The image of the successful business tycoon is part of the American dream. Growing up, we are often told that if we want to be a success and are willing to work hard, we can achieve anything. After becoming adults we soon discover that it’s not that simple. There are a lot of people who want to be a success and have the willingness to work hard, but only a handful of these people achieve all that they envision. So, what separates the most successful people from those that fail to achieve their lofty childhood goals? Surprisingly, it isn’t education, it isn’t luck, and it isn’t some magical formula for how to succeed in business. The business tycoons of our society have been able to achieve success because of certain “tycoon traits” they possess that others don’t.
Being a visionary is probably the most important of all the tycoon traits. One primary reason people are unable to discover how to succeed in business is because they simply do not have a vision of the future. Visionaries must have vivid imaginations in order to see where the future is going before it arrives. This doesn’t mean visionaries just sit around all day dreaming up things. A true visionary must be able to formulate the concrete steps of action to take in order to attain or effect the future they clearly see. In this generation, probably no one person exemplified being a visionary more than Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was a college dropout who went on to co-found Apple Inc., and had an uncanny ability to envision many of the products his customers wanted - without direct consumer input. While not an electronic engineer or programmer himself, Jobs was able to assemble teams of talented individuals to build the things he imagined. Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple developed popular consumer products such as the Apple II, several versions of Macintosh computers, the iPod, iPad, and iPhone. Jobs also played a key role in the development of Pixar Studios, which was eventually acquired by Disney Studios for over $7 billion dollars.
The second most important tycoon trait needed in order to succeed is the ability to stay focused. Being focused involves the ability to set aside all other distractions. If we prioritize what needs to be done, set aside distractions and put the appropriate time and effort into our work, we can achieve the best results in the shortest time. Many people think of Bill Gates as an example of how to succeed in business. Gates attributes his success to his ability to put in deep, ‘distraction-free’ work until he achieves his goals. The persistent hours Gates spent programming and writing code while at Harvard led to the founding of Microsoft. Gates has now redirected his focus toward finding solutions for global problems through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Open-mindedness is probably the most difficult of the four tycoon traits to acquire in your quest for success. Hardly anyone would confess to being close-minded, yet many people don’t really understand what “open-mindedness” truly means. To many, it simply means open to new ideas, willing to consider new approaches, listening to suggestions and/or able to accept constructive criticism. In part, this might be true, but according to Anthony K. Tjan, CEO and Founder of Cue Ball, a Venture Capital Group, being open-minded is also about being more ‘self-aware’ of your limitations and weaknesses so that you can constantly improve yourself. If open-mindedness requires ‘self-awareness’ and being self-aware means knowing your limitations & weaknesses, then for many, true “open-mindedness” may be beyond our grasp. Why? Well, it is said that you must experience failure in order to initially determine and/or define your “limits”. If you ask any athlete or motocross rider, they’ll tell you to pursue a series of progressive goals, each more ambitious than the previous. However, many of us lack the courage to venture beyond our level of comfort or experience. We fear that once outside our ‘comfort-zone’ we’re vulnerable, and we’re correct. However, this is exactly how we are most likely to become self-aware of our ‘weaknesses’. In fact, it’s those weaknesses that lead us to establish our limitations. After all, limits are usually defined as the ultimate point of failure. Ironically, failure is the corner-stone in building for success! It’s what separates the Tycoons from the Try-foons. Only through failure can we truly discover if we’re ‘open-minded’, for it is ‘open-mindedness’ that gives rise to optimism and hope. They in turn fuel perseverance and that, combined with a healthy dose of humility and ‘self-awareness’, is what ultimately empowers us to achieve and appreciate success!
The final of the four tycoon traits that people need to be a success is a willingness to take risks. People go to great lengths to avoid taking risks in business due to the cost associated with failure. But many of those who have succeeded, were first willing to fail. In fact, many successful tycoons say there is no true success without failure. Amazon’s Founder & CEO, Jeff Bezos knows firsthand the importance of risk taking. He recently told a group of students at the Bezos Center for Innovation; “Without a willingness to fail, you cannot innovate because most innovations won’t work.” Bezos doesn’t stress over short-term consequences if something fails. In fact, Amazon’s CEO continues to take risks despite the fact that Amazon has lost billions of dollars in failed experiments. That’s because Jeff knows that gains from one success can greatly outweigh the losses of many failures. Bezos’ risk-taking has certainly paid off, as he recently surpassed Warren Buffet to become the third wealthiest man in the world. These four are not an exhaustive list of the traits you need to be successful in business, but considering some of the most successful tycoons in American history share these traits, you might want to consider adopting them in your own pursuit of The American Dream.