Moguls Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates famously dropped out of college. So did celebrities-turned entrepreneurs and activists Russell Simmons and George Clooney. Inventors James Watt, Thomas Edison, and the Wright Brothers were also largely self-taught.
Often, young entrepreneurs are so driven and excited to take the world by storm, they abandon conventional paths to success like a university education. Successful autodidacts are too numerous to list, and this is definitely not a suggestion to ignore higher education. On the contrary, it is a reminder that even if you take the road less travelled, you’ll need to remain in active pursuit of your own education.
Luckily, we live in an age that makes self-education easier than ever before. If you haven’t checked out TED talks, you’re doing yourself a disservice. These short to long presentations and speeches by famous or not-so-famous folks are an invaluable resource.
Here are a few of the best that are focused on young entrepreneurship:
Seth Godin: On the Tribes We Lead
Seth Godin may be considered a “demigod on the web,” his credentials speak for themselves. Before the best-selling author of the Purple Cow hit the big time, he started one of the first internet marketing firms, Yoyodyne, which was purchased by Yahoo in 1998. HE served as the vice president of permission marketing there. And in 2005, he launched Squidoo, a social sharing site.
And while Godin is expert at the ways of the web, he also has a way with words. In this speech, he discusses how the internet has changed the face of marketing. Since the inception of the web and social media, human beings — whom over years have evolved in tribes — have increasingly used their individual voices to share their values and ideas. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of Godin’s TED speeches. They are all extraordinary.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Do What You Love (No Excuses!)
Entrepreneur and bestselling author of Crush It!, Gary Vaynerchuk took his family business and transformed it into the Wine Library, where he drastically increasing its revenue. He then parlayed his wine expertise into a successful video blog and book deal, as well as his own consulting firm.
Feeling uninspired or a bit worn down? Have a look at Vaynerchuk and feel the excitement welling up inside of you. He found a niche he was passionate about and absolutely dominated it. His enthusiasm is contagious and his advice is practical and inspiring.
Related: Social-Media Maven Amy Jo Martin on Working Hard and Being a Renegade
John Gerzema: The Post Crisis Consumer
John Gerzema has helped shaped the branding strategies of high-profile companies like BMW, United Airlines and McDonald’s, just to name a few. His detailed data-analysis techniques combined with his miles of experience give him a unique perspective. Plus, he truly is an expert when it comes to the North American advertising model.
In this TED talk, Gerzema discusses the implications of the economic recession. How can you, as a young entrepreneur, change your game to reflect the every-shifting economic playing field? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Dan Cobley: What Physics Taught Me About Marketing
One word: Google. Cobley moved from being the vice president of marketing for Capitol One to the director of marketing for northern and central Europe at everyone’s favorite search engine and self-driving car company. He also has a passion for physics. Do you have a nerdy side that enjoys kicking back with a science book? Do you know what Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle is? Want to know what the Second Law of Thermodynamics has to do with marketing? Cobley will tell you.
This list merely scratches the surface. What are some of your favorite TED talks? Let us know with a comment.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.