Yesterday Forbes released its annual list of 30 under 30 – The Innovators, disruptors and brightest stars of 2012. Of course, I spent a good many hours perusing the lists (they have several categories and an overall list). It kind of inspired/intimidated me. Pretty much what I took away is I have nine years to work hard and accomplish something worthy of The List. No pressure, right?!
Oh, and here are five (more realistic) lessons I learned (with links to some of my fav honorees scattered in the text!)
Focus on one thing and do it well.
It sounds simple enough, in theory that is. In reality, at least my reality, it’s a tad bit more complicated, mostly because I have a lot of interests and skills that don’t always tie together very cohesively. Reading about all of these accomplished twenty-something’s, I began to notice a pattern (genius, I know!) – All of them one thing they’re passionate about and they’ve spent years pursuing solely that one thing. Now, it might have spanned a variety of jobs and promotions, or it might be one crazy entrepreneurial idea. Regardless, it became their entire life’s focus, and in my opinion, that’s why they’ve succeeded. Lesson: “Whatever you are, be a good one,” as Abe Lincoln used to say.
You don’t have to change the whole world.
I was genuinely surprised at the simplicity of some of the ideas featured, as in, hey, I had that idea and I could’ve done that. In fact, most of the honorees started by focusing locally – with their own high schools, neighborhoods, and universities. If the idea is good and you work hard, your efforts will grow and expand naturally. Lesson: Dream big, but don’t force yourself to invent the next Google or Facebook.
Social media matters.
First off, I wish Forbes had added Twitter links to each of their honorees profiles, but that didn’t deter me. If an honoree intrigued me, I proceeded to stalk, follow them on Twitter. Surrounding myself with greatness and all that (I even mustered up the courage to tweet a few of them, chalk it up to the internet and feeling invincible). But, this is not what I learned, it’s what I did. What I learned is that a lot of these honorees used social media to raise awareness and support for their causes/organizations/businesses/personal accomplishments. Thus the lesson: use social media wisely for branding, promotion and networking. It may get you next year’s Forbes 30 under 30!
There is a whole category of 30 under 30 dedicated to social entrepreneurs (confidently, it was my favorite). Social entrepreneurship is a relatively new trend (you can make money and help people? What?!), so I was excited to read about all the great things people are doing to give back to their communities, and essentially, the world. Lesson: Be a business and/or person with a heart. Find a way to make a change and give back, because we’re all blessed beyond measure and not everyone has the same resources and opportunities as we do.
Follow your passion.
This may seem redundant after Lesson No. 1 above, but each of these honorees has succeeded because they love what they do – it’s what drives them and wakes them up each morning and even keeps them up late at night (so I assume!). Doing the responsible thing and following society’s expectations of a safe desk job that bores you tears, but pays the bills is probably not going to get you on Forbes 30 under 30 list for 2013. Or 2014. Or even 2040. In fact, it will probably leave you miserable. So, lesson: Do what makes your heart pitter patter at superspeed, makes your pupils dilate in excitement and overall makes you feel awesome. It’s a lesson I’m learning.