What do you think of Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Tiger Woods and hundreds of others who have made it to the top, sometimes against all the odds?
You probably think they are smart, intelligent, great, masterful and I agree. I believe they probably are all those things you think of them and perhaps even more.
Now I want you to think of yourself. Do you think of yourself as having those same attributes or maybe more? Do you think you can do the things these icons have accomplished?
One of the laws of the universe is that everything must start somewhere, which usually means a small beginning. Take the biggest animals on land and in water, i.e. the elephant and the whale. They all start small and can even be killed by other animals.
Even a mighty river like the Amazon stared as a little stream, yet has become the roaring giant we know.
So, too every person who wants to become great must start small. Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and anybody else you can think of started small, and that start was characterized by a decision. The decision to change, to do things differently. This decision was followed by a series of actions which eventually led to, and culminated in the attainment of the goal.
Quality isn’t necessarily popular or immediately evident.
At the time the decision is taken it may not seem the right decision for others. In fact, the greatest success stories of our time were started by unpopular decisions. When Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard during his junior year and started what is today Microsoft, he was criticized by many as unwise. Of course today everybody hails it as a “great” move.
Will Smith turned down a scholarship to MIT to concentrate on his music career instead, and became a millionaire at 18. Quincy Jones turned down a VP position and became a legend.
Sabeer Bhatia turned down many offers from Microsoft against the wishes of his colleagues. Of course they too later agreed that it was a smart move.
When taking a decision one should remember that it is your life, not anybody else’s. So whatever decision you take should be based on what you think is the best decision, not on what others want.
I know it is difficult when you look up from where you are right now to where these icons are. All you see is this big gap and you become discouraged. The key here is to set yourself short term goals that are within reach.
Here is a little exercise you can do. Imagine yourself at the bottom of a series of stairs, while your goal is located on the top landing.
See each step on these stairs as a short-term goal. The first landing will be a decision to change your life. The second landing could be to put in writing what you want to achieve.
The third step could represent the plan, how you are actually going to go about accomplishing this goal. The plan itself can then be divided in a series of further short-term goals.
This could involve talking to knowledgeable people on the subject you are interested in or it could be writing a business plan or it could be finding out about places that offer project finance.
These are just suggestions, to help you come up with ideas of your own.
Every time you feel discouraged or a little afraid, go and read about your icons or heroes. How they started out. How they felt, when they were still at the bottom, the things they said and did.
If possible try and trace a childhood friend of one of your heroes and talk to him.
I’m sure that after doing that you will realize that these are just ordinary men and women like you and me, whose desire to accomplish their goals became bigger then their fear.
Hotmail co-founder Sabeer Bhatia recalls that during negotiations with Microsoft to buy Hotmail, he was invited to meet Bill Gates. Apparently he was very nervous, because he thought of Bill Gates as a superhuman. But during the interview he realized that Bill Gates was just a normal guy.
Here’s Bhatia, in his own words on Bill Gates: “His questions were normal strategy questions, the same things I had been asked by investors all along and it suddenly occurred to me that Bill Gates is not superhuman either, he is flesh and blood, same as me”.
So as you can see, those who are great today were once ordinary people like you and me. The only difference is, that they didn’t allow their fear or other people’s opinions to determine their future. If you follow their example, you too will soon become great.