John Henderson believes the key to success can be learned from three different, but successful men.
How do you define success? If you haven’t already defined what success means to you, then you will love the story and the message from the last man on this list. His definition of success is brilliant, simple, and now stolen by me!
I selected three examples of success, one from the past, one from the present, and one from the future. There is a wealth of knowledge to be had by learning from each of these extraordinary men. Once you have defined success, I know you’ll agree that the first two men represent fantastic methods for getting there.
1. Thomas Edison (past)
Thomas Edison is well known for inventing the electrical distribution system that we know and use today. The only problem is that he didn’t invent it. He did invent a system that sparked a revolution, but his system was inferior to the one pioneered by Nicola Tesla.
Tesla was the genius behind many inventions such as the radio and, arguably, the X-ray machine. He also envisioned a hybrid of an airplane and helicopter, as well as a device that would collect information from around the world, and publish it in the palm of your hand (smart phone?).
So then why isn’t Tesla representing the past in this successful men post? Simple, he wasn’t successful.
Tesla died broke and alone with 278 patents to his name. Edison died with a net worth of $12 million ($170 million adjusted for inflation), a family, and 1093 patents in his name. Even though money does not solely measure success, Edison was able to spend his life doing what he loved. The money was just a byproduct of being successful.
Edison did something else that was extraordinary. He worked his way into success without the benefit of the gifts that many successful people have. It was rumored that he wasn’t even a good engineer.
It was said of Edison, that if he were charged with finding a needle in a haystack, he would just dig in without trying to find where the needle fell from, where it hit the haystack or what type of needle he was even looking for. Edison seemed to ignore all of the systems normally learned in engineering school.
Edison never graduated from engineering school; he had a middle class background, and a learning disability. Despite these setbacks, Edison will always be honored as the father of our electrical system, even though he wasn’t.
2. Larry Ellison (present)
Would you consider a man successful if he owned a Hawaiian island? I consider Larry Ellison (owner of the island of Lanai among other things) a success for many reasons.
As the CEO of Oracle (until the Sept 18th announcement that he would be stepping down) Mr. Ellison has done many incredible things, all without the benefit of a college education.
Despite going through bankruptcy, class action lawsuits, and a very tough relationship with IBM, Ellison managed to lead his company into resounding success. This success has catapulted him into Forbes’ list of the top ten richest people in the world on a regular basis.
He has many achievements to his name, including becoming a licensed pilot, and managing a world-class yachting team. This team won the 34th Americas Cup race in September of 2013.
There is something else that he has done, but gets little attention for: he is a giver. He is one of few billionaires who have signed The Giving Pledge. This is a pledge signed by the world’s wealthiest people. They have vowed to give away at least half of their fortunes. Ellison has pledged 95%.
He is also a man who speaks his mind. Soon after Mark Hurd was fired from Hewlett-Packard, Ellison defended his friend. This is what he said:
“The HP (Hewlett-Packard) board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago”
3. Magnus Walker (future)
Magnus Walker represents the success story of the future. He is an amazing person who has already built a successful clothing line, a film location business, and makes money doing what he loves (working with Porsches).
If you are thinking, “hmm, sounds like a good business man”, then you are right. But I assure you that what you are picturing is not Magnus Walker.
As I was scrolling through some TEDx talks, I saw Magnus and thought, “Wow, this homeless guy must have a great story to have a TED talk”. I quickly found out that I was right. Bearing a striking resemblance to Rob Zombie, Magnus, who used to sleep on a park bench in L.A., clearly and intelligently relayed his story.
As he did, he redefined what success in life means, and he did it so elegantly that it changed my entire line of thought. Magnus defines success as “having the freedom to do what you want.” Since he dropped out of school at 15, that’s exactly what he has been doing.
Magnus came to America from England to live his dream life. He is the subject of the film Urban Outlaw and has become an authority on restoring Porsches with no mechanical background. He is a walking testimony of what is possible when you combine creativity and a free market.
These three men have become big influencers in my life. If you look closely, you will notice a few common themes with them. They all faced big setbacks, they all are unconventional, and they all have built success despite their circumstances.
These men, along with thousands of others, have written the recipe for success. It is very simple and seems to work every time. Here it is:
Be good at what you do and never quit until you succeed.
If you want to remain average in business or in life, then do not look too closely at these men. Their stories are infectious and the results are achievable. If you feel like there is something bigger or that life has more to offer, then take a closer look. They are part of a huge list of success stories that grows bigger and bigger every day.
Who are some successful people that you look up to?
Photo: Flickr/ Tom Raftery