We see success stories like we're viewing the last minute of a Hollywood ending, seeing the success but not what it took to get there. The skeptic will believe none of this is actually possible. The optimist will believe it's always possible.
They're both wrong.
This age of entrepreneurship doesn't always have happy endings. A lot of people who make leaps, fall. But some don't. And understanding how they didn't--or how they fell and got back up again--is the key.
Because success is obvious, how you got there isn't.
Don't Be Afraid To Be Homeless
After graduating from UCLA, Stephanie Be took a gap year and never stopped, becoming homeless in the process to pursue her passion for traveling the world. Lots of people want to be travel bloggers but few have the commitment to live out of a suitcase for years.
"My mother had me at sixteen years old," said Be. "I watched my immigrant parents create, build and flourish from nothing to everything. If they could do so much pre-Google, how much more could I do with an education, passport and supportive community?"
Like most entrepreneurs, success didn't happen overnight or even the first year for Be. But, she said, she persisted:
"A lot of people told me no. No, I shouldn't travel alone. No, I shouldn't start a business. No, I don't fit into tech. I even had someone tell me no, I shouldn't learn photography--instead I should learn to model (as if women are supposed to be models and can't be photographers). But I'd grown up hearing so many 'no's'--that I have a lifetime of practice. I listened to those that say 'yes.' Those that say, 'How can I help?'"
Be sought the advice of established people and influencers in her industry. She studied them, learned from them and turned that knowledge in to over 280,000 subscribers. She's been to over 250 destinations, paid by companies and tourism bureaus to find the best locations and share them with her large audience.
She's now parlaying that knowledge into an app to plan your weekend, BUENA, which allows people to find and share their favorite places.
Don't Feel Stuck In A High-Paying Job
"After two years working at a top hedge fund on Wall Street, I realized money without purpose was a hollow pursuit," said Lisa Wang, founder of SheWorx. "I wanted to make a tangible positive impact on others and I couldn't do that as a cog within a large company."
She did that by asking herself a few important questions:
- What excites me?
- What would I do if money were no object?
- What would I do if I didn't let my job title define me?
With that mission Wang founded an event series that has connected over 20,000 female entrepreneurs with access to venture capital, mentors and business advice. She created a mission that turned in to a community that is becoming a movement.
Her mindset is very "Millennial"--and it's brought her success. She described her approach:
"Money comes when you focus on bringing value to others, not when you focus on accumulating it for the sake of having more. The first step is defining what you are good at and how you are going to bring value to others. Grit and perseverance in the face of any challenge will separate the successful from the unsuccessful. While it may be tempting to take shortcuts, get-rich schemes and overnight YouTube sensations are a myth. Years of preparation, unwavering passion, and genuine desire to bring value to others are the greatest indicators of future millionaires."
Don't Wait Your Turn
Heather DeSantis worked for three years as an agency publicist for brands like Panera Bread and Little Caesars. She built relationships with media nationwide. She knew she had talent, but with three years of experience, she wasn't going to climb the agency ladder quickly.
In her mid-20s, she founded DeSantis Public Relations in Columbus, Ohio. Her agency is now on track to be a million-dollar company, she says, working with clients nationwide.
"What I realized was missing in the PR industry was personal responsibility, commitment, and passion," said DeSantis. When I worked at an ad agency we focused on numbers not on quality and I am on a mission to change that finding creative ways to follow up with the media and nurture the relationship until I get a yes."
Success is rare. Shortcuts are even more rare. What I've learned from speaking to hundreds of successful entrepreneurs is that the larger and more helpful your network is, the greater your chance of success will be.