Everybody wants The American Dream, because everyone has a different idea of what it means. For some, it means living in a downtown Chicago high rise with a garage full of sports cars. For others, it’s the sense of security and stability, the freedom from want or poverty.
Regardless of what it may mean to you, everybody agrees on one thing: that hard work and determination can bring you closer to that Dream. No matter who you are, or where you are from, it’s what you do that defines you. This is what many entrepreneurs believe. Entrepreneurs usually have an idea so bold and so risky, that they are willing to go to great lengths to see it come true.
Here are just three inspiring entrepreneurs that have overcome all the obstacles, and lived a true rags to riches story.
Arguably the most important entrepreneur in our lifetime, Musk experienced severe bullying and loneliness as a child in his hometown Pretoria, South Africa. According to his mother Maye, Elon was once hospitalized after being thrown down a flight of stairs, and then beaten until he blacked out.
Musk overcame his peers and is now recognized for having started Tesla (luxury electric car manufacturer), SpaceX (aerospace manufacturer), SolarCity (solar power systems manufacturer), and OpenAI (open-source artificial intelligence research). Musk’s initiatives have often focused on global technological innovations in energy, transportation, and commerce, that will extend the lifespan of the human race.
Talk show and philanthropist queen, Oprah Winfrey, didn’t have the brightest of upbringings. Oprah was born to a housemaid in Mississippi, and and experienced numerous traumas in her childhood, including sexual assault by family members, her subsequent teen pregnancy, and extreme poverty.
Despite these early wounds, Oprah had a strong resolve, and an even stronger voice. After winning an oratory contest, she was able to receive a full scholarship to Tennessee State University to study communication. This was just the first step to becoming one television’s most important talk show hosts, and the first and only multi-billionaire black woman.
No list of inspiring entrepreneurs is complete without Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Inc., and CEO of Pixar Animation Studios. Famous for his hyperbolic ideas and narcissistic behavior, Jobs dealt with his feeling of abandonment by his biological parents by abandoning his own child, Lisa (but happened to name a major computer line after her). His colleagues and co-workers were often afraid or intimidated by his all-or-nothing leadership style, including his business partner Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.
Still, many argue that Jobs’s arrogance and perfectionist attitude was responsible for the high standard of service and products that Apple consistently made. His biographer, Walter Isaacson described him best: a “creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.”
One thing entrepreneurs have in common is the desire to redirect their lives into their own story, on their terms. Each of these three entrepreneurs demonstrated a pain that was turned into a message, Musk for a stronger society, Oprah for a more honest society, and Jobs for a more imaginative society. These entrepreneurs inspire us not only because of their achievements, but because of their struggles too.