I read biographies…a lot. I plowed through thrillers like “Confessions of a Wall Street Addict,” by Jim Cramer, and “The Snowball,” an account of Warren Buffet by Alice Schroeder. By peeking into the genius minds of these business titans, I hoped to glean habits and secrets I could use to propel myself in life and business. Themes like hard work, persistence, and specializing were threads that ran through many of the readings. Solid insights, but ideas I could have picked up in a self-help book on the inspiration rack at FedEx Kinkos. It’s only now I realize the true success secrets from these stories are specific to the individual and their set of skills.
Most successful people start their journey by dabbling in something they have fun doing or show a deep curiosity for…and earning money is initially secondary or not in the picture at all.
PewDiePie – I came upon PewDiePie fairly late in his development. The #1 personality on YouTube, he sports over 33 million subscribers who have viewed his videos over 7 billion times. For some perspective, Beyonce only has 1.1 million subscribers. When he started his YouTube channel, he just wanted to “share gaming moments on YouTube with my bros.” PewDiePie didn’t start tinkering with YouTube because he had dreams of the reported $4MM in earnings he’ll drive in 2014, he did it because he was having fun.
Jim Cramer – After living out of his car for months as a plodding reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and later heading to Harvard Law School like an upstanding human, Jim Cramer found his passion not within the binding of his Black’s Law Dictionary but the ink-smearing pages of the Wall Street Journal. Law school is an expensive way to figure out what you really want to do with your life, and he found himself placing stock orders between classes and eventually leaving his stock picks on his voicemail for family and friends. His first big break came when a professor handed him $500,000 to invest off the success of his voicemail picks. Cramer eventually went on to run his own hedge fund Cramer & Co.
Travis Kalanick – After exiting a startup and kicking around new ideas for startups, Travis and Garrett Camp, his Uber Co-Founder, started an on-demand black car service because they “wanted to act like like ballers in San Francisco.” Their friends started flooding them with requests for app invites and a multi-billion dollar company was born. Kalanick’s experience as an entrepreneur with programming chops gave him the perspective and savvy to launch the startup.
Warren Buffet – As a young child, Buffet sold Coca Cola, chewing gum, magazines, and the weekly newspaper door-to-door. He had a true passion for making and saving money and loved the entrepreneurial nature of his endeavors. He spent time in the insurance business, gas station business, investment business, and more as a young professional. Oddly enough, these experiences prepared him incredibly well for a future evaluating businesses and building his conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway.
I’m inspired by the success of these and many more but realize their path to success is as unique as a grain of sand on the beach. Everyone’s journey is unique, and it’s virtually impossible to exactly emulate someone else’s success for the desired effect. Take away core principles, and follow your passion. Personal success will follow, and money might as well.
I think it’s time to throw out those biographies.