Every path to Success is singular and unique.
There’s absolutely no template for entrepreneurial success…LOL. It’s funny how I’ve come to realize this early in life by studying lots of people that have succeeded in different sectors/verticals. While there are principles, guides and hacks, every case and instance of entrepreneurial success is singular and unique and cannot be confined to some template, ‘one-rule-fits-all’ reason or formula…there will always be anomalies and outliers. It is beyond Ivy league school vs Non-ivy league, Dropping out vs Not dropping out, Self-made or Inherited, Silicon Valley vs the rest of the world, Having an education vs Not having one(important to note that Learning & getting an education are two different things, especially in today’s world) etc These arguments or comparisons are very superficial and simply cannot provide a framework for predicting/achieving success.
All these factors are important and do play important roles in succeeding..but none are conclusive data points and can’t be worked into a template. While attending an Ivy League school gives lots of advantages like great networks, access to venture capital, great talent, access to cutting edge technology and an ecosystem that supports entrepreneurship and starting ventures…it doesn’t follow from that that one ‘must’ have those recipes to succeed; there’s no recipe for success. Everyone that has succeeded..from Howard Hughes (Aviation Pioneer) and Nikola Tesla (Engineer & Serial Inventor) to Kevin Systrom (Instagram), Jack Ma (Alibaba) and Phil Knight (Nike) did so by treading a very singular and unique path that started with having a vision, seeing something nobody else could see, letting that inward conviction drive them to start and listening to their intuition throughout the journey. There are also factors that come into play such as timing, family background, war, macroeconomics of the time, regulations,execution, the people factor, being customer-centric, and the ability to innovate and rebirth in an extremely dynamic world.
That said, there are also general principles that all successful people have applied in different measures to become successful; these include identifying a need that nobody is catering to, persistence, perseverance, having the courage to try something new, working smart then working hard (not in the reverse order), having the ability to articulate a vision and align people with the strategy to achieve that vision, understanding market dynamics and industry forces, continuous learning and self-improvement…and even the power of compound interest (Warren Buffet LOL); it’s a really long list. just like Napoleon Hill cites in his book ‘Think and Grow Rich’…successful people over the years have applied particular principles in achieving success and these principles continue to be applied today. It’s important to understand that these principles will be understood by different people to different extents and applied by them in different measures. Each person will have his own ‘unique mix’ of these principles of success…with each principle having a different ‘weight’
For some, their unique mix consists of timing, ingenuity and perseverance…for others it might be working smart and hard, partnerships and being a first mover…some might apply a whole range of principles others might apply a few. On the whole, each instance is unique and singular. To rephrase Peter Thiel in his book Zero to One…”every process of creation is singular and will never be replicated”…but just as I mentioned…he goes on to talk about principles or guidelines which every successful company has applied in different measures, and cites his ex-paypal colleague Elon Musk’s company Tesla, as a good example.
Every successful person or company is unique…and while a template cannot be created from any case…there will always be things to learn and general principles to apply.
It’s extremely important to understand and appreciate how fundamental this uniqueness is and to be careful to not draw conclusions from several instances or cases…because every conclusion you draw and work into a template will fall short when applied to some other case, person or company. It’s easy to be tempted to cite and draw conclusions from folks like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos as examples when making arguments for what works and works doesn’t..or what must be done; the truth is (and I hardly use the word ‘truth’…because very few things are absolutely true) that each of these guys succeeded by treading ‘their own path’ and by a combination of many factors and principles that will never come into play in the exact same way for anyone else ever again. Again..unique and singular. It’s however useful to learn from them by picking out general principles that they applied, while holding it at the back of your mind that your application of them will be different from anybody else’s. For example one thing common to them all and something that everyone should emulate is the habit of being avid readers and reading wide..not just technical/esoteric material but texts covering every aspect of life; it’s remarkable how often great ideas come from combining ideas from different aspects of life.
On the issue of college drop-outs and how many of them went on to create great companies…it’s important to understand that first of all those that dropped out and succeeded are the exception and not the rule…and the media likes to lionize many of these things. Asides that, probably the more important aspect of these stories is the ‘why’ behind their dropping out. Each of them dropped out because they were consumed with the conviction that to pursue the vision they had..staying in an academic institution will not facilitate that in any way. From Elizabeth Holmes (Stanford) and Mark Zuckerberg (Harvard) to Larry page (Stanford) and Bill Gates (Harvard)….each of of them did it for precisely this reason. It had nothing to do with doing it to be tagged a maverick or to follow some trend for founders…it was based on something much more profound and compelling.
Its also noteworthy to mention that there is something puzzling about how the world works and that success in itself is a very relative term. The world was designed to have leaders and followers (entrepreneurship in itself is the exception not the rule, as many more people will work for great companies than will start one)…hence each person’s assessment will be against a benchmark of what that person’s potential is or ‘how much was put into that person’ by God. We sometimes default to judging success by money, power and influence but a more sound assessment would be that suggested above.
So as we read great books, learn from great people, attend great schools, learn new skills and pick up information from different sources, expand our minds and prepare ourselves for our journey in entrepreneurship…it’s imperative that we remember that all these things will interplay in a unique way for each one of us and it’s left to us to discover it and tread it with utter conviction. The onus is also on successful people to start with this ‘disclaimer’ when talking to budding entrepreneurs: “…that while there are lots of things you can learn from me by way of principles, strategies and hacks, your path/journey to success is going to be very different from mine…embrace that”
Every person that achieved anything great understood and zeroed-in on this.