We all have to start from somewhere. Every entrepreneur has a beginning. Successful business owners don’t just begin at the top, they work their way there.
In the process to become great, you learn a lot along the way. As you continue forward, it never hurts to hear what other great men and women before you have learned. They, too, know what it feels like to not make a sale, to market your heart out with only few results, to come so far only to lose so much. But they also know, that success comes to those who keep trying. They know because they’ve been there just like you.
Here are a few snippets of advice from successful CEOs. They share what they have learned through their struggles and mistakes for those who are about to embark on a similar adventure. Their imparted wisdom may be just what you need to hear on days you feel like giving up.
Robert Herjavec, CEO of Herjavec Group
You may know him as one of the investors on Shark Tank, but before he became a business icon, Robert Herjavec wishes he had dreamed bigger. He knew from a young age that he wanted something more out of his life, but Herjavec kept his vision limited not realizing just how much was possible for him. He says, “If I’d known I could do these things, I would have done them sooner.”
Now, Herjavec invests in others who have those big dreams and the will to reach them. Looking back at some of people he’s invested in, Herjavec says, “They all dreamt big and made it happen with whatever they had. They taught themselves along the way and made a ton of mistakes, but they never would have tried without those initial dreams.”
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
Some things you can’t plan for, and that’s okay. Mary Barra didn’t know she would one day be the CEO and Chairman of General Motors when she began working there as a college student. She warns entrepreneurs of planning out every detail of their career path.
“While planning for your future is great,” Barra says, “the fact is, things change…If you pass on [opportunities] because they don’t fit neatly into your current plan or because you’re afraid, you could easily miss your best opportunities for growth.” The path of entrepreneurship can be uncertain, but take pleasure in the surprises and always see them with an eye of opportunity.
Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global
As the founder of The Huffington Post and Thrive Global, Arianna Huffington does not have too much free time to spend. Any business owner knows the feeling. But if Huffington could go back to when she was first starting out in business, she would live by this quote by Brian Andreas: “Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in life.”
Huffington only discovered this quote later in her life, but it’s taught her an important lesson. She notes that we as a culture worry so much about time, about using it well or not having enough of it, that the time we do have is spent filled with “increased stress [and] diminished satisfaction.”
Huffington admits that she, too, is guilty of living this way. But she says that success shouldn’t be “defined by who works the longest hours, who goes the longest without a vacation, who sleeps the least [or] who responds to an email at midnight or five in the morning.” Huffington would tell her younger self and any beginning entrepreneur that it’s okay to slow down and take in the moments that really matter. Those are the moments that rejuvenate you for the days when business is bad and life isn’t all you wanted it to be.
Melanie Whelan, CEO of SoulCycle
In the end, only you decide the path that’s best for you. People will want to give their two cents on what’s the right choice when it comes to your career. This isn’t always bad, until the opinions of others completely drown out your own voice.
Another CEO, Melanie Whelan of SoulCycle wishes that she hadn’t been so preoccupied by what others told her she was supposed to do early in her career. A better approach, she says, is to, “Figure out what makes you excited or happy.” Once you find that joy, don’t let go. Whelan continues, “It’s much easier to be all-in when you’re excited about where you’re going every day.”
If you haven’t found that yet, keep searching. Don’t feel pressured to fit a mold, but make a mold that fits with a life you’ll love. Like most good things in this world, creating such a life will take time. There will be naysayers, but hold on to what you love that keeps you alive.
Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart and Jet.com
At one point or another you’ll need to ask yourself what drives you. There will come a day down the road when you question why you got on the road in the first place. If you have a motivating destination ahead, then you can get through those days. If not, it may be time to find a motivator that matters.
Marc Lore had one of those days before he pursued entrepreneurship. He was working at a well-paying corporate office. “But I was there alone,” he says, “and it was unfulfilling.” That's when Lore took a stand. He changed his career. He changed how he measured success. It’s not so much about the money anymore for the founder and CEO of Jet.com. He says, “I have since learned that you can achieve much greater success if you focus on what you can give.”
What are you giving to the world? How do you measure your success? What is your dream and how are you working towards it?
Your story, while similar to many of these CEOs is still uniquely yours. They’ve lived through a lot, but they haven’t lived your life. That’s your story to tell.
When your future may seem uncertain, embrace the fact that it is yours. That alone is something to be proud of.