10 Years

What do James Dyson, Bobbi Brown and Wolfgang Puck have in common? More than a decade of perseverance, a passion for action and profitable results. What could you do with 10 years?

James Dyson, vacuum cleaner extraordinaire and billionaire, built over one thousand prototypes before he found his Eureka!. Technically, he sells more vacuum cleaners than Eureka, and it didn’t happen overnight. Dyson started working on vacuum cleaners in 1979 when his wife asked him to help around the house. He wanted credit for his efforts, and the vacuum cleaner he was using at the time simply pushed the dirt around but didn’t pick it up. He was more than a little frustrated. Dyson was determined to figure out the right engineering behind a superior vacuum cleaner. For five years he worked on prototypes while his wife supported them by teaching art lessons. He then borrowed $900,000, put their house on the line, and got turned down for years before getting his first break. When scoffed at by a catalog buyer who asked him why he should buy the Dyson vacuum over an Electrolux, Dyson replied, “Because your catalogue is boring!” His cheekiness and persistence paid off with an order. Eleven years later with a series of small sales, Dyson met Lord Howe who was very impressed with Dyson’s factory and asked if he had any challenges. Dyson replied, “Sales. I can’t get into Comet.” (UK’s version of Best Buy). Howe exclaimed, “My wife’s on the board!” A year later Dyson was a best-seller!

Bobbi Brown hated college and wanted to quit. Her mother asked her if she could do anything she wanted what would she do? Bobbi replied she wanted to play with make-up. Her mother said she could…at college, and told her daughter to find a university where she could major in theatrical make-up. Bobbi graduated from Emerson. In the ‘80s, the era of big hair and heavy make-up, Bobbi introduced neutral tones to a chemist at Kiehl’s at a party and he offered to make the lipstick for her – a color she still sells 22 years later. When Bergdorf’s rescinded an offer to launch her line, she bluffed, saying Saks was interested. Bergdorf’s called back 10 minutes later to express their commitment. In 1994, Bobbi sold her company to Estee Lauder for an estimated 75M+ so she could continue to focus on the creative side, and when her sales started to slide she insisted that she move her team from the stuffy corporate headquarters to a Soho loft, where she creates to this day.

Wolfgang Puck grew up in the kitchen with his mother who was a hotel chef in Austria. She passed on her love of food to her son. She encouraged him to write to famous restaurants in France and ask for an apprenticeship. One chef said yes. For months, Wolfgang worked without pay until one day he had enough and quit, and the chef stopped him and said, “I like you! I’ll pay!” In 1975 he moved to Los Angeles and worked with a fellow restaurant owner who offered him 10% equity because he had no cash. Wolfgang rolled up his sleeves and it became a big money-maker. Incentivized, Puck, looked for a new restaurant and offered to open it with the same partner who demanded 51%. Wolfgang quit and opened Spago in 1981.

Today, Wolfgang Puck oversees 15+ restaurants and 80+ express bistros.

What would you do if you had only ten years to accomplish something BIG?

Well, for starters…

Identify what you are passionate about, what you value and what you truly believe without outside influencers telling you what to think and feel. Some people might find the courage to ask themselves, “What do I really love?”

With a finite horizon, understanding your truthful responses to these questions will set the foundation for the next decade.

1. What’s my story? Why will the world want to listen to it?
2. What if?
3. What wows me?
4. What’s my truth?
5. Now what?!

Answer these questions and commit to honoring your answers through action (and people) and ten years will be off to a strong start

Less talk…more action.

Vacillation and indecision are not assets. Make that phone call; introduce yourself to someone of relevant influence; step out and take a risk. Reflecting on your “Could-a, Should-a, Would-a”s in ten years will not leave a legacy. You have a significant role to play on this global stage, perhaps you’re just not sure of your lines. Knowing you stepped forward with the same excitement as an actor on opening night will lead to extraordinary experiences and worthwhile reflections ten years down the road. Perhaps even a standing ovation.

Re-prioritize…and think big.

Set out to accomplish something amazing, something that previously was de-prioritized by the other 20 things nagging you on your “must-do” list. It’s funny how a sense of finality can re-prioritize your life. For many, a due-date or deadline is the ultimate motivator. Even Einstein made up arbitrary deadlines to inspire his team. It worked!

Thinking big can be whatever “big” is for you. Intentionally stretch yourself. If what you choose brings a fear of failure, you’re probably onto something. Go ahead, risk failure, risk pride. Realizing you have something special to give is the best way to live. If you’re committed to “changing the world,” it’s possible.

How do you know what your something special is? Go back to what we shared near the beginning of this piece. What do you believe in, value, love? What’s your story going to be for the next ten years? What wows you and how can you wow the world? What opportunities will arise when you make that call or influential introduction? Who around you really cares about you…or might, if they knew you? We all have gifts, and because they’re ours, they’re innately special; because our time is limited, these gifts are more valuable. Discover it, honor it…use it.

Act now!

Time is a nonrenewable resource. Too many executives and entrepreneurs have been waiting to see what happens in our economy, with congress, with healthcare, with tax laws, with…with…stop waiting! Start doing. Don’t wait for the next economic forecast, don’t wait for the next tax break or increase(!), don’t wait for somebody else to tell you whether you’re going to have another great year or bad year in business. Whether you have ten years or forty, you have things to do – you choose your path, you walk it. You have a whole decade ahead of you, get going…now!


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