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10 Lessons Everyone Can Learn From These Millionaires and Billionaires Who Started With Nothing

10 Lessons Everyone Can Learn From These Millionaires and Billionaires Who Started With Nothing

What unites all humans is our ability to strive for our dreams: to overcome obstacles, defy expectations, and dare to believe in the most fragile of things – ourselves.

We are not here to deify the super-rich. They are not intrinsically smarter, more enlightened, or happier simply because of their mind-boggling fortunes. There are exceptionally successful people whose impact is not measured in dollars, but in justice prevailing, crafts mastered, children nurtured.

Wealth is not a signifier of worth, but it can signal victory over the fears that haunt us all. To say these people started from nothing is a lie. None of us have nothing. As long as we have air in our lungs and thoughts in our heads, we’ve got some powerful resources to work with. These millionaires and billionaires started with those resources, too, and created so much more.

1. As a lonely student he realized video gaming made him reclusive, so he turned the camera on himself, gaining 31 million subscribers and counting.

Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, the most subscribed YouTuber:

Felix Kjellberg

    How do you make money just playing video games? You become the guy everybody wishes they could play with. Yes, you’re good, so good that you can pick up any game and play it marginally well the first time. Then you film yourself playing every game out there – especially the stuff no one’s even heard of. But most importantly, you have fun.

    Felix doesn’t endorse stuff like many YouTubers. He literally just plays video games. And sticks chopsticks up his nose to see if he can sneeze with a straight face. From the beginning, Felix read every comment to learn from his audience. He let their comments be his guide, but he never compromised his conscience. He is genuine, relatable, and honest. He cares more about building his audience through content that meets his standards of integrity and fun than about making money. That’s the guy everyone wants to play with.

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    2. As a college student, she stopped going to class and chose to invest her parents’ college savings in an idea that is revolutionizing medicine.

    Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos:

    Elizabeth Holmes

      Who has the gall to ask, “What is the greatest change I could make in the world?” and actually follow through with it? At nineteen, Elizabeth had an idea that medical testing should be accessible by the people who need the information – the patients themselves.

      She didn’t make a big fuss about her idea; she just quietly went about getting it done. “I just decided I would figure out how to make it work.” When asked how she has that much conviction, she answered, “You have to believe in yourself.” Maybe that’s too simple. Or maybe it is that simple.

      3. He arrived in the US at 16 with only $500 and worked through college until he went on to engineer a thriving business out of a failing auto parts manufacturer.

      Shahid Khan, CEO of Flex-N-Gate and owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars:

      Shahid Khan

        Shahid has an amazing talent for turning adversity into opportunity. Throughout his life, when he found himself in situations that seemed completely un-winnable, he has consistently been able to find the one leverage point to turn it all around. As he’s done so, he’s rescued thousands of American jobs that would have been lost without his savvy.

        He’s applying his innovative know-how to a new project: re-inventing the Jacksonville Jaguars. If he can turn this team around, he will prove again the power of his never-say-die optimism.

        4. Taught remedial English before starting as a stand-up comic at age 40.

        Joy Behar, long-time co-host of Emmy-winning talk show “The View”:

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        Joy Behar

          Most middle-aged women will tell you they have an unwanted superpower: they’re invisible. When Joy’s divorce went through, she decided she had nothing else to lose. Instead of surrendering to invisibility, she grabbed the mike and demanded to be seen. After years in the biz, she caught the attention of Barbara Walters who brought her on “The View.” She rode that wild ride for 16½ years.

          Joy calls it like she sees it. In an interview with John McCain before the 2008 election, she pressured him to answer for his “lies” on air, and this won her the admiration of many who feel that journalists don’t do enough to call politicians to task. Now she is in the position to pursue an abundance of opportunities or enjoy retirement at age 72 with over $8 million in the bank

          5. Raised by his mother and disabled father in housing projects, he would go on to create business that became a household name around the world.

          Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks:

          Howard Schultz

            Waking at 4:30 each morning, Howard’s habits of hard work have served him throughout his life. He turned a football scholarship into business opportunities that allowed him to travel internationally. On a trip to Europe, he enjoyed the café culture that was missing in the US. Coming home, he invested in a small coffee shop business and turned it into the global presence we know today.

            Because he grew up in a home where his father’s disability condemned the family to poverty, he created one of the most progressive systems of benefits for Starbucks employees. While Starbucks has its critics, Howard takes this criticism personally. He genuinely wants to create a business of passion and substance, which is why he’s up at 4:30 and continually striving to improve.

            6. Rose from a frightening childhood to become the daily voice of hope for billions of people through The Oprah Show.

            Oprah Winfrey, CEO of Harpo Productions and The Oprah Winfrey Network:

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            Oprah Winfrey

              Name the obstacle, and chances are Oprah’s faced it. Poverty, abuse, racism, sexism, excessive weight. She doesn’t hide these struggles, which is one reason why she is able to connect with so many people. In a public forum, she doesn’t parade her issues about, but she doesn’t pretend that they don’t exist either. She, like PewDiePie, is the friend you wish you had.

              Oprah also trusts that what fascinates her will fascinate her audience, too. She dares to create what she longs to see in the world. And when she does, she builds foundational systems to sustain projects and seeks out aligned leaders to get the job done.

              7. When he couldn’t get hired by KFC, he hatched his own plan to create the largest eCommerce site in China.

              Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba:

              Jack Ma

                Jack is a quirky fellow, and those quirks haven’t always worked to his advantage. In fact, for quite a while his life was an embarrassing mess. He never gave up, and eventually found himself on a business trip to the US where he saw the success of eCommerce. He decided he could recreate that in China. Out of an apartment, he began a business that is now worth over $20 billion.

                Jack’s success comes from his ability to cooperate with people and create circumstances that solve critical problems. The edge he has over his competitors is that he created a system to address the distrust of eCommerce. Customers weren’t buying because they weren’t sure they would get what they paid for. When Jack led a team to fix this, the business boomed.

                8. As a cocktail waitress living in her car, she sobered up to start a multi-million business from a phone booth.

                Dani Johnson, motivational author and speaker:

                Dani Johnson

                  Dani posted handwritten fliers for a weight-loss product in a post office, and from a pay phone she made calls to potential customers. Calling a successful weight-loss center as a customer, she wrote down everything they asked her. Then she called her list of leads and asked those questions. It worked. She didn’t ask for someone to give her permission. She used the little she knew about the world to start something and just repeated what worked.

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                  Dani also learned the greatest key to success: don’t sell the product, don’t talk about yourself, just focus completely on the customer. Get them talking about themselves, listen, and then help them solve their problems.

                  9. As a boy in Sweden, he sold products door-to-door before starting the furniture company at 17 years old.

                  Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA:

                  Ingvar Kamprad

                    While you may have never heard of this man, even Fight Club’s Tyler Durden had an IKEA catalog. His anonymity is one of Ingvar’s keys to success. It’s been said that he’s taken the bus to red carpet events and that he’s so thrifty that he keeps salt and pepper packets. He has made a concerted effort to remain an “everyman” so that he stays connected to the people his products are created for.

                    The other major key to Ingvar’s success: he knows the minute details of his business. His knowledge is encyclopedic. That only comes when a person takes the time learn and realizes that these little details matter.

                    10. Cleaned floors to support himself and his disabled mother on welfare before creating the messaging app used by billions of users.

                    Jan Koum, co-founder of WhatsApp:

                    Jan Koum

                      Jan has a distinct dislike for the clutter advertising adds to our lives. Growing up in Soviet-era Ukraine, advertising was absent from his daily life. When he immigrated to the US at 17, he saw how it affected the visual experience and effected business at Yahoo! where he later worked. WhatsApp does not sell ads and collects as little information as possible about its users so that it can focus on its mission.

                      Jan’s success has also come from his passion for the idea of private, convenient, inexpensive communication. He knows first-hand what it’s like to not be able to connect with those he cares about or fear that what is said will be monitored for political control. His passion and principles are solid, guiding every choice he makes.

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                      Last Updated on October 16, 2019

                      Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

                      Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

                      Do you like making mistakes?

                      I certainly don’t.

                      Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

                      Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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                      Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

                      Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

                      • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
                      • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
                      • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
                      • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

                      We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

                      If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

                      Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

                      Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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                      When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

                      Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

                      We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

                      It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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                      Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

                      Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

                      Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

                      1. Point us to something we did not know.
                      2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
                      3. Deepen our knowledge.
                      4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
                      5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
                      6. Inform us more about our values.
                      7. Teach us more about others.
                      8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
                      9. Show us when someone else has changed.
                      10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
                      11. Remind us of our humanity.
                      12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
                      13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
                      14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
                      15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
                      16. Invite us to better choices.
                      17. Can teach us how to experiment.
                      18. Can reveal a new insight.
                      19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
                      20. Can serve as a warning.
                      21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
                      22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
                      23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
                      24. Remind us how we are like others.
                      25. Make us more humble.
                      26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
                      27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
                      28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
                      29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
                      30. Expose our true feelings.
                      31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
                      32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
                      33. Point us in a more creative direction.
                      34. Show us when we are not listening.
                      35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
                      36. Can create distance with someone else.
                      37. Slow us down when we need to.
                      38. Can hasten change.
                      39. Reveal our blind spots.
                      40. Are the invisible made visible.

                      Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

                      The secret to handling mistakes is to:

                      • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
                      • Have an experimental mindset.
                      • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

                      When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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                      When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

                      It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

                      When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

                      Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

                      Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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                      Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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