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10 Clichés Every Ambitious Person Needs To Remember

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“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.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist

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(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.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by TheNextWeb.com as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taravelis/

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Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures

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Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@Spaceexecutive

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:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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