Hard work, dedication and comfort. This triad of personal qualities is an integral part of the equation for success. However, if you’re looking to take your success to the next level—if you want to truly disrupt an industry with your product, or reach the number one spot on the charts, sometimes those three things aren’t enough on their own. To stand out in the sea of other entrepreneurs, artists, and businessmen, you need to have an edge. You must break free from conventional methods, and, at times, flow against the grain. Creativity must flourish. Risks must be made. Although this type of approach can seem counterintuitive and challenging, the payoff can prove to be world-changing.
Steve Jobs and Apple
Steve Jobs is an archetypal example of someone who decided to carve his own path to success. He did not adhere to the conventional blueprints of life, and because of this, his ideas revolutionized modern technology. At the beginning of his journey, Steve Jobs found himself in the typical college setting. Soon, however, he decided that taking required classes disinterested him, so he dropped out. During this time, Jobs found himself at the bottom—sleeping in his friends’ dorm rooms, collecting coke cans for money, and struggling just to get by. But these adversities did not break his spirit.
He worked at Atari for a while to hone his technological skills, took a break to find himself spiritually, and then returned to his old job. At this point, he could have stayed at Atari, working underneath someone else like so many do, but Steve Jobs saw the bigger picture. He knew he was capable of beating the system with his creative edge and prospective vision. With the help of Steve Wozniak, he would soon cofound a multinational brand which would eventually knit itself into the very fabric of history—Apple Inc.
Even though Jobs faced some personal trials after his initial success, he would go on to reach billionaire status, leaving behind his legacy as an international tech icon and business mogul. In the famous words of Drake, he started from the bottom, and now he’s here—in the form of the MacBook on your desk or the iPhone in your pocket. None of that would have been possible without his ability to break the mould and strive for something greater.
Making underwear fashionable
A similar story can be unearthed if we peer into the life of fashion designer Calvin Klein. Although his self-named brand is popular among the rich and famous, his clothing has become a commonality in millions of people’s closets. Because of his vision, he has grown a business worth billions. But how did he reach that point?
Like Steve Jobs, Klein moulded his vision around his passions, which involved fashion, art, and design. He began by immersing himself—learning every facet of the industry by working apprenticeships and attending fashion school. He never did graduate though, because he had plans that went far beyond the conventional path. Instead, after several years of working alongside other designers, he branched off and launched his own brand.
Risks were made. Early on, Klein tried to introduce cosmetics and fragrances alongside his clothing lines, but the monetary losses required the company to pull the products. But he continued experimenting, and eventually found his niche in comfortable designer underwear for men and women. This idea of his could have failed, but instead, it became the foundation for the brand leading into the 90s. Klein’s sporty boxer shorts not only proved to be iconic, but they also saved his brand from bankruptcy. Currently, Calvin Klein has a personal net worth of $700 million, and the right to say that he revolutionized the apparel industry.
What can be learned from these stories? How are these wildly successful icons relevant to the common man? Firstly, neither of these men made excuses. Even when they were at rock-bottom with no hope in sight, they took what they had, and made due. Their ideas were the blueprints to their visions, and their actions made them come to fruition. They replaced conventionality with creativity, innovation, and a desire to change the way people viewed things. And behold—that is exactly what they achieved.
Hard work was instrumental
Neither of them relied on luck. It’s easy to view these stories pessimistically, and claim that luck was the driving force for their success, but that is not the case. Thousands of hours were spent revising, creating, and producing. Thousands more were spent learning; becoming educated in their respective fields, and understanding what made a quality product. Hard work and dedication came first followed by a refusal to fit a specific mould.
And breaking the mould of conventionality may be the most important factor when learning from the greatest. It is difficult, if not impossible, to become iconic by living a life of mediocrity. You must have a unique edge to set yourself apart from others. Thinking outside of the box, although cliché in nature, becomes one of the most important skills you can develop. Creativity, alongside a proper work ethic, is a recipe for not only building dreams but seeing them come true.
With all of this in mind, ask yourself: am I equipped with that necessary edge factor? Am I ready to go against the grain despite the risks that lie ahead? If the answer is yes to both of these questions, you may be closer to success than you realise. Hone your skills, put in the work, and never stop dreaming.