Being an entrepreneur is about the journey, not the destination. For those who have an entrepreneurial spirit, the following career tips are a reminder that it’s okay to fail—it’s all about learning from your mistakes and moving forward. Here are 20 great tips from successful entrepreneurs.
1. Elon Musk – Co-Founder of PayPal, CEO of Tesla & Founder of SpaceX
Elon Musk is a South African-born American entrepreneur, inventor, and investor. He is best known as CEO of electric-car manufacturer Tesla, co-founder of PayPal, and founder of commercial space program SpaceX. For an article in Time magazine, Musk was asked whether he had ever doubted his chances of success:
“I always knew that there was a chance of failure in all my endeavors,” he said. “But I felt that they were important enough that I had to try, even if I thought the probability of success was less than 50%.”
2. J.K. Rowling – Author of the Harry Potter Series
Known for her bestselling Harry Potter novels that have sold 450 million copies and won numerous awards, J.K. Rowling has a net worth of about US$850 million. Rowling has risen from rags to riches, and as she discussed in her 2008 commencement speech at Harvard University, knows that failure is not a bad thing:
“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.”
3. Stewart Butterfield – Co-Founder of Flickr & Slack
Canadian Stewart Butterfield is an entrepreneur and businessman, best known for being a co-founder of the photo sharing website Flickr and team messaging application Slack.
He recently shared some advice for young people with Adam Bryant of the New York Times: “Some people will know exactly what they want to do at a very young age, but the odds are low. I feel like people in their early- to mid-20s are very earnest. They’re very serious, and they want to feel like they’ve accomplished a lot at a very young age rather than just trying to figure stuff out. So I try to push them toward a more experimental attitude.”
4. Mark Cuban – Shark Tank Investor & Owner of the Dallas Mavericks
Known for his appearances on the ABC show Shark Tank, Cuban made his fortune through the sale of startups MicroSolutions and Broadcast.com in the 1990s, and later became known as the enthusiastic owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.
Cuban has made some controversial statements, but he does also give some pretty good advice. “One thing we can all control is effort. Put in the time to become an expert in whatever you’re doing. It will give you an advantage because most people don’t do this.”
5. Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook
As the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg juggles the tasks of monetizing the world’s largest social networking site while keeping its users happy and engaged. It’s a huge responsibility, but one well suited to Sandberg, who earlier in her career developed Google’s successful online advertising programs, but also worked as an economist at the World Bank and as chief of staff to then-U.S. treasury secretary Larry Summers.
Here’s her take on how to be yourself at work, no matter what. “I don’t believe we have a professional self from Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time. That kind of division probably never worked, but in today’s world … it makes even less sense. I’ve cried at work … I talk about my hopes and fears and ask people about theirs. I try to be myself. Honest about my strengths and weaknesses and I encourage others to do the same.”
6. Bill Gates – Founder of Microsoft
Bill Gates is an American business leader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, best known as the co-founder of Microsoft. Famous for being one of the richest people in the world, Bill Gates tweeted the following career advice to new college graduates: “AI, energy, and biosciences are promising fields where you can make a huge impact. It’s what I would do if starting out today.” He also encouraged grads to “surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self.”
7. Simon Sinek – Leadership Expert & Author
Simon Sinek describes himself as someone who tries to “find, celebrate, and teach leaders how to build platforms that will inspire others.” He is a trained ethnographer and the author of the book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. In 2012, Sinek tweeted the following advice: “Dream big. Start small. But most of all, start.”
8. Steve Jobs – Co-Founder of Apple
As the co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs was known for his relentless pursuit of excellence in everything the company did. At the root of his exacting standards was a deep passion for his work. In his commencement address at Stanford University in 2005, Jobs said: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
9. Jeff Bezos – Founder & CEO of Amazon.Com
Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of online retailer Amazon.com and founder of space company Blue Origin, is currently the world’s richest person, with a total net worth of $134 billion as of May 2018. At a forum on leadership in April 2018, Bezos explained that space travel is his calling, and offered this advice: “You can have a job, or you can have a career, or you can have a calling. And if you can somehow figure out how to have a calling, you have hit the jackpot, ’cause that’s the big deal.”
10. Mark Zuckerberg – Co-Founder & CEO of Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg is the co-founder and CEO of Facebook and one of the richest people in the world. Back in 2011, he offered this advice to entrepreneurs during an interview at Y Combinator’s Start-up School in Palo Alto, California: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
11. Tobias Lütke – Founder & CEO of Shopify
Tobias Lütke is the founder and CEO of Shopify, a Canadian e-commerce company that went public in 2015. In an interview with Canadian Business, he said: “I really encourage people to find a place that sort of culturally aligns with what they’re trying to accomplish, and then just go for it.”
12. Marla Malcolm Beck – Co-Founder & CEO of Bluemercury
Marla Malcolm Beck is the co-founder and CEO of Bluemercury, a luxury beauty retailer and spa that was sold to Macy’s for $210 million in 2015. In an interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times, Beck offered the following advice to graduating college students: “Bring an expertise or skill set into an organization, or be the expert at something that nobody else is doing.”
13. Chip Wilson – Founder & Former CEO of Lululemon Athletica
Chip Wilson, the founder and former CEO of athletic apparel company Lululemon Athletica, now manages a portfolio of companies under the name Hold It All. Back in 2013, Wilson shared the best advice he had ever received with Business Insider: “It took me a long time to understand it, but [the advice was] to ask for help and that I don’t know it all. People love to help. I don’t have to be insecure and know it all.”
14. Brian Chesky – Co-Founder & CEO of Airbnb
Brian Chesky, the co-founder and CEO of peer-to-peer apartment rental service Airbnb, told the New York Times’ Adam Bryant that recent grads shouldn’t listen to their parents.
“They’re the most important relationships in your life, but you should never take your parents’ career advice, and I’m using parents as a proxy for all the pressures in the world,” Chesky said. “I also say that whatever career you’re in, assume it’s going to be a massive failure. That way, you’re not making decisions based on success, money and career. You’re only making it based on doing what you love.”
15. Tony Robbins – Inspirational Speaker
Tony Robbins is a life and business strategist, bestselling author, and philanthropist. In a 2016 Facebook Live discussion hosted by Business Insider, Robbins shared the advice given to him early in his career by his mentor, the late motivational speaker Jim Rohn:
“Your worth in the marketplace is based on your ability to add more value than anyone else. If you can find a way to do more for others in your company, more for the employees, more for the clients, than anybody else, your gifts will make room for you. But in order to do that, you’ve got to build skills.”
16. Maya Angelou – Author & Activist
The many inspiring quotes from the late Maya Angelou are evidence of the celebrated writer and civil rights activist’s entrepreneurial spirit. Take this piece of advice, for example: “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”
17. Melanie Whelan – CEO of SoulCycle
Melanie Whelan, the CEO of fitness chain SoulCycle, believes that new college graduates should focus on the present and not get hung up on what they feel they “should” be doing. In an interview with the New York Times’ Adam Bryant, she said: “The first thing I say is to get a job and work hard. You are going to learn a ton in whatever that job is, so don’t stress too much about what it is or where it is. Just take a job and put your head down, work hard, raise your hand for anything anybody asks you to do.”
18. Rick Goings – CEO of Tupperware Brands
Rick Goings, the CEO of Tupperware Brands, began his career as a door-to-door salesman of encyclopedias—a job at which he was not successful. In an interview with Business Insider in 2015, Goings explained why failure is an important step on the road to success: “The experiences you get in failure are some of the best lessons you can apply in life. I truly believe you need to fail in order to succeed. It’s never a straight line to success, and it’s the bumps and pivots that help you get there.”
19. Salli Setta – President of Red Lobster
Salli Setta, the president of popular restaurant chain Red Lobster, told Business Insider that she sees lunchtime as a prime networking opportunity.
“It isn’t about saying ‘hi, what are we going to talk about, let’s talk about sports.’ It’s about identifying the object of this lunch in your mind.” Setta recommends preparing questions and ideas ahead of time for a more productive discussion.
20. Henry Ford – Founder of Ford Motor Company
Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company and the man who revolutionized the automobile industry by developing assembly line production, reportedly once said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do”—a helpful reminder for those who have entrepreneurial aspirations but have yet to take action!