Great entrepreneurs, business people and innovators all have one thing in common: they all did things differently. Many didn’t do so well in school, Richard Branson famously left school at age 16 and Alan Sugar only earned one GSCE. Others like Peter Thiel are famous contrarians, challenging conventional approaches. Young London-based entrepreneur Carl Silverstone famously does things very differently, with acclaimed success. Such stories are very common amongst flourishing entrepreneurs all over the world.
In the tech world too, the companies that succeed best are the ones that roll with the punches. When Instagram first started out, it was a more complicated social network, far more similar to other platforms like Facebook, but by looking carefully at the most popular parts of their product, they realised the photo filters were user’s favourite part. So instead of sticking to their guns and refusing to adapt they completely changed their product, and today are worth $1.4 billion.
One of the first steps towards success is to ask yourself what you do well and what you’re good at. These things might be very different from what your friends are interested in, or what your teachers think you should pursue. But if you love what you do, you’ll put in the hard work. And enough hard work will always lead to success.
The trick is to rely on your own rules and your own criteria of success, rather than judging yourself against other people’s opinions. The rules you set yourself might be very practical and simple, things like ‘I will go to one networking event every month’ or ‘I will work on Saturdays for the next year’. Or they might be more nuanced goals, things that might only make sense to you. The point is, if you set your own goals, you have more control over how you meet them, and how you learn from your successes and set-backs.
Michael Jordan famously said ‘Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid to not try.’ Listening too much to the criticisms of others (even those criticisms that are well-meant) can sometimes hold you back from trying. Listen to your heart, go your own way, and don’t forget to try.