How 14 Successful Entrepreneurs Discovered Their Life Purpose
YEC (Young Entrepreneur Council) surveyed some folks about how Millennial Entrepreneurs found their purposes in life. Here are their responses.
Q: How did you discover your purpose in life, and how do you integrate that into your current organization?
1. Having Backstage Access from an Early Age
My first job was at a radio station at age 16. Meeting many of my favorite rockstars not only spoiled me from ever having a “real” job, it also taught me how powerful a connection to your idol can be. Since then, I’ve been driven to help connect fans with the artists they love. ZinePaks are designed to help fans feel like they KNOW their favorite artists, even if they haven’t met them in person.
In high school and college, I spent much of my time starting organizations and building gadgets because it’s what I derived the most happiness from. I realized that my purpose in life was building. The builder attitude is reflected in our teammates’ activities at Enplug. We’ve built an app market and operating system for digital displays. We even built our own desks from planks of wood!
Three years ago, I found out I had cancer. I went through chemo and radiation to get well. I spent many, many hours in bed thinking about what I would do once I beat the beast. The one thing I discovered is that no one can hurt YOU. You control the direction of your life. Cancer showed me that I am in charge and that the moments make up the magic, not the other way around. Be real, be honest.
4. Seeing Limited Access to Opportunity Growing Up
As the child of Ghanaian immigrants who wouldn’t have made it to the U.S. nine times out of 10 save for their education and a bit of good fortune, I knew I would do something in education to help people. Admit.me scratches the itch to improve those odds for anyone looking to improve their education and resulting position in life. We are trying to rid the role that chance plays in success.
It took me 2.5 decades to realize that being a connector was a gift. It was always the thing I did most naturally, looking at the world as a puzzle to help connect similar pieces. I ended up starting a company that is based on the backbone of valuable connections. It is also fundamental to every aspect of my life, as relationships are the cornerstone of success.
Purpose in life is not something that can be theorized. It is discovered through meaningful trial and error to identify what truly motivates you and makes you happy. Get out of your comfort zone, try many new things and challenge yourself. Once you identify your calling, own it. Pour your heart and soul into it and naturally others will follow.
I discovered my passion for startups and creating something from nothing by being curious all the time and pursuing those curiosities. My path was definitely not straight, nor deliverable, but after trying a few things, it was clear to me that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. We try to foster curiosity and encourage team members to be creative and try new things.
I realized fairly early in my life that my greatest joy came from the relationships I built with family, friends and colleagues. I decided whom I wanted to start a business with before I actually knew what kind of business I wanted to start, and it’s no coincidence that we decided to build a product that helps people connect in a meaningful way.
I started my first business when I was just 14, and was in foster care a year later. I had an undeterred level of determination to achieve my goals and I share this story with others to help them achieve theirs. I dedicate time each year to help mentor others in understanding that it’s not their physical or environmental limitations that stop them from being successful, but their internal drive.
Five years ago, I never would have guessed that I wouldn’t be working at a PR agency today, much less that I would have started my own business creating events in the skydiving industry. I’ve been a people pleaser all my life, and I’ve chosen to focus on the positive side of that trait and build a business around creating a welcoming atmosphere that can make skydivers very happy.
11. Roadtripping Around the Country, Interviewing People in an RV
Coming out of college, I was unsure about my career path as an accountant. So I decided to roadtrip around the country in an RV to interview successful people about their career paths. 16,000 miles, 38 states, 300+ interviews and 50+ press appearances later, I experienced and stumbled upon the power of an effective marketing campaign. Hitting the road inspired me to start an Internet marketing company.
Growing up gay in suburban Ohio gave me two options: a) be a victim or b) be a victor by educating away ignorance. I chose option B and learned how impactful information is. At Killer Infographics, we use visual communication to spread important information. In the right hands, infographics impact positive change, so we have donated over $500K of services to nonprofits, helping them do exactly that.
I discovered my purpose in life by determining who I am, what I stand for and the vision I have. Then I made an action plan of what to do to make that vision happen. The values I stand for, live for, fight for and die for are the same values that flow through my company. Everything I do ties back to everything that I am, and that is living true purpose. That is what I call, Do Your Be.
You’re suppose to surround yourself with great mentors and people. I didn’t have access to that, so I started reading. Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss and Brian Tracy became my mentors and they didn’t even know it. I took bits and pieces of perspective from all of these authors to shape my purpose and values. I integrated it into our company by buying books for the company library for whoever wants them.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective (http://businesscollective.com), a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.