Successful people are successful for a reason -- and that includes actors, entertainers, and performers.
Case in point: Leonardo DiCaprio.
But don't take my word for it. Another guy who feels this way is Ed Reeves, co-founder and director of Moneypenny, the market-leading provider of telephone-answering specialists, with offices in the U.S., the U.K., and New Zealand. (Instead of having random people in a massive call center take your calls, Moneypenny assigns one person to your account.)
It's pretty hard to feel sorry for DiCaprio. He's arguably one of the most talented actors of his generation, his net worth is estimated at a cool $220 million, and he's dated some of the most beautiful women on the planet.
Yet, despite all this, there is a little part of me that feels sorry for him. Why? I don't really know, but when I found out he'd been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar (and this time predicted to actually win), I was irrationally pleased.
Perhaps it's because he seems like one of life's triers: a person who is absolutely amazing at what he does, but for whatever reason hasn't quite gained the recognition he deserves. He never complains, either. In fact, the opposite is true -- he's stayed humble and instead stayed focused on improving his craft. He's never rested on his laurels.
This a lesson that I think is equally applicable to the business world, and it got me thinking: What else can we learn from Leonardo DiCaprio? As it turns out, quite a bit.
1. Looks are often deceiving.
At first glance, DiCaprio has the kind of fresh-faced good looks that usually spell a career in middle-of-the-road romantic comedies, not Scorsese and Tarantino movies.
The A-list actor didn't let that hold him back, though. From the age of 18 he started carving out a career in gritty dramas like This Boy's Life, What's Eating Gilbert Grape? and The Basketball Diaries.
The result? An IMDB profile that would make any actor weep with envy.
The lesson is this: Never judge anyone on paper or appearance alone. The chances are that they're capable of so much more than you first think. The same applies in business: Whether it's a potential employee, contact, or supplier, you never know when you're going to meet an influential person who has the ability to change or improve your life.
2. Always shoot for the stars.
Between movies, it's fair to say, DiCaprio has a reputation for letting himself go a little. Type the actor's name into any search engine followed by the words "Jack Nicholson" and you'll see no shortage of articles claiming he's morphing into the 78-year-old icon.
In spite of this--and his, at times, questionable facial hair and dedication to physical mediocrity--he isn't afraid to shoot for the stars when it comes to whom he's dating.
In business, this self-belief is just as important. There will undoubtedly be times when you run into people telling you something can't be done, and you'll need to rely on confidence and self-belief.
When my sister and I first founded Moneypenny 16 years ago, for instance, we were told by every business adviser we met that the idea wouldn't work and that we'd fail. Luckily, we had the conviction to stand our ground.
Naysayers will always exist, but you know what? I've found being told something "can't be done" is often the best indicator of an opportunity.
3. But it's OK to occasionally finish second.
I touched on this above, but it's worth expanding on. Prior to this year, DiCaprio had been nominated for four Academy Awards, each time missing out and leaving the Dolby Theatre empty handed.
Rather than complain or storm the stage in a Kanye West-style rant, he's dug deeper. He's found that next big role and continued to challenge himself.
In business, you may have been in a similar situation. Perhaps you entered an industry award and lost out. Maybe it was even to a competitor you know you're better than.
Sure it stings, but the smartest entrepreneurs are the ones who use this to their advantage. Smart entrepreneurs question why they haven't succeeded and look for ways to improve and do things differently.
Falling short forces you to take an honest look at where you are, and that self reflection is worth its weight in gold.
4. A little kindness goes a long way.
Granted, it's not unusual to see Hollywood actors endorsing a charity, but few have thrown themselves into their philanthropic activities as much as DiCaprio. In fact, he's the founder of his own charity--the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation--which has so far granted over $30 million to a variety of environmental organizations.
This hasn't been unnoticed and his humanitarian side has gone a long way to cement his position as an all round awesome guy.
In the world of business, showing you care can be an equally powerful tool--albeit for different reasons. Like Leo, you should get involved because you want to, not because you want to get headlines or impress customers. Insincere motivations rarely produce the results you want.
Consider how you could spread a little happiness. Is there a way you can make life better for your employees? Happy staff equals happy clients, which in turn results in a better bottom line.
That way everyone wins.