The Founders Who Can

Who you are and the people you surround yourself with determine your success.

Who you are and the people you surround yourself with determine your success.

Photo by Lucas Clara on Unsplash

There is a story about John D. Rockefeller, who became the world’s first billionaire in September 1916.

When he was a little boy he was poor. One day his class took a graduation photo. In those days photography was a luxury, and young Rockefeller was excited. But in the end he was excluded from the picture because he was dressed too shabbily compared to his well-to-do classmates. He swore to himself one day he would be so rich he would have his portrait painted instead of merely taking a photo.

John D. Rockefeller, painted in 1917. From Wikimedia Commons

Turn disrespect into motivation, not anger. Pride without accomplishments is merely ego. The world can look down on you but screaming back at it just makes you look worse.

Doing business is tough, and the environment is a jungle, filled with danger and predators everywhere. The path to the top is unclear; you may even get lost and go round in circles.

If you decide to get into it, prepare yourself and select the right team to help you make it to the top.


A great leader leads by providing great strategy and vision, not through the manipulation of people.

Vision doesn’t mean a fixed target. Market trends change often and consumer behavior is hard to predict. Very few startups did not pivot and change product or marketing tactics on their way to success.

The endpoint can be the same, but the path there is seldom a straight one. You never know until you are at the peak looking down how many paths there are leading to the top. It’s okay even if you are lost sometimes and go round in circles; as long as you keep your eyes on the summit.

Don’t be impulsive. Many things in life require us to endure, including people and circumstances. To succeed one must learn to manage your emotions, and not let your judgment be clouded by them.

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Of course, enduring doesn’t mean compromising morals and ethics. If putting up with something in the short run is good for achieving your long-term goals, then it is a practical and wise tactic. In business being level-headed and pragmatic is often needed for survival within the jungle — not impulse and emotions.

If you make it you’re a hero; if you fail you are zero. If you succeed no matter what you say, people will find it credible. If you fail, no matter what reasons you give, it will always sound like an excuse or sour grapes.

When you are successful, don’t ever be cocky. You’ll never know who the person you put down might become.

If you can’t bear what ordinary people cannot, then you won’t achieve what the extraordinary can.

Ordinary people follow clear paths and have blind faith in what they cannot see. Extraordinary people believe in their talent, their goals and see clearly the steps to get there.

To be optimistic doesn’t mean waiting for miracles to happen. It means to create the conditions for good things to happen. Make your own luck. Successful people believe in trying and hard work, not in foolish investors and money dropping from the sky.

The people around you…

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One man can only do so much. You need a team to go far. But big paychecks and bonuses cannot buy you loyalty. The best way to win people over is through trust, empathy, and respect.

A great manager does not judge his employees based on his own whims. He looks at the effectiveness of their results.

Use people for their strengths, because everyone likes to recognized for their talents and accomplishments. Don’t expect a person with no passion for their job to excel. Find their strengths and talent, let them pursue their interests, and encourage them.

To be a successful entrepreneur, you must avoid having these people on your team. The ones whose first act is to complain whenever problems occur. The ones who think about changing direction immediately when an obstacle appears. The ones who complain that their ideas and talent aren’t recognized. And the ones who have never done anything in their lives out of their comfort zones.

The company you keep and the team you work with affects your own attitude and other people’s perception of who you are. Keep the right company and they will boost you on your road to success. Keep the wrong ones and they’ll constantly trip you over.

If your goal is to succeed in business, make sure you possess a heart of steel, and surround yourself with steely warriors.

Photo by Mathias Jensen on Unsplash

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +389,305 people.

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