Every so often - I tend to sit in my office and think about terms like 'business', 'impact' and 'success'. I look at people who have made an impact or succeeded in following their dreams and often wonder why them - what makes them different? What do they have that I do not have?
The answer? Nothing!
Christopher Gardner (The focus of the movie - The Pursuit of Happyness) went from being homeless to a successful businessman by following his passions and not giving up. Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and John Paul DeJoria are three more people who come to mind who had visions that became household names in their perspective industries. These individuals started out from humble beginnings, but one thing they each have in common is they took a chance on themselves. Now be that it may - one can argue that they were at low points in their lives and the risk may not have been as significant because they had nothing else to lose.
These were ordinary people who had passion, drive and a no-quit attitude to see their dreams become a reality. They were not born with some extraordinary gift - they were not provided a 'halo' and given everything that they have today. Working hard at something like your dreams has its merits - sooner or later you will either become successful or walk away learning something that you did not know before. It’s about growth and evolving - constantly being aware of what you are doing, discovering what you have not done and working on what needs to be done.
'...Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.'
- Steve Jobs.
It does not take anything that a person does not already have to be successful whether it is at business, just providing impact and/or achieving a personal goal. Taking a vision, passion, or talent - developing it and constantly working on your craft is what makes a person successful. Ordinary people who worked diligently are the ones we read about, see on the magazine covers and talk about in business schools. Like Steve Job's quote above, a person does not have to have rocket scientist level genius to take an idea and make it become a disrupter that changes people’s lives. You need to have the inner drive and determination to see your goals through. Sometimes that drive is ignited by a circumstance that is experienced - like losing a job or it is ignited organically because you want to see your goals develop to something tangible. The most important aspect about success is to be relentlessly focused on the development, growth and sustainment of your goals and brand.
As I reflect on my own journey and the path that I have taken that led me to study for the Executive MBA at Saïd Business School. I realize that I am an ordinary person who had the grit to get after his goals. Many thought that I was crazy for wanting to pursue what most think of as a 'reach' school. In the United States, especially where I come from, Oxford is some far-off distant land and impossible to obtain admission, but most times what we reach for is very much within arm’s length or reachable with a little stretching. So why Oxford? For me, it’s not just about success from a monetary perspective, but success in the impact that I want to make at the highest levels in business.
It's so much more than a School, it's an experience.
Looking back on my educational experiences at West Point, University of Pennsylvania and now Oxford, I realize what a remarkable combination they are and in perspective how the journey continues to shape me. The practical critical thinking, leadership and engineering focus of the Military Academy paired with the deep intellectual fabric of Penn and Oxford: One taught me how to stay steadfast and find answers to tough, complex questions, another taught me the right questions to ask and the last one is combination of both while pushing my thinking.