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The 6 Essential Things You Can’t Learn in Business School

| September 22, 2010 | 13 Comments

Success as an entrepreneur isn’t about rules, textbooks, or MBA’s. We know because many of the world’s most groundbreaking, successful businesspeople don’t even have a high school diploma.

Of course, that’s because they’re still in high school.

We interviewed 25 crazy-successful entrepreneurial kids — ages 12 to 23 — and they revealed the six traits that you really need to make big money doing what you love.

1. Support — Don’t Go it Alone

Adora Svitak has published two books, been featured on Good Morning America, and presented at the annual TED conference. Oh — and she’s 12 years old. Most middle schoolers are snotty and self-centered, but not Adora. She told us, “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of family encouragement – not just for me, but for everyone.

Farrhad Acidwalla is a 16-year-old college student in Mumbai, India. Between classes, he manages Rockstah Media, a full-scale marketing agency with over 20 international employees. How does he do it? Farrhad says, “My team is the backbone of the company. They give shape and form to my vision.”

It’s easy to get caught up in your own vision and the idea that entrepreneurs don’t need anyone but themselves to succeed. But entrepreneurship will throw you a lot of curve balls — and if you don’t have the support of friends, family, and team members, then it’s hard to have the courage to keep swinging.

2. Hard Work — Nobody Said it would be Easy

Emil Motycka started mowing lawns when he was nine years old. His senior year of high school, Motycka Enterprises pulled in $135,000, offering everything from lawn care to Christmas light installation. An overnight success? Kind of. Emil frequently works overnight, saying, “Sleep is for the weak. I sleep four hours a night on average.”

Andrew Fashion made $2.5 million by the time he was 21. By 22, he had lost it all (and then some). He told us all the sordid details, but we’re more interested in how he’ll claw his way back to the top: this year he’s writing an autobiography, an eBook on how to pick up women, and he’s launched beModel.com. Andrew’s advice: “If you slack on it, no one is going to believe it.”

No, entrepreneurship is not all unicorns, lollipops, and solid-gold hot tubs. Well — it is, but that part doesn’t come until later. In the meantime, don’t count on finding overnight success unless you’re ready to stay up overnight.

3. Passion — Love it or Leave it

Juliette Brindak’s brand for adolescent girls, Miss O and Friends, has been valued by Procter & Gamble at $15 million. That’s a pretty serious piggy bank for a 21-year-old college student. But money has always been secondary to passion: Juliette started Miss O because she wanted to help out girls when, “things start to get a little bit rough.”

Joe Penna was studying to become a cardiothoracic surgeon at the University of Massachusetts, when he dropped out to make YouTube videos. Crazy? Probably, but the 1.3 million subscribers he’s attracted as Mystery Guitar Man hint that he’s onto something. That something is passion: “If you think that you are going to love something, give it a try. You’re going to kick yourself in the butt for the rest of your life if you don’t.”

Every one of the 25 kids we interviewed is completely and totally in love with their business. If you think that’s a coincidence, then you’re crazier than Joe. Follow your passion, because a lackluster attitude can only create a lackluster business.

4. Perseverance — How to Take a Punch and Get Back Up

At 17, Sabirul Islam was shopping his memoir, *The World at Your Feet*, to major publishers in the UK. He got rejected — 40 times. Any normal human being would have given up at that point, but entrepreneurs don’t get the luxury of being normal. Sabirul self-published his book and promptly sold 42,000 copies in nine months.

Adam Horwitz is the 18-year-old who just launched Mobile Monopoly, an online product that earned a ridiculous $1.5 million in its first three days. The most amazing part: he still lives at home with his parents. Adam says, “I’ve failed at least 30 times with different websites and stuff… But, if I hadn’t failed all of those times, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now.”

The legend of King Midas is just that, a legend. If you expect everything you touch to turn to gold, then you’re going to become disillusioned in a hurry. Entrepreneurship requires falling down. Success requires getting back up.

5. Naivety — Because You Just Don’t Know Any Better

Imagine you’re a dyslexic 16-year-old who just dropped out of school. You would have to be pretty naive to think that you could find major success as a writer for blogs. Tell that to Michael Dunlop, the 21-year-old owner of IncomeDiary.com. He may not have a diploma, but Michael earns a healthy six figures a year writing for a living — spelling mistakes and all.

Catherine Cook and her brother started a social networking site, myYearbook.com, while they were still in high school. When an interested party offered the Cooks a few thousand dollars for their fledgling site, common sense suggests they should have jumped on the offer. Of course, they rejected it. Today, myYearbook.com boasts over 20 million members and $20 million in annual revenue.

Entrepreneurship and common sense don’t always get along. You can’t get to extraordinary success with ordinary thinking. So, the next time someone tells you that you’re being naive, take heart. That’s what they told Bill Gates, too.

6. Humility — No, You Don’t Know Everything

The sixth essential key to success is being humble enough to learn from the people who have already been there, done that, and lived to tell about it. The 25 kids we interviewed are successful because they’ve never stopped listening and learning.

Michael Dunlop confided in us, “You’ve got to stop doing all the things that people have tried, tested, and found out don’t work… Young people really know what’s going on and really are coming up with the best ideas and the best sites. If you don’t listen to them, you’re a fool.”

While we hope this article will help transform your entrepreneurial dreams into money-making realities, it’s only one sliver of a much bigger and more delicious pie. Unexpectedly, we’ve found that the most valuable and rare knowledge can’t be summarized in any list. It only really shines through in a more intimate, complete conversation.

For that reason we’re actually giving away the first chapter of our book, an interview with Adora Svitak, the world’s youngest TED Speaker. You’ll find out why Diane Sawyer calls Adora a “tiny literary giant” and the surprising way Adora reacted to rubbing elbows with Al Gore.

Go download your free chapter.

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Category: Startup Advice

  • http://twitter.com/ZackShapiro Zack Shapiro

    I’m a firm believe in “you’ve either got it or you don’t.” An MBA doesn’t make a great startup. I’m a journalism major doing this all in my spare time. I’ve learned so much and I’ve learned what I want to learn, not what’s on the curriculum. That’s part of the fuel behind by blog, The Startup Student.

  • http://twitter.com/ZackShapiro Zack Shapiro

    I’m a firm believe in “you’ve either got it or you don’t.” An MBA doesn’t make a great startup. I’m a journalism major doing this all in my spare time. I’ve learned so much and I’ve learned what I want to learn, not what’s on the curriculum. That’s part of the fuel behind by blog, The Startup Student.

  • http://epiclaunch.com Ben Lang

    Wow, what amazing stories. I’d love to read that book so badly… Looks incredible :)

  • Josue Izaul

    Really neat. Thanks

  • Fabiano

    Very nice article!

  • bruce
  • Pingback: The 6 Essentials Things You Can’t Learn In Business School « Jeff Zelaya

  • Zunnurain

    Very innovative and morale booster stories. The 21st generation of youngsters has been remarkable in achieving what the old wise folks couldn’t. Everyone should take a lesson from this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pieter-Spinder/629235512 Pieter Spinder

    Great stuff and at http://www.knowmads.nl we try to do this, real life, everyday! Thanx for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Watts-Resume/100001574288142 Watts Resume

    Don’t go it alone, totally good advice XD If you do, you’ll burn out!

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