Tech Billionaires – Luck or Hard Work?
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Tech Billionaires – Luck or Hard Work?

Great visionaries of our age like Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Jack Ma proceeded to hustle, work 16-hour days, and never stopped learning and improving themselves. A teaspoon luck, of course, has also played a part in their success stories, but is too much emphasis put on luck and is enough emphasis put on grit and determination?

Jack Ma

Jack Ma founder and Chairman of the Alibaba Group has built the e-commerce firm into a behemoth and is currently Asia’s richest man with a fortune of nearly $35.5 B.

This self-made billionaire taught himself English, was rejected by several universities and became a teacher before he ‘struck gold’ in 1999, the year he founded Alibaba in his tiny apartment in Hangzhou. He believes that leaders should have higher grit and tenacity and be able to endure what their employees can’t.

His approach to work?

“If we go to work at 8 a.m. and go home at 5 p.m., this is not a high-tech company and Alibaba will never be successful. If we have that kind of 8-to-5 spirit, then we should just go and do something else.”

His advice is to stay hungry and follow your dreams. “I always believe we have to think about what we should do in[the next] ten years. We [have] success today because we had a dream 15 years ago. Fifteen years ago we believed the Internet could house small business.”

Elon Musk

Circumstances played a significant role in Musk’s path to success. His father was an engineer who made Musk work with him since the age of 14. He also provided the startup capital for Musk’s first business and one has to acknowledge his personal qualities, habits and skills developed since childhood which are an inseparable part of his success.

However, it was evident that Musk was commitment to continuous learning, and a serious reading. By age 8 he was said to have read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica because there were ‘no more books left in the library to read.’

Musk was not a stranger to hard work was prepared to do odd jobs like shoveling dirt in a boiler room and cold-calling hiring managers looking for work to get a job.  Whilst developing PayPal him and his partner only had rent money for office space. The office doubled as their accommodation and they would shower at the local gym, often working through the night. He never let failures hold him back and he showed massive perseverance despite numerous setbacks and criticism.

Bill Gates

At 39 Bill Gates was the richest man on earth. Was it family, luck or personality that shaped his destiny?

Gates himself points out, that while luck, circumstances and timing play a part in one’s life they and are not something one can control, he says there are many who have them, but don’t make use of them. From age 8 Gates had access to a computer at his school where he would work for hours and hours learning and creating.  As an entrepreneur he was known for working 16-hour days, and never stopped learning and improving himself. He reads one book a week and has a strong belief that the way we think impacts our success.

Gates meeting Paul Allen and Steve Jobs along the way, is of course ‘lucky,’ but working hard and preparing yourself enables you to grab a hold of opportunity when it is presented, and that part is under our control.

But is it true? Is a will to succeed and work ethic the primary ingredient that separates those who rise economically and those who don’t?

My views…

I don’t believe there is any one stand-alone factor that guarantees success.  Hard work will only get you so far, if circumstances aren’t amenable or if your business plan is weak hard work will just get you down the wrong road faster.

There are many factors that play a part in success; privilege, education, skills, vision and ‘luck.’ In my life it has been a combination of many factors that have helped me to achieve my dreams. In the past success was achieved through hard work. But in today’s volatile environment it I believe it is those who work smart and hard, who will achieve their goals. Ultimately, it is about how prepared you are and how you apply yourself, invest in yourself, and to look out for opportunities that present themselves on a continuous basis. Successful businesses today are those that resonate with current challenges and opportunities. Success is defined as perseverance through failure and challenges. I say this because there is always a greater chance of failure than success. Therefore persevering through failure will undoubtedly lead to success!

I have to concur with Jack Ma that to change the world, we need to invest in the youth.

“The secret here is helping those who want to be successful,” Ma said. “Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big. Young people will have the seeds you bury in their minds and when they grow up they will change the world.” Jack Ma