort zone and makes failure a real option."

The curiosity of his co-workers

"Curiosity is not found on the resume," says Bloomberg anchor Tom Keene. "You have to drag it out somewhere between the first and fifth interview. You would be surprised at the low pass/fail rate on curiosity."

Donald Trump

VC Richard A. Moran says that a "consistent and reliable source of inspiration" for him is Donald Trump.

"On the one hand he is a bold decision maker and risk taker. He is clear in his communications and uses the media in ways others wish they could. All good. His success could be a source of inspiration and should be considered. But there is that other hand. As a CEO and leader, Donald Trump inspires me to behave in the opposite ways he behaves."

Flawed people

Shane Snow, co-founder of Contently, isn't inspired by Superman, because "he can't lose" and "that's not inspiring."

"Personally, I'm inspired by people who overcome bad fortune or circumstance to fulfill their dreams. Professionally, I'm inspired by people and businesses that do incredible things despite glaring flaws or environmental disadvantages," Snow writes.

"I like flawed people and underdogs. They can't just work hard to overcome their obstacles, they have to work hard and smart. And that leads to amazing things."

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.




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