Things Successful People Never Do Again

Here are ten examples of successful people who stumbled, but didn’t let it get in the way of their future.

1) - Don’t be Afraid to Ask – From Manchester to London

Before she became the first billionaire author, JK Rowling was a down on her luck unemployed single mother living on state benefits. On a delayed train ride from Manchester, where she lived, to London, a fully formed idea of a dark haired boy in round spectacles fell into her head. Too shy to ask someone for a pen, JK Rowling sat back and spent the four hour ride thinking about ideas for the book.

Even though she did eventually get a pen and wrote her ideas down on a napkin, the lesson here is to not be shy and ask for help whenever you need it.

2) – Don’t let ego get in your way – The $200 Billion Mistake

Berkshire Hathaway may be the financial powerhouse today and Warren Buffet the elder statesmen of investment, however this wasn’t always the case. In 1965, Berkshire Hathaway was a textile mill caught in a death spiral. After feeling slight on an offer price difference - the difference being 1/8 of a point lower than what was agreed - Buffet immediately bought the controlling stake in the company.

Thankfully for Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway turned out to be a monumental success with 18.3% annual returns over 30 years. However the investment sage later called it a $200 billion mistake and vowed never to make a business decision on emotions.

3) – Not All Pranks Are Funny – Thanks You Sir Richard Branson

Billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson is known for his pranks and unconventional ways. In 1986 for an interview for Music Week, Branson joked that he had invented a ‘Music Box’ that would allow users to store songs on a tiny device. Sound familiar?

Fifteen years later, Apple introduced the IPod to the world. The ball dropped when Steve Jobs personally confessed to Branson that the idea for the IPod came from his 1986 Music Week interview. Richard Branson calls it a huge mistake and it was, as in the end it was the ITunes that drove Virgin Megastores out of business.

4) – Present your Case – Believe in your G Drive

Twenty two year old Justin Rosenstein first came up with the idea of having a drive where users with different operating systems could sync and share files with each other. Working at Google at the time, Rosenstein presented his idea to the Google Docs team and Larry Page who turned it down. Without giving G Drive another shot, Rosenstein went to Facebook and from there he co founded Asana in 2008.

Five years later, Google launched the unfinished project of Rosenstein and called it the Google Drive. Rosenstein says of the experience, you must have the confidence to present your case with conviction. For others to believe in your idea, first you must believe in it yourself.

5) – Perseverance of Colonel Sanders – The Secret Recipe for Success

The twelve publishers who rejected Harry Potter or Decca Record’s Dick Rowe who passed on the Beatles, the story of Colonel Sanders and KFC follows a similar theme. After retiring and contemplating suicide at 65, Colonel Sanders decided to avoid the mistake of giving up and giving in to despair. He developed his unique recipe and started selling it door to door.

Walt Disney may have been rejected 302 times, but this number doesn’t hold water against Colonel Sander’s 1009 rejections. He took all the rejections in his stride and persevered. By the time he turned 88, Colonel Sanders was a billionaire founder of the KFC Empire.

6) – Listen to your Audience – From Customer to Competitor

When a young tractor manufacturer, in the early 60s gave technical notes to Enzo Ferrari on how to improve his top of the line luxury sports car, Ferrari didn’t take it well and told the tractor mechanic to stick to what he knows best. Not the one to take an insult, the young tractor manufacturer decided to design a luxury sports car better than Ferrari.

Four months later in October 1963, the young tractor manufacturer introduced a luxury sports car at the Turin Motor Show. The name of the young tractor manufacturer was Ferruccio Lamborghini and the car he introduced was Lamborghini 350 GTV. Hence, a rivalry was born of an insult.

7) – Steve Ballmer’s I Phone Dilemma – Price over Value is No Laughing Matter  

Former CEO of Microsoft and the current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers is known for his business wisdom. Under his leadership, Microsoft’s annual revenue jumped from $25 billion to $70 billion and the net income increased 215%. It was also under Ballmer’s leadership Microsoft presented the smart phone market to Apple on a silver platter.

In an interview in 2007, Ballmer is seen laughing at the I Phone saying the device is too expensive and doesn’t have a keyboard which makes it ‘not a very good e mail machine’. Little did he know that his ridicule of the most revolutionary product in recent history would make him look like an out of touch technology executive.

8) – Star Wars & Indiana Jones – Opportunity only Knocks Twice

Harrison Ford is the highest grossing actor of all time. With global sales in billions of dollars ($4,872bn to be exact), Harrison Ford can thank the Star Wars and the Indiana Jones franchises for his status. However, Ford wasn’t the first choice for either of these mega franchises.

The iconic role of Hans Solo was first offered to Al Pacino who rejected it. And Spielberg’s and Lucas’s first choice for Indiana Jones was Tom Selleck who couldn’t get out of his Magnum PI’s contract to commit to the project. In both cases Harrison Ford stepped in. Even though both Pacino and Selleck did well in their respective careers, it still would be nice to have these movies on one’s resume. 

9) - Curse of the Bambino – Superstition or a Bad Business Decision

What if your team has one of the biggest cultural sports icons and you suddenly trade him to your rivals in the off season. This is what the Red Sox owner Harry Frazee did after the 1919 season. With Babe Ruth, the Red Sox had an impeccable record with three World Series wins in his five year tenure. However, as soon as Babe Ruth was traded, Red Sox stopped winning World Series titles.

On the other hand, Babe Ruth made an immediate impact with the New York Yankees and helped them win four World Series titles. It took the Red Sox 86 years to shake off the curse. Many say it is superstition, however if given another chance, the Red Sox would think twice about the trade.

10) – Introducing the New Coke – The Other Guy Just Blinked    

Its 1985 and Coke is at the top with Pepsi gaining ground in market share. To diversify, Coke decides to change their century old formulae. The new Coke tastes smoother and sweeter and the pollsters and market researchers love it. However, there is one problem. The Coke drinkers don’t. It’s always a bad idea for any business to tinker with something consumers like.

As soon as the new Coke went out into the market, Coke drinkers from all over the US organized grass root protests to force the original formulae back. This is when Pepsi Co CEO Roger Enrico summarized the debacle these two products, Pepsi and Coke have been going at it eyeball to eyeball, and in my view the other guy just blinked.  Enrico couldn’t have put it perfectly. In the end, The Coca Cola Company was forced to bring back the old formulae and their CEO apologized for causing the biggest marketing disaster in recent years.

The smart learn from their mistakes while the wise learn from others mistakes. Whether its business or any other aspect of life, mistakes are markers that help the successful climb the learning curve. For in the end, it is what individuals learn from their mistakes that makes the difference.

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