Success

Aaron Sansoni - Jack Ma Header

Think Like Spotlight: Jack MA

560 315 Aaron Sansoni

This month’s entrepreneur spotlight is one of inspiration and perseverance. It is the story of Jack Ma, a 54-year old Chinese businessman worth approximately US$34.7 billion. He hasn’t always been a success story, however. Jack Ma grew up very poor and suffered a great deal of rejection prior to his rise to fame.

Claim to Fame: Alibaba Group

Entrepreneurial History:

Ma began his career with a visit to the United States in 1995. It was here that some friends introduced him to the internet. Ma was immediately fascinated and perplexed. He couldn’t find any websites relating to China during his online searches. Recognizing an opportunity, he created one that would attract several investors in the span of a few hours. He set out to create a Chinese internet company but, unfortunately, this attempt (and the next one) would fail.

Four years later, in 1999, Jack Ma would host the meeting that began the company responsible for his success: Alibaba Group. The company would be the Chinese equivalent of a modern-day Amazon — an online marketplace of sorts. Ma and 17 of his friends worked hard and by October of 1999, they had raised more than USD$25 million to be used for the improvement of World Trade Organization challenges.

Alibaba would continue to experience growth throughout the early 2000s and actually became profitable in 2002 but they were not unchallenged. eBay had appeared on the scene and although Alibaba attempted to keep up with their own version called Taobao, the competition was proving fierce. Eventually, Taobao would attract the attention of eBay and an offer to purchase would be made. Jack Ma, a businessman at heart, rejected the offer choosing to partner with another investor instead.

Yahoo agreed to invest USD$1 billion in exchange for a 40% share in Jack Ma’s company. This move would prove to be the catalyst that propelled Alibaba into fame. Ma would remain CEO of the Alibaba Group over the next eight years. He stepped down in 2013 but remained an integral part of the company as he took on the role of executive chairman.

In 2014, the company went public which is significant for two reasons. First, it created the “largest offering for a US-listed company in the history of the New York Stock Exchange.” Second, it made Jack Ma the richest man in China, although this particular title would be temporary.

Jack Ma’s entrepreneurial story demonstrates the importance of perseverance and a positive attitude. He did not let more than 20 job rejections and 2 failed entrepreneurial ventures beat him. He kept going.

Today, Jack Ma is devoted to entertainment, philanthropy, and trade.

Aaron Sansoni - Don't Read Success Stories Header

Why You Shouldn’t Read Success Stories

560 315 Aaron Sansoni

Success stories are earning themselves a rather poor reputation on the world wide web. Many people devour them in an attempt to glean some sort of recipe or checklist for success. They are then disappointed to find narration instead of instruction and there is a perfectly good reason for this. Success stories motivate, but they don’t activate.

Motivation occurs when you are inspired to do something great. It’s activation, however, that teaches you how to take action. This is exactly why several success stories turn out to be a disappointment for readers. Sure, they are interesting reads. Sure, they motivate you temporarily. But, they leave with you no heading. No direction. No instruction. No idea what to do next.

Individuals that are truly ready to take control of their lives and improve their daily reality shouldn’t read success stories. They should read stories that teach lessons instead. When you log online or head to the nearest shopping center to choose your next entrepreneurial help book, keep the following 3 things in mind:

  1. Everyone’s story is different. You’ll never be able to replicate a success story in its entirety. Your circumstances are different. Your background is different. You are different.
  2. Inspiration is great but activation is better. Look for books that give you useful pieces of advice and small action items you can take to begin your journey. You don’t want a story. You want information you can use.
  3. Every good lesson requires notetaking. If the book you choose doesn’t automatically include a place for you to scribble down your thoughts and outline relevance to your own life, then it’s probably not meant for action.

So what kind of books should you read?

Whether your an entrepreneur, a businessman, or a salesperson, if you want to make progress you need to read sources that are designed to guide you. Look for books that include tools for progress and examples on how to use them. Find a book that allows you to draw parallels from the lessons that it spells out for you.

You already know that Think Like is different, and I encourage you to read it as an example of how a success story can be repurposed into something useful and activational. Once you have an idea of what that looks like, you’ll be better prepared to choose books that will help you make progress on your journey.

Aaron Sansoni - Bill Gates Header

Think Like Spotlight: Bill Gates

560 315 Aaron Sansoni

The entrepreneur featured in this month’s Think Like Spotlight is the second-richest person in the world as of August 2018. He has a net worth of $95.4 billion and his name is recognized in households around the world. Read along as we briefly cover the interesting entrepreneurial history of one Bill Gates.

Claim To Fame: Microsoft Corp.

Entrepreneurial History:

Gates developed an interest in computers and programming in the eighth grade. He attended a private prep school that was able to purchase an early terminal and computer time for students. Gates immediately took to the machine. When he no longer had access to the school computer, he pursued access via the Computer Center Corporation (CCC). It wasn’t long before Bill Gates engaged in his first business transaction, working out a deal with the CCC to identify system bugs in exchange for additional, free computer time.

Bill’s adeptness with computer technology was quickly identified, and he began to receive programming opportunities which he accepted with gratitude. His first real venture came in 1972. Gates partnered with Paul Allen on Traf-O-Data, a company that utilized the Intel 8008 processor to produce traffic counters.

In 1975, Gates left Harvard to once again work with Paul Allen. This time they were developing and distributing a BASIC interpreter for Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) in New Mexico. They had their own office and referred to themselves as Micro-Soft. It took less than a year for the company to drop the hyphen and officially register with the State of New Mexico. Legal disputes over payments for the general use of software eventually caused Microsoft to split from MITS and seek headquarters in Bellevue, Washington.

The eighties would see Bill Gates lead Microsoft through a series of strategic partnerships that would propel the company into the famous technology stratosphere. A two-part deal with Seattle Computer Products and IBM resulted in the widely-known MS-DOS system and initiated the success. Gates’ company would go on to produce some of the most popular computer software of the century.

Ever the entrepreneur, Bill Gates is devoted to reinvesting his fortune. Some he donates to philanthropic efforts through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he created in 2000. Some in invests in other profitable businesses in the hospitality and entertainment industries.  He has also authored two books:

  • The Road Ahead in 1995 (Co-authored by Nathan Myhrvold and Peter Rinearson)
  • Business @ The Speed of Thought in 1999

Bill Gates began his slow transition from full-time tech entrepreneur to full-time philanthropist in 2006. He remained as Chairman of Microsoft until 2014. Today, Bill Gates currently serves as a technology advisor to CEO Satya Nadella.

Aaron Sansoni - How To Read Header

How To Read Think Like

560 315 Aaron Sansoni

I’ve said time and time again that reading Think Like is different than reading other books and this time I’m being literal. The way you actually read Think Like should be different. There’s no right or wrong way, of course, but there is most certainly a recommended way to take in all that this compilation of success has to offer entrepreneurs.

Read for Inspiration

The first time you read Think Like should feel very much like reading any other inspirational tale. Allow yourself to take in the information being presented to you at your own pace. Read with the intention of understanding and without the distraction imposed by the desire to get started right away. When we’re in a hurry, it’s easy to miss some of the most important details.

By reading Think Like as you would a regular book that isn’t about to change your life, you’ll better appreciate the incredible feats of some of the centuries leading entrepreneurs. Their tales of success will enthrall, captivate, and motivate you. In fact, it may make you want to read it a second time…and that’s where the fun starts!

Read to Take Notes

Your second time reading Think Like should be more of an educational experience. Use highlighters. Take notes. Dog ear pages. Your intent should be to identify the lessons that are most relevant to you. Determine which entrepreneurs experiences align with your own goals. Think about the key takeaways of each entrepreneur and record your thoughts and ideas in the Notes sections conveniently provided at the end of each chapter.

Don’t worry. I’ll help point you in the right direction along the way. The important part of this round is to collect and compile the information that can be used in your own life.

Read to Create an Action Plan

The third time you read Think Like will be life-changing. This is where you are going to create the plan that will propel you into a new stratosphere of entrepreneurial thinking. Use the inspiration you’ve acquired, the notes you’ve taken, and the advice I’ve given to evoke action. Apply the lessons to your own life and condense your favorite ones into actual, achievable steps you can take on your own. This is the part of the book that you have control over.Then, if you stick to your action plan and really work to change the way you think, the next time you pick up Think Like it may be as a fond memory of what started your journey to success.  

Aaron Sansoni - Think Light Spotlight Steve Jobs Header

Think Like Spotlight: Steve Jobs

560 315 Aaron Sansoni

This month’s Think Like Spotlight covers the entrepreneurial basics of one of the greatest tech entrepreneurs of our time: Steve Jobs. The California native successfully leveraged relationships, technology, and business to create an empire that is a relevant part of the modern world to this day.

Claim To Fame: Apple Inc., Pixar

Entrepreneurial History:

Many recognize Steve Jobs as co-founder of Apple Inc., but few actually realize how long the company has been in business. Prior to iPhones and modern MacBooks, Jobs and co-founder Steve Wozniak joined forces to sell the first Apple I computer. The year was 1976.

Unlike many of the entrepreneurial success stories featured in Think Like, Steve Jobs did not begin his career as an entrepreneur very early on. In fact, he spent most of his earlier years traveling the globe and experimenting with various cultural beliefs and practices. It wasn’t until 1974, when Steve Jobs returned from his travels, that he began to leverage his friendship with Wozniak for employable reasons.

The two intellects worked together behind-the-scenes while Jobs maintained a position at Atari, utilizing Wozniak’s expertise in exchange for compensation when necessary. When Wozniak invented the Apple I computer in 1976, it was Jobs’ idea to sell it— his first real entrepreneurial pursuit at the age of 21. With innovation, technology, and a lot of investment solicitation on Jobs’ part, the entrepreneur was worth roughly $1 million dollars by the time he was 23. Apple would continue to grow and expand, as would the entrepreneurial ventures of Steve Jobs.

In 1985, Steve set out to establish NeXT Inc., a technology-based computer/software company. NeXT would struggle on and off for several years before the release of NeXTSTEP/Intel in 1993. Eventually, the software company would create enough innovative waves to solicit the attention of none other than Apple Inc. Apple acquired NeXT in 1997, a move that returned Jobs to Apple Inc. where he would remain until 2011.  

During his time at NeXT, Steve also spent a good deal of time nurturing the artistic side he had developed during his early years. He provided a computer graphics division of Lucasfilm $10 million in funding to initiate a “spinout” in 1986— half for capital and half for technology rights. The group would eventually partner with Disney to create their very first film. The film was released in 1995. It credited Steve Jobs as the executive producer and became an instant classic in the industry. The film’s name? Toy Story.

Steve Jobs would continue to nurture the relationship with Disney over the next decade until a contract expiration served as the catalyst for a falling-out in 2004. Jobs took Pixar elsewhere for a brief span of time but rekindled the partnership when the Disney chief executive was replaced. In 2006, Jobs struck a deal that would give him control of 7% of Disney shares in an “all-stock transaction worth $7.4 billion.” The transaction would result in Disney’s purchase of Pixar.

Aaron Sansoni - Think Like Spotlight Richard Branson Blog Header

Think Like Spotlight: Richard Branson

560 315 Aaron Sansoni

When you read Think Like you are not just reading another self-help book. You are reading over 20 different roadmaps to success. Perhaps one of the most non-traditional roadmaps in the book is that of a well-known entrepreneur from England: Sir Richard Branson.

Claim To Fame: Virgin Group

Entrepreneurial History

Like many other entrepreneurs, Richard Branson developed an early interest in entrepreneurship. In fact, he was just 16 years old when he embarked on his first business venture in 1966: a magazine called Student. With the magazine as his medium, Branson was able to interview and interact with some of the most influential musical names at the time. He also utilized the magazine to sell discounted versions of popular records. It was this success that sparked his first brick and mortar business — Virgin Record Stores.

Virgin started out simple enough. Richard and his business partners were merely selling records after all. But the money was good and the interest was there so, in 1972, Richard Branson launched the very first Virgin Records label. Virgin Records would remain a part of Branson’s repertoire until 1992 when he sold it for £500 million to assist in maintaining another of his more prominent business ventures: Virgin Atlantic Airways.

The airline company was formed in 1984 after a flight Richard was scheduled to be on was canceled. Rather than change his plans, the entrepreneur decided to charter his own plane and offer a ride to the rest of the would-be passengers for a reasonable sum. The company received enough public support and attention to worry other key industry players like British Airways.

Later, Richard would expand his travel interests, which already included air (Virgin Atlantic) and earth (Virgin Trains), to space with the creation of Virgin Galactic. This particular subset of the Virgin group is preparing to offer space tours to the general public.

Always looking to diversify, Branson had also established media group Virgin Mobile in 1999. He owned roughly 75% of the company until 2006 when he executed a sale that would effectively merge the mobile group with a tv/broadband/telephone company called NTL: Telewest. Virgin Mobile “sold” for almost £1 billion, and Richard still owns 15% of the new, merged entity.

The Virgin Group (and Richard Branson) would go on to control more than 400 companies. Some were considered extremely successful, others less so. What’s most important is that Richard’s entrepreneurial brain never stops spinning. He is unafraid to diversify, and he is unafraid to fail. And, in true Richard fashion, he is unafraid to vocalize his thoughts on several modern-day issues like environmentalism and global warming, thereby creating the thin level of transparency valued by modern consumers.

Be sure to pick up a copy of Think Like to learn more about the mindset and practices that enabled Richard Branson to build the Virgin empire.