Everyone dreams of success, and these days, everyone can read inspirational stories of success almost anywhere. But, motivation and action are completely different things – everyone has a dream, but how do some people make their dreams a reality? Today, we look at people’s rags to riches stories – and what it took to get through that journey in between.
Set a goal.
Do Won & Jin Sook Chang came to American soil looking for greener pastures. Coming from South Korea with nothing except a high school education, the couple toiled – Do Won working 24/7 from a coffee shop in the morning, a gas station in the afternoon, and a small office cleaning business that kept him up until the wee hours, and Jin Sook as a hairdresser.
Do Won saw that the wealthiest customers he pumped gas for came from the fashion industry, and that sparked his interest. Determined to learn the business in and out, he started work at a clothing store, keeping in mind the image of these prominent men in their luxurious cars he admired.
The couple opened their own small apparel store in L.A. using the $11,000 in savings they managed to come up with over the course of 3 years. They hit $700,000 in their first year, and expanded by opening a new one every 6 months. The humble beginnings of the Chang couple – with a little 900-square-foot store called Fashion 21 –claims billions of sales from over 700 locations in 48 countries, now better known as Forever 21.
Do Won had a dream, but he knew the dream wasn’t going to happen on its own. He wanted to succeed, but knew that success itself isn’t completely concrete. So he took the first step, the couple pooled what they could to make it happen, and every next step came after.
Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.
Howard Schultz is known as the driving force of success behind Starbucks, but not many know how he experienced poverty at an early age. At the age of 7, Schultz’s father – a truck driver – suffered an injury which would leave the family with no income, no health insurance, or worker’s compensation.
Living in the projects, he found an escape through sports in school. This would lead to him being awarded an athletic scholarship that he consequently let go of, finding his passion in communications – working part time jobs such as bartending, taking out student loans, and even selling his blood at times just to pay for school.
Being the first to graduate college in his family, he set out to work as a salesperson for Xerox, then working his way up to vice-president and general manager for Hammarplast. There, he would find himself on a trip to Italy, where he came across innovations that would change the café industry as we know it. Fast forward 30 years later, Starbucks is an industry gamechanger – from creative beverage concepts, to social change advocacies, and how it adamantly labels and treats its employees as “partners.”
But it wasn’t a smooth ride to the top. Schultz had to face several setbacks – from being short on funds and his ideas being rejected, to a point he left the company, and even branding and social responsibility campaigns that received backlash.
Schultz, however kept moving forward. He has been aware of his limitations since day one, whether it was his background, or his environment, and found niches to grow his potential instead of keeping his vision confined in a space where they wouldn’t propagate.
From school to corporate life – Schultz’s story proves that you can either choose to focus on what you can’t do, or find something you can, somewhere conducive, and do it well.
Consistency is key.
After a failed marriage, Joanne found herself jobless, with a dependent child. She was left with no choice but to survive on welfare. Diagnosed with clinical depression and contemplating suicide, she turned her focus onto a goal – an idea for a story she had one long train ride.
Despite countless rejections, she kept writing. In the face of so much uncertainty around her work, she kept speaking to literary agents until she found one, and hoped for the best to get the work published. Later, she would adopt a pen name upon advice that people may be less likely to patronize a woman’s work.
Better known as J.K. Rowling – she was the first person to achieve billionaire status from writing books, as declared by Forbes in 2004. From the one book that started it all, with only 1,000 copies – the Harry Potter franchise has evolved into seven books and eight movies, wildly popular worldwide among children and adults alike.
Rowling would often refer to the dark points of her life as feeling like a failure in countless interviews, but what can be seen is she rarely acted like one. Rowling knew that motivation does not come through reading someone else’s success story, but taking action – consistently.
She took every failure and rejection and judgment as a challenge instead of discouragement, even after succeeding at her first goal, and she doesn’t seem to stop – with the recent release of both the book and the film for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, and more projects and sequels coming up.
From all these inspiring stories, the same lessons ring true: Everyone has dreams, visions and principles – but to make things happen, you have to define concrete objectives. This includes setting clear steps that make the hard work worth it – and it’s not all gambling, but wise investing.
There will be failures, but they are challenges, not ultimatums. Every successful step does not mean a long line of accomplishments follows, only a constant struggle to keep succeeding.
To make a dream a reality, you have to focus on what’s real, set the steps towards it, and the most important part of it all – is to never let up, until the next dream.