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10 Clichés Every Ambitious Person Needs To Remember



“I have a dream.”

Those words echo from every human soul. Big or small, our dreams are launched with a swell of excitement, but it doesn’t take long to realize it’s not smooth sailing. When our GPS fails, we regret not checking Google Maps before taking off.

Indeed it helps to have a sense of direction. Often, we overlook the most obvious; we steer away from clichés because, well…they’re so cliché. But just because something is trite, it doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Whatever your dream is, here are 10 clichés that are worth remembering:


1. It’s not what you get, but who you become

Great words from Tony Robbins. In our hyper-materialistic world, success is gauged by wheels and white-picket fences. But the Mercedes will rust, and the house will need to be repainted; but the habits and characteristics you’ve cultivated on the way to earning those possessions, they’ll last a lifetime.

Rather than see personal development as a byproduct of success, see success as a byproduct of personal development. Einstein said, “Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value.” The latter will bring the former.


2. Quality will beat qualifications. Every time

You’ll question whether you’re qualified to do the work. Inevitably, you’ll run into someone with more degrees, more initials after their name, and you’ll put your tail between your legs.

But history is full of successful high-school and college dropouts: Anne Beiler of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels dropped out of high school; and of course, Richard Branson, who left school at 16. That being said, it’s not that they decided to cease education altogether—they just found other ways to educate themselves, and succeed.

At the end of the day, if your work absolutely rocks, nobody will care what piece of paper hangs on your wall. Do as Steve Martin said, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”


 3. If you want success, start failing

Failure and losing have the unique ability to uncover our blind spots. Significant improvement comes not from studying your strengths, but your weaknesses.

Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

It’s called iteration—refined progress toward a goal. It’s one thing to move forward, but another to do so with improvement. Failure is the drawing board for iteration.


4. You can’t please everyone

Even close friends and family won’t all be supportive of your dream. While it’s in our nature to love and be loved, to make friends, not enemies, striving to live up to someone else’s blueprint only creates bitterness.

Before David fought Goliath, he was told to put on King Saul’s armor. It was so uncomfortable he could barely walk. Only when he stripped the armor, and picked up his own sling, was he able to defeat Goliath. It’d be a different David & Goliath story had he taken King Saul’s advice.

There’s nothing wrong with seeking counsel and taking advice, but you have to filter the advice that propels you, from that which derails you. It’s wise to have an inner-circle of people you respect to speak into your life and act as a second filter, but ultimately, only you know deep-down what makes you happy. The sooner you realize you can’t please everyone, the better.

Bill Cosby said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”


5. Talent = 10,000 hours

The best athletes train even when they don’t feel like training. The best musicians play even when they don’t feel like playing. The best writers…you get the idea. While there’s much debate over Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, there’s convincing studies showing talent and success are cultivated rather than inherited.

Mastery and success isn’t arrived at on the back of good feelings, but pushing through the painful grind. Showing up and doing the work. Seth Godin says it best:

“The notion that I do my work here, now, like this, even when I do not feel like it, and especially when I do not feel like it, is very important. Because lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you don’t feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is your work and not your hobby.”


6. Just go with your gut

Or follow your heart. Fairytail-ish for sure, but solid advice nonetheless. We’ve all had “trusting your gut” experiences—something not quite right, and the right decision was unexplainably clear as day.

Daniel Kahnerman sheds light on our intuitive thought in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow; the effortless and automatic ‘knowing’ comes from our unconscious ability to process vast amounts of information. Because it happens beyond the scope of our conscious minds, we’re completely unaware of it, and so we label it a mysterious gut feeling.

There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes of our snap decisions—a method behind the madness; which makes it less mad, and quite trustworthy.


7. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

Nobody leaves a campfire without smelling like smoke. Subconsciously, we can’t help but take in information from our environment. And, after much exposure, it manifests in our behavior.

Jim Rohn said, “You’re the average of the five people you spend most time with.”

We’re deeply impacted by the people we allow into our lives. That’s why “Mastermind” groups are so popular and effective among entrepreneurs.

It’s a good time to take inventory of the people closest to you. Are they lifting you up or bringing you down?


8. You gotta have a faith  

Human imagination continues to baffle scientists. In a study comparing pianists, those who imagined playing a melody performed almost identically to those who physically practiced. Elite athletes visualize a completed action before attempting it physically. Your imagination—creating a vision, blurs the lines of reality.

Writing down goals and dreams involves the imagination, and likewise with profound effects. Dr. Gail Matthews’ took 267 participants and found that those who wrote down their goals with weekly check-points had a 76% success rate compared with 43% who only stated their goals.

Practically living out your dreams is fueled through “impractically” dreaming out your dream. Write down and visualize goals often. Clear, and detailed—seeing yourself celebrating at the finish line.


9. Ain’t no valley low enough

Your dream won’t be presented on a silver platter. Every successful person bears scratches and scars.

J.K. Rowling, chased her dream from the age of 5. But before Harry Potter took over the world, Rowling spent years deep in the valley. Losing her mother, a failed marriage, whilst raising a daughter, Rowling reflects, “I was as poor as you can get without being homeless.”

Of course, depression and turmoil aren’t prerequisites for success—but sacrificing your comfort zone is. And by definition, that’s not a pleasurable experience. Think of Rowling’s words when you feel down and out, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”


10. Don’t just make a dollar, make a difference

Inspirational men and women have a vision deeper than their pockets.

Let’s be real—money is important. It’s a powerful resource that can bring great change. And when ambition turns into success, wealth is sure to follow. But money can make or break you. Much like the ring Frodo carries, money has an all-consuming power. And if the scope of your dreams cannot see beyond dollars, your fulfillment will be as short-sighted.

Just take a look at the tragic ending for most lottery winners. Money without meaning is worthless. Create a grand vision for your success that extends beyond your own pockets, and your own life.


Women on Top in Tech – Dawn Dickson, Founder and CEO of PopCom, Inc. and Founder of Flat Out of Heels



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Dawn Dickson is the Founder and CEO of PopCom, Inc. (formerly Solutions Vending, Inc.), the company behind PopCom Kiosks and the PopCom API, which provides a software solution to make vending machines more intelligent. She created the company after her own struggles to find vending machines that could sell her roll-up flat products, Flat Out of Heels, at high-traffic areas like airports.  She was awarded First place in the PowerMoves NOLA Big Break pitch Competition and second place in the 2016 SBA Innovate Her Challenge.

What makes you do what you do? 
I love solving big problems and working with amazing people to get it done.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
After working in the vending industry for three years selling Flat Out of Heels in vending machines in airports and nightclubs, I was frustrated with the lack of data I was able to collect from my hardware. I also wanted more engaging and interactive experiences for my customers and after speaking with several retailers they felt the same way. That is when I decided to focus on PopCom and developing a software solution to solve the data problem in self-service retail.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)? 
The fact that I am not the usual, leadership demographic is the main reason why I was up for the challenge. The industry is in need of a change and I believe someone with a unique and different perspective and experience is needed. I look forward to collaborating with the industry leaders and veterans to build a product that everyone loves and finds value in.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
I am involved in several different industries and sectors – retail, self-service retail, hardware, software…so I have to learn a lot of information quickly.  There are several people that I look up to, follow their career, and seek advice from. I was fortunate to be able to participate in some of the country’s top accelerator and entrepreneurship development programs, including Techstars, Canopy Boulder, and the BIxel Exchange – the mentorship and network I gained from these programs has been invaluable and very instrumental in our progress.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent? 
I have learned that spotting talent takes time, it takes patience, and building relationships with people and networks to meet new people, most of my connections come from introductions. I focus on finding the right fit for the company culture, there is a lot of great talent out there, but the culture is different, I want us to be on the same wavelength. I am fortunate to have met some great people through the programs I was in that came on as mentors, advisors, and eventually full time team members. I take time to get to know my team individually and understand what their personal goals and ambitions are, ask them what their dream job looks like, understand their needs so they can be happy at work and be fulfilled. I believe in self-care and making mental health a priority, if a person is good within themselves they radiate positivity and are more productive.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I am a black woman so I am diversity. Naturally, we attract people we can relate to and have things in common, so I found that my team was heavily female and my diversity initiative was finding more men…when I thought about it I found it funny. Now I have a balanced team of men and women from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives which is exciting.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb? 
To be a great leader you have to be a team player, my rule is I never ask someone to do something that I would not do myself. I also have a rule to give the team the freedom and flexibility to work when and how they are most productive. That means some of us working different hours and being in the office different days, but happy team builds the dream!

Advice for others?
My advice is never give up if you believe in it. I started my company selling shoes in vending machines in 2011, it took me 7 years, a few failed hardware attempts, and many people telling me it would not work because the market was not ready. I was patient and what I believed would happen is happening. In May PopCom is bringing the PopShop to market, a next gen smart vending machine to sell and sample products. Our API will be ready in July and for the first time vending machine and kiosk owners can understand their conversion rates and have the level of data and analytics available that eCommerce stores have, but better. It has been a long journey and I feel it is just getting started, but I am only here because I never gave up.

If you’d like to get in touch with Dawn Dickson, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about PopCom, please click here.

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Callum Connects

Elaine Zhou, Co-Founder of China Women Equipping Center



Elaine went on a journey of self discovery and once she knew her true self she could be successful in her own business.

What’s your story?
I am very proud of where I came from and I am grateful for where I am living and working today. Singapore is my adopted home and it is my aim to always contribute to and serve this country and its people.
Twelve years ago, I moved to Singapore for an internship opportunity. I was twenty one years old and I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t speak English, I didn’t understand the culture or the customs. Everything was new and strange to me. Everything was difficult, but my parents had tremendous faith in me.
My parents have worked diligently on the family farm to raise us and send us to college. My parents had a huge influence on me. The important things I learnt from them are to love, to never give up, to be a hard worker and to have a can-do attitude. These are the qualities that I embrace in my daily life.

What excites you most about your industry?
We offer more than just training. Our business is a resource to be leveraged for transformation, improved teamwork, leadership behaviours, communication skills, relationship skills, coaching skills and increased job satisfaction and productivity.
Our passion and purpose is to help people grow as leaders and to create tremendous results by serving others well. We take people to daring destinations, beyond their imagination.
My greatest joy is to see people grow, change and transform and live a purposeful life; this is what motivates me to do more and do it well.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in China and I have spent all my adult and professional life in Singapore.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore and China.
Singapore is a very sophisticated and systematic country. It is a structured and highly efficient business environment and people are generally nice and honest. Also, the convenience and diverse culture is a great advantage for people who want to settle down there, no matter if they are from the East or West. You always feel at home in Singapore.
I also like China because of its fast growth. The population and the market is here. However, it takes time to settle in because of the language barrier and the very different traditional culture. But you will also find it is very interesting and you’ll want to learn more about China. The people are nice if you know them well. It is always about relationship first and business second, and when you are in a business meeting, you really have to master the skill of “reading the air.” It is a skill to let people know and understand you; your values, your background, why you think in that way or why you do or do not do certain things. Doing business in China is like swimming in the ocean; it is an abundant ocean and it is full of risks. Always know your values and stay true to yourself and make decisions close to your heart. It will help you see things more clearly and get things done in a way that doesn’t violate your values.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Be yourself, Elaine.” That is the best advice I have ever received. It was a big ‘aha’ moment for me. It was also the moment I truly and honestly looked within myself. I realized that when I am being my true self, and not trying to be someone else, I am able to connect with people instantly in a genuine and authentic way. It is a great feeling.

Who inspires you?
There are so many people who encourage me, lift me up and challenge me everyday. My mentor, John Maxwell who helped me discover my purpose in life; Michael Griffin, for his passion for Christ which is contagious and Wayne Dyer, my spiritual mentor who passed away in 2016. Also, people who are living with a purpose and striving everyday for their dream, they really inspire me. My clients, mentees and students. When I see that joy and peace in them, that inspires me to do more and do well. My team inspire me, especially when they said, “Elaine, I joined the business because of you.” They inspire me to make it work for the team and the business because it is beyond my own self interest. I am grateful for having so many people in my life who inspire me.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
China is a big country, we all know that, and it is also an internet giant. Recently on a team meeting, one of the directors who manages a successful beauty business, shared with us, that everybody is on the internet, especially on WeChat. People are obsessed with online communities – for ordering food, getting taxis, forging relationships, connections and friends. Almost anything and everything can get done online. But right now, there is a new trend; more and more people want the “offline” experience. It usually takes one to two hours from one place to another in Beijing, but people want to make the effort to have a real connection with other people, to attend networks, seminars, workshops and business meetings.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I started my first business when I was 24 years old, it failed. One year later, I started my second business and after a year and a half, I closed down the operation. After several painful experiences and two failed businesses, I started to look within myself, and seriously and intentionally invested in my personal growth at the age of 28. If I could turn back time, I wish I could have grown a lot earlier. I strongly believe that the level of our success is determined by the level of our self growth and we are always learning, everyday. But I also understand it is not the only way to live. I also consciously and intentionally try to live in the now. It is a beautiful and great way to live. In fact, I am grateful for what I have gone through; the pains, setbacks and challenges in my earlier life.

How do you unwind?
I like to stay connected with nature. For example, taking a walk barefoot on the grass and smelling the roses on the street. Having a beer or coffee along the riverside with friends; reading a good book; hunting for nice restaurants; swimming or running.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand – nice beaches, food and people.
Bali – fantastic beaches and food, great people.
Malaysia – Nice food and people, particularly Langkawi, Penang and KK.
Of course Singapore, it is always a place dear to my heart. It’s my home.
There are a lot of other interesting places in China which I am still exploring.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill
The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Tao Te Ching: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life by Wayne Dyer
Developing the Leaders Within You by John C.Maxwell
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
These are some of the books that truly transformed my thinking and shaped my values.
I used to read a lot of different types of books, from sales, marketing, branding and management to different business models. I found it is really hard to master all of it and I was not optimizing my own strengths.
Entrepreneurship is a skill to be learnt. But it is really important to recognize what we are good at and what we are not so good at. We can not be everything.
Entrepreneurship is a journey of self-discovery and soul searching. It is all about learning and striving. We should try and always remember why we started our business in the first place.

Shameless plug for your business:
The China Women Equipping Center, is something both my team are I are very proud. We have put our hearts and souls into it, to help women in China grow and transform. As a developing country and with the rise of China, people are not lacking in money, everywhere is full of opportunity, but the challenge is the civilizations, values and faith. In fact the Chinese government puts a lot of effort into improving and shaping the international image to ensure it is making progress. But people are still facing a lot of pressure, especially women.
One of our business partners who is runs traditional Chinese medicine retail stores, shared that 80% of his patients are female, and the reason they are coming to see him are anxiety and depression.
Our China Women Equipping Center creates a safe and comfortable environment for women to help build their values and characters. My local team and I are very passionate about our mission and purpose. Beijing is our headquarters in China. We are planning to take three to six months to establish our business in Beijing and grow and expand to other major cities in China after that.

How can people connect with you?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

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