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Legends Among Us: 6 Lessons from Great Influencers of the Past and Present

Cosette Jarrett

Although business professionals often take a wealth of knowledge away from college courses and on-the-job training, some of the best lessons are left to be learned from those who’ve exceled far beyond any instructor or manager in building success.

Society’s biggest influencers have discovered innovative and highly effective tactics for creating systems for ongoing success, however, we often overlook their stories and the lessons they hold as we search for more obvious advice and answers.

That’s why I’ve decided to come up with a list of the six most important lessons business owners can learn from some of the world’s most influential people, past and present. Check them out.

1. Failure Fuels Future Success

We commonly make the mistake of seeing failure as a negative thing in our lives. When you decide to see failure in a new light and look at its positive values, you realize it can actually be the spark that ignites your future success.

In her book Shark Tales, Barbara Corcoran tells readers that she went through 23 jobs in New York City and was fired from three before she found success in real estate.

Book Cover: Shark Tales by Barbara Corcoran
Book Cover: Shark Tales


She used these failures as stepping stones that eventually led her to the realization that her talents and skills were best suited for success in the real estate industry.

Barbara Corcoran is now worth around 40 million dollars and holds a spot on the popular show Shark Tank as a skilled investor looking for opportunities to purchase stake in up and coming companies 

2. Any Good Deal Is Mutually Beneficial to Both Parties

Too much greed in any business transaction often leads to severed relationships or ongoing trouble with outside parties. The best way to keep your industry reputation and business ethics in check is to seek mutual benefit in every deal you make.

Hip Hop mogul, Russell Simmons has lived by this idea throughout his career to build valuable and ongoing relationships with business partners. These relationships have clearly benefited him as he’s used them to build successful businesses in multiple industries.

Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons is cofounder of one of the most successful recording companies in the world, Def Jam Records, and has worked with others in the fashion industry to build successful clothing brands like Phat Farm, Argyleculture, and Tantris.

3. Fortune Isn’t Necessarily the Best Guide          

As a business-minded individual, it can be difficult to leave the bottom line out of most things. Although the importance of a paycheck is undeniable, it’s important to realize that your level of passion for what you do will show in the work you produce.

A shining example of this is famed poet, playwright and actor, William Shakespeare.

William Shakesphere
William Shakesphere

According to recent research, Shakespeare’s income would have only been the equivalent of £62,000 in today’s world. Although this is a good salary, it certainly isn’t up to par with the salaries of top modern playwrights and film producers.

What drove Shakespeare’s incredible work, which ultimately led to his fame and international recognition, was his passion for what he did, not how much he stood to benefit financially from his industry.

4. Success Can Take a Long Time to Develop

The perseverance it takes to make an idea happen requires an enormous amount of patience. Although it may seem like the best ideas naturally float to the top in finding success, this isn’t always the case.

Take for example, Oprah’s OWN Network.

After cancelling her show to dedicate sole focus to building a television network, Oprah realized that success wasn’t going to come quickly.

The network struggled for a while after its premiere, leaving some to wonder if Oprah might just scrap the idea all together.

However, Oprah stuck with it and trusted in the process. What a great thing that turned out to be now that OWN is a very successful network.

5. Stay Involved

As your business grows, it will become tempting to remove yourself from the production process. Business tycoon, aviator, and aerospace engineer, Howard Hughes, did the opposite.

Despite having a qualified team of individuals under him to manage his aviation business, Hughes insisted that he remain involved in even the smallest details.

He personally tested each of the planes he designed, and even put his own life at risk many times as he worked to improve his product.

Hughes was once quoted as saying, “If I’ve made a mistake in the design, then I’m the one who should pay for it. I certainly would not ask somebody else to fly a plane if I were afraid to do it myself.” 

Now that’s not saying that you should put your life on the line for your business, but it does teach an important lesson in terms of being involved enough with your product’s production to take complete ownership of its quality and performance.

6. Focus on Contributing Rather Than Consuming

What you give back to your industry will be remembered far longer than how much you made in the process. Albert Einstein was completely focused on what he could contribute to science during his time on Earth.

He realized that while wealth would buy him his home and his next meal, his contributions to scientific advancement had the potential to change the lives of everyone on the planet for years to come.

Rather than focus on what your consumers can do for your bottom line, focus on how you can make a positive impact in their lives with your product or service. How can you change your industry for the better? What value do you stand to offer that others do not?

We’ve come to the end of the list, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more lessons to be learned from other great influencers.

As you seek inspiration or guidance in your career, remember that the best place to find those things is often in the stories and famous words of the world’s most creative and intelligent minds.

Image Credit: ViewApart / Getty Images
Cosette Jarrett Member
Cosette is a freelance writer and digital lifestyle expert located in SLC. She specializes in providing tech solution-based content to simplify life at the office, around the house, and on the go. In her free time, Cosette enjoys hiking, biking, and snowboarding in the beautiful mountains her hometown has to offer.