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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 August 6, 2020

                      Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

                      Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

                      Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

                      Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

                      It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

                      • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

                      • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

                      • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

                      In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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                      Different Folks, Different Strokes

                      Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

                      Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

                      People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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                      Productivity and Trust Killer

                      Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

                      That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

                      Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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                      A Flexible Remote Working Policy

                      Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

                      There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

                      Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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                      It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

                      What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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