When you look at a group of great basketball players, you can very well see that they share similar traits, such as: height, speed, agility, power, and court-sense – all of the traits that make them great. Of course, not all traits are prerequisites for becoming a great basketball player – there are some fantastic players that are not as tall, fast or powerful. Regardless, there seems to be an intangible common thread between many of the greatest players.
I was determined to find a different kind of common thread when I decided to book a flight to New York City to attend the Thiel Foundation Summit, an event for the world’s most impressive young minds.
The Thiel Foundation was started by Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal (as well as an early investor in Facebook and the CEO of venture capital investment firm Founders Fund), to encourage more breakthrough innovation and to question the status quo of higher education.
I was curious to see how, at such a young age, these kids (for lack of a better word) were already gaining traction in the world of business. I have met hundreds of entrepreneurs, but I haven’t yet been able to pinpoint the common thread between them. I was desperate to get to the bottom of this. I figured by looking at young entrepreneurs, I would more easily be able to pinpoint the traits that predisposed them to success… as if they had inherent ‘success’ genes.
So what was the common thread between all of them?
After charging my credit card for a plane ticket to New York, I decided I would make it my goal to find the answer. Just like it is obvious that great basketball players have good ball control, I expected to find a motivated group of teens hungry for success – and I did. But, I wanted to dig deep beyond the obvious.
A Room Full of Young, Successful Contrasts
For every young entrepreneur who claimed that he or she had done very well in school, I met someone who admitted that he or she had received very poor grades (some even failed out).
I met many who were encouraged to pursue their dreams by their supportive parents. So inevitably, I imagined parental background played a role in these teens’ early starts and successful entries into entrepreneurship. But, that theory was soon overturned after I met somebody who was disdained by his middle-class parents for pursuing a rather uncertain career path instead of becoming a doctor (which is quite similar to my own story).
School was hard for me; I did not fit in with the normal crowd. In and of itself, the acknowledgement that I was inherently “different” harnessed my desire to create my own job as an entrepreneur and build upon my creative spirit. In the process, I met a lot of other entrepreneurs who were different, interesting, and also felt that they did not fit in with the average crowd. I thought I had pinpointed at least one commonality. But, I was proven wrong yet again when I met a group of entrepreneurs whom I hadn’t met yet up until that point (since they were so busy mingling with others). This group identified themselves as the popular type; they had a lot of friends and had no trouble fitting in throughout childhood.
This process continued: I would identify one trait as a potential source of commonality, but then had to throw away the theory after meeting someone who was an exception to the rule. I met people who started at different ages (some as early as ten). Many hated routine, while others relied on structure. Some wished they had a broader skill set, while many complained about not being amazing at any one particular skill. A variety of different motives were represented amongst the students, including: accumulating financial wealth, having an impact, or pursuing a passion. Some were idealistic dreamers, while others were die-hard realists. And maturity levels varied from one end of the mature spectrum to the other.
I realized that the entrepreneurs and change makers I met this past weekend represented not just one type of person; they were as similar as they were different. They came in all shapes and sizes, and they were from various different backgrounds. So, what was the common thread between them? Out of the millions of young people in the world, why were these specific people selected to come to the Thiel Foundation Summit?
I was disheartened because I did not find a clear answer to these questions, but I was also relieved. Relieved because I realized there is no limiting factor required for being an entrepreneur, a scientist, or a change-maker. Just about anyone could have been there in the room.
That’s when it hit me: the common thread was obvious. These young minds were not predisposed to success because of a high IQ or successful parents. They were there because each of them had an idea and did not wait for a college degree, the right connections, or the right time to turn it into something real. They had the courage to take a leap and act on their ideas. They were chosen to be at the Thiel Foundation Summit because they were all doers.
That’s how entrepreneurship starts: by doing. It’s as simple as that.
Yeah buddy! I think someone has a future in blogging.
Thanks Fletcher. I really appreciate your support!
incredible! a think a book will follow
haha. You are too kind Jared. I don’t know if I have enough material for a book yet!
You never know what you can get away with until you try. I love it, man!
That’s absolutely right AJ! I appreciate the response.
Inspiring, Ro. Love the post and can’t wait for future posts!
Well Thank you Eric! Really appreciate the read, there will be more to come, stay tuned!
Steps forward Romain! Keep your focus.
Appreciate it Jeremy, as I’m sure you know, focus is key. It’s not always as easy as it seems, I have definitely been victim of not focusing enough…
Great stuff Romain! Awesome start to your blogging career. 🙂
Thank you Phil! I aspire to be as good of a blogger as you someday!
Great post, Romain – I really enjoyed your observations interwoven through your narrative.
I’m in 100% agreement that everyone you met is a “do-er” and that this is a thread of commonality between entrepreneurs. Another underlying point of commonality that I see in your experience at the summit is that each young entrepreneur is unique. If there were more similarities between all these young entrepreneurs, they wouldn’t have the unique perspectives and motivations to create great companies. Yes, it’s important to be a do-er, but it’s critical to be unique in what you’re doing. (Unique being defined loosely in this context. i.e. unique work ethic, unique idea, unique network, etcetera.)
Eagerly looking forward to your next post, Romain!
Excellent point Eugene! As an entrepreneur looking for success, I have had the track record of trying to pinpoint the traits that make people successful (or the common traits of successful people, if you will), but maybe the secret lies is in analyzing the differences between those who have achieved considerable success! Perhaps and idea for the next blog post…?
What a great post! Also I would like to add that most educated people that feel like they are not amazing at one skill have this thing called “Impostor Syndrome”. Where they think they are a fraud and not good enough. Well do not fear, 70% of educated people have this. You are not alone. It is actually an amazing thing to have because it keeps you hungry for more knowledge and it also keeps arrogance at bay. Kudos Romain.
Wow. Otto, Thanks for the insight! I definitely did not know about that statistic! But I guess, in the grand scheme of things, It makes sense. I can definitely attest to the fact that I sometimes feel like I am not good enough. So I try harder! Now that I know the secret, I might allow myself to relax, pop some popcorn and watch a movie 😉