Before revealing the secrets behind every successful business idea to you, let’s first dive into the story of some of the most successful business men who bootstraped their companies.
Philip Knight (Nike)
Philip Knight, originating from Oregon, is a runner. He deeply embraces this sport since he is young. Running six miles a day, he enjoys the relaxation you feel when completing a new milestone. The endorphins build up in your body, giving you this joyful sensation of being completely relaxed and safe. Philip is the creator of Nike, one of the most successful sports shoe (and now sportswear) company.
Philip is a shoe dog: someone who is literally obsessed by shoes. His coach Bowerman, who cofounded Nike, formerly Blue Ribbon, with him is also a shoe dog. Bowerman likes to spend countless hours designing and improving existing shoes to improve his runners performances. As Philip is a runner, and Bowerman a runner coach, both are deeply connected to the runners world. They know the pain it can be to run with inappropriate shoes.
Philip later went to Japan, after backpacking around the world for more than a year, to visit a Japanese factory located in Onitsuka. He discovered there, in Kobe, one of the most advanced japanese running shoe, named the Tiger. He decides to talk to the factory owner about importing those shoes to the United-States. Nike is now a 30 billion dollars business.
Do you see where we are heading to? Probably not yet, but you’re already half on the way. Let’s talk about smaller success story.
Mike Carson (park.io)
Mike Carson is a computer programmer. Since he was a teenager, he liked to bootstrap various tiny projects seeking to build something useful. One day, he found himself stuck as he wanted to buy the expired smile.io domain. It would become available soon, so he wrote a script that checked the availability every second and emailed him when the domain was for sale again.
While on dinner with his parents, he got the email from his robot telling him the domain was available. He rushed to his computer but it was too late. He was sad. In less than a minute, the domain was gone. He worked hard to improve his script and understand all the logic behind reserving a domain. The system grew and became very efficient at this task. He could grab almost any domain he wanted to with his automated system.
As the system seemed very useful to him, he decided to make it publicly available. It was the birth of park.io. This single-person business earns him over 100K$/month now with little to no work time. Of course, creating highly effective businesses like this one is rare.
Still no idea of what’s in common between the two stories? Let’s explore a last one.
Paul Kalanithi (When Breath Becomes Air)
Paul is on it’s way to become a neurosurgeon. He’s almost 36 years, he spent most of his life studying neuroscience and the meaning of life. He got hooked when he was a teenager living in Arizona with his brother. He dedicated his life to his passion and died from Cancer just as he became a neurosurgeon. When Breath Becomes Air is the book he has written during the last year of his life. It’s an exploration of what life means, what it feels like to know that your life is about to end. In a sense, it’s a way to make everyone aware that life has a deadline.
This book quickly became a best-seller. I was stunned because Dr. Kalanithi was so prodigiously talented, yet his talent has been taken away from the world so early. He spent his whole life trying to understand what life and death meant, how both are related to each. His book is a fantastic opening on the understanding of both life and dead, and no one could explain it more precisely than Paul.
Paul always dreamt of being a writer, but chose to dedicate his life to medicine. He, who endured Cancer and faced his death, was the best person who could explain what he was facing and how it feels like.
J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter)
J. K. Rowling was almost broke when she released Harry Potter, a book which quickly became a planetary success. During her childhood, she already liked reading and writing. In 1990, while she was on a four-hour-delayed train trip from Manchester to London, the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry was emerging in her mind.
Like the people participating in the previous story, she has a deep passion for what she does. She loves reading and writing. She can spend countless hours fulfilling her passion. You know this feeling when just one minute passed and yet you have spent hours reading that book.
The Billion Dollar Idea
Although Paul’s story isn’t really related to business directly, the success of his book is tightly related to the successes of Mike Carson and Philip Knight. All of them spent countless hours, days, months and even years to make their business successful. They failed many times before, and they even encountered failure many times while growing their businesses.
There is no overnight success. Don’t expect to have an idea popping out of nowhere which will generate billions of dollars of income. There is no such a thing. Building a successful business is a grind that can take 10 years of trial and error to become successful. Success is the result of years of failure. The experience you gather by failing is the foundation of the successful business you will one day build.
Light bulbs today are in every house, yet in the 19nth century when Thomas Edison invented it, there was none. It took thousands of trials and failures to find the right material which would make light without consuming itself within seconds. Thomas Edison even said during the grind:
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Solving Your Own Problems
Now that we understand that building a successful business is not something which can happen randomly like shower thoughts, but the result of a long struggle, we feel even more struck when it comes to having a brilliant idea. How can I have an idea which will succeed and generate a comfortable income? I’m going to give you the answer you are waiting for: Solve your own problems. By solving your own problems, the solution emerging from the process comes from someone deeply involved in that problem.
Is that problem affecting other people? Is there any existing solution to this problem? Chances are there is none if you couldn’t find any before trying to tackle the problem yourself.
Passion is the Key
Everyone is passionate about something. Everyone likes something to the point he can spend days following his passion without seeing the time fly. What has passion to do with problem solving? Passion is the single most important element which can bring ordinary people to make extraordinary things. It’s the most powerful and effective weapon you need when building a business of your own.
Welcome to Gattaca is a science-fiction movie which depicts a not-so-distant future where people are genetically selecting upon birth to be as perfect as possible. Parents want to ensure their children have the best chances to become someone important. This background serves a more important purpose: delivering a message about passion. For those who haven’t seen the movie, the following paragraph spoils a little bit the story.
Vincent Freeman is conceived without the aid of genetic selection; his genetics indicate a high probability of several disorders and an estimated life span of 30.2 years. His parents, regretting their decision, use genetic selection to give birth to their next child, Anton.
Vincent will do way better than his brother Anton, even when all the odds are against him. Why? Because he is passionate.
To sum up, here are all the people who got a business idea which resulted in a successful business, regardless of its size:
- There is no overnight success: success is the result of years of trial and errors, so embrace failure and be ready to fail. Because you will do,
- Solve your own problems: the best businesses emerge from solutions built to solve your own problems. You’re an expert in this problem because you face it. And chances are other people are facing the same problem too and haven’t found any solution yet,
- Follow your passion: Passion is the key to keep focused on your idea, no matter if the odds are against you.
What are you passionate about?