10 Career Lessons From Major Success Stories

6. Joy Behar: It is never too late to change your mind.

From watching teen talent Justin Bieber to young Olympian Shawn Johnson, it may seem that the key to success is starting at an early age. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re washed up by age 20! Joy Behar received an M.A. in English Education and taught high school English for years before taking a swing at entertainment. “I was nearly 40 before I realized I was always the funny one at parties,” Behar told Oprah’s Lifeclass™. “I started doing a little stand-up, and things took off.” She has since published humor books, children’s books, essays, and a monthly advice column in Good Housekeeping, as well as won an Emmy for co-hosting The View and launched The Joy Behar Show in 2009. Now, if you know you want to be a doctor, don’t dilly-dally for 30 years before applying to med school. But if you ever find yourself unhappy with where you are, remember Joy and go do something about it.

7. Dr. Seuss: Rejection can be a good thing.

If you had any sort of childhood at all, you probably appreciate the many creations of Theodor Geisel, the man who wrote our favorite rhymes and picture books under the pen name Dr. Seuss. Think his wit brought him big bucks right away? Think again—Geisel’s first book, And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected a whopping 27 times before he finally found a willing publisher. Moral of the story: don’t be discouraged by a job or internship rejection. If you’re pissed, go for a run or call your mom up—but then channel your disappointment into newfound motivation, and consider yourself one step closer to success.

8. The Beatles: Practice makes perfect.

In his best-selling book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell traces much of the Beatles’ wild success to “the sheer amount of time the band was forced to play” at a strip club in Germany before they hit it big. Gladwell quotes John Lennon, who said of the gig, “We got better and got more confidence. We couldn’t help it with all the experience playing all night long.” Our parents’ generation—and many of us—swoon in admiration for the purportedly super-talented Beatles, but as Gladwell points out, much of their success can be attributed to hard work and practice. So don’t be discouraged if you weren’t born with a perfect voice or genius-level IQ; what we call “talent” is often based in hours of experience and old-fashioned hard work.

9. Warren Buffett: Be modest.

Warren Buffett has bragging rights others can only dream of: a net worth upwards of 60 billion dollars, a position as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and a standing as one of the wealthiest and most successful businessmen in the world. But have you ever seen him on MTV Cribs, showing off his bling and claiming three different Ferraris as his “whips”? (50 Cent brought us that gem of an episode, by the way, and the cars weren’t even his.) Despite his legendary status among investors, 81year-old Buffett has lived in the same house since 1958, when it was worth $31,500. He is known and admired for his personal frugality, a career lesson we may not immediately consider but one to keep in mind. Buffett has nothing to prove and gets a lot of respect for his attitude. Celebrate your achievements, but skip the boasting. Your success will speak for itself.

10. Lady Gaga: Give back.

This year Lady Gaga topped Forbes’ Celebrity 100 and scored the eleventh spot in the magazine’s World’s Most Powerful Women list. Not only is she a favorite in the entertainment industry, constantly dazzling the media with her pop hits and ridiculous wardrobe, but she is also quite the philanthropist. Gaga has become involved in various charities and benefits for the victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, HIV/AIDS, United States immigration laws, and LGBTQ discrimination. And while the main function of Gaga’s philanthropy is benevolence, she has also broadened her fan base and gained respect from the public for her generosity. What’s the lesson here? It’s okay to be ambitious, but don’t forget the human side of things. Keep others in mind and they’ll do the same for you, too.

Gladwell, Malcolm. “The 10,000-Hour Rule.” Outliers: The Story of Success. New York: Little, Brown and, 2008. Print.
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