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STARTUP

Powerful Career and Startup Advice from 6 Highly Successful Leaders

If you want to be the best, you must learn from the best.

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BY Andrew Thomas - 27 Sep 2018

If you want to be the best, you must learn from the best.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

If there's one thing I've learned in five years as an entrepreneur, it's that the road to success is not paved. It demands so much of your time, mind, body and soul. It's very easy to make mistakes and it's very easy to allow your business to burn you out. This is also the case for leaders and professionals, scaling their impact and elevating in their careers.

One of the best ways to enjoy the journey and increase your chances of success are to learn from the people who have already walked the path. A growth mindset is so important to your success, and it starts with learning.

Here's a compilation of real, candid and highly-applicable advice from successful entrepreneurs and leaders. Do more than consider their advice. Use it, and gain from it.

1. Write your own rules

Anjali Sud - CEO, Vimeo

Anjali Sud has achieved career success via a non-linear career path. Before Vimeo, she spent time in investment banking, marketing products online and was a retail buyer. I asked Sud to share what she learned from this dynamic and diverse path.

"There's no rule book or playbook for success," she said. "Write your own roles. Don't take people's path as the way that you have to do things. It can inspire you, but we live in a world today where there isn't a path, there isn't a playbook. You have to do it yourself."

Sud also highlighted the importance of maintaining a growth mindset along the journey of your career. "I don't think you can succeed without failing," she said. "Having more of a willingness to fail, and putting yourself in vulnerable positions, can often be the fastest way to succeed. I'd encourage people to be vulnerable and take the opportunity to do that proactively - and see if that stretches you as a person."

2. Listen, and don't give up

Mada Seghete - Co-Founder, Branch

Mada Seghete has made a name for herself as a co-founder of Branch, a deep-linking and analytics solution for mobile applications that has raised over $113 million from some of the top venture firms in the world. Despite her incredible success, Seghete shares advice rooted in the real experience entrepreneurs face every day.

"People who start companies aren't special," says Seghete. "They just go for it, and figure it out along the way." I appreciate this level of honesty, which runs counter to the self-glorification that founders in Silicon Valley typically exhibit.

"We failed many times", Seghete said. "We ran off our determination to be successful. All you need is that dedication."

Her advice: "Don't fall into the trap of thinking you know everything. Let go of your ideas. Ask for, receive and consider feedback. Listen to investors. Get smart advisors. Listen. Then act."

3. Change the world for the better

Tim Draper - Founder, DFJ; Bitcoin Investor

Thanks to successful investments in Hotmail, Skype and Bitcoin, Tim Draper is one of the most successful venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. In an effort to understand his mindset, I asked Draper to identify a personal trait that he attributes to his success.

"I have a drive to change things to make the world better," he said. "Most of my success came from my actions that were driven by a need for global improvement, rather than trying to become successful for success's sake."

As a follow-up, I asked Draper what he wish he knew in his twenties. He replied: "I would have liked to know that the world only gets better. I feel that the professors and the media who gave me all my information were generally pessimistic, but it is the optimists that win."

4. You are not your business

Bea Arthur - Founder, The Difference

It is far too common for entrepreneurs to lose their identities in their startups. Bea Arthur, licensed therapist and founder of The Difference, Amazon's first mental health-focused Alexa Skill, has built success helping herself, and other entrepreneurs, understand that there's more to life than our startups.

What does she wish she knew in her twenties?

"I put my first startup before everything else in life," she said. "I sacrificed my health and relationships to focus all my energy on my business - which ended up closing after five years anyway. After we closed, it was my friends that stood by me to support me."

So what's her advice?

"Prioritize and nourish your relationships as much as you can. Be a complete person, inside and outside your business. It makes the journey more emotionally sustainable, and your business will be better for it."

5. Live your values

Nyla Rodgers - Founder, Mama Hope; Founder, Satoshi is Female

While many people talk about "impact, few people actually create businesses, tools or organizations that truly impact the world in a positive way. Nyla Rodgers, is a leader walking the walk.

Rodgers is making an impact on a global scale through her non-profit, Mama Hope, while also working toward creating new social and economic paradigms rooted in equality through Satoshi Is Female and her efforts in blockchain and digital currencies.

While there are dozens of qualities that make her so successful, I asked Rodgers what she feels is the source of her leadership and impact.

"I have an unwavering belief that the work I do is my purpose," said Rodgers. "There have been countless times when I had to raise money or shut down, and a miracle would happen lead us to success."

She continues, "I believe that living from your values, and using these values as a north star to guide your business, helps keep you in integrity. I have had major opportunities that I turned down because they were out of alignment with my values."

In addition to living with the integrity that is all too rare in today's society, Rodgers also highlighted the importance of courage and conviction, "I also think to be a leader or a visionary you have to have to courage to be 10 steps ahead and the patience to wait while the world catches up."

6. Think bigger

Michelle Broderick - Senior VP of Marketing, Automattic

As the senior VP of marketing for Automattic (the people behind Wordpress), Michelle Broderick knows a thing or two about what it takes to make a big impact. Wordpress redefined how content was (and is) created on the internet - making it accessible for everyone.

When asked for the advice she'd give her twenty-something year old self, she replied: "Think bigger."

Broderick continues, "Your fresh point of view will enable you to think of solutions or ideas that live outside of the ordinary. You do not need to wait until you reach a certain level in the corporate hierarchy to be extraordinary. It's so easy to limit yourself to what you know, to play it safe, or do as you're told. You must challenge yourself to think bigger."

What fuels big thinking? Broderick believes it starts with curiosity. "It's important to bring in ideas from outside of your industry's bubble," she explained. Art, literature, science, and religion have so much to teach us about how to run a business, how to launch a campaign, or how to build an audience. It's amazing what you'll learn when you follow your curiosity."

Final word

While mistakes are useful for your overall learning process, I've found that it's easier and more enjoyable to avoid mistakes by listening to advice from the people who have come before me. I certainly still make mistakes, but this type of advice helps me reduce the number of mistakes or helps me frame a more successful mindset. Consider this advice and find ways to incorporate it into your everyday mindset and habits.

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