Inspiration and creativity is all around us -- all you have to do is look for it.
I interact with hundreds of young business leaders a month. Through these interactions I'm constantly being asked for advice or feedback. Often I share the wisdom that I’ve learned from my mentors and my own experiences, but an additional source of guidance and inspiration that I like to share comes from great leaders throughout history.
Below I’ve highlighted six quotes from six different leaders that all entrepreneurs should know and apply to their businesses.
1. On conformity.
“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” -- John F. Kennedy, 35th U.S. President
Don’t copy what everyone else is doing. You don’t know what’s working for them. And just because it looks good from afar, in reality, it could be a mess behind the scenes. It can pay off to be different and unique. While some copycat businesses have seen profitable success, the true innovators always challenge the status quo and strive for progress.
2. On leadership.
“Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” -- Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th U.S. President
Great leaders gain support because they can effectively unite a group of people around their core values. Leadership is not about telling others what to do, but rather should be focused on getting others to follow you.
3. On achieving greatness.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” -- African Proverb
You can make money and find success as an individual, but if you want to achieve greatness and build something that lasts, then you must build trust within a team. The greatest companies in the world may have been founded by one or two people, but they were all built through dedicated team collaboration.
4. On customer service.
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology, not the other way around.” -- Steve Jobs, Co-founder, Apple
The customer is always right. You have to listen to the needs and demands of your customer at all times and build a product or service that they demand. You can spend all the money in the world, but if the customer doesn’t want what you’re selling, you’re going to fail.
5. On work ethic.
“If you’re working on the wrong problem, it doesn’t matter how hard you work at it.” -- Caterina Fake, Co-founder, Flickr
Working hard is important, but working smart is more valuable in the long run. It’s important to come up for air occasionally and gather feedback from trusted stakeholders to make sure you’re still working in the right direction. It’s very easy to get tunnel vision when you’re building a business and lose sight of the end goal. Don’t be afraid to stop to course correct and change direction if the product isn’t resonating in its current state. Being an entrepreneur means failing quickly and having the courage to rebuild frequently.
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” -- Andre Gide, Nobel Prize Laureate
If you want to be a change maker and innovator, you have to be ready to challenge the status quo and think differently. This generally means you have to be willing to take huge risks and be ready for people to laugh at you. I tell every young entrepreneur I meet that if people aren’t laughing at your goals then you’ve set them too low.