Todd Kaplan - Page 2 of 3 - Master of Adversity

Halle Berry: Overcome Adversity for an Award-winning Life

Halle Berry is the first African American to win an Academy Award for best actress. But before reaching the pinnacle of success, she was known to have faced and overcome adversity.

Halle was born in 1966 to Jerome Berry, an African American, and mother Judith, a Caucasian. Her father worked at a hospital as an attendant, Halle Berry TV Guidewhere he met her mother who was a psychiatric nurse at the time. The home where the Berry sisters were raised has been described as an abusive one caused by her father’s heavy drinking habits. Her parents divorced when she was four and her mother was left to raise Halle and her sister alone.

Racism was never an issue during her formative years but moving to a racially mixed suburb when she was a teenager had changed her perspective. Halle did not only have to cope with having a broken family but she also suffered discrimination. When she attended Bedford High School, she felt that she stood out as a racial minority in her school. Her mother cleared up the uncertainty as most outsiders would consider Halle as an African American woman. “I’m white and you are black,” was her mother’s explanation. “What do you see when you look in the mirror? You see what everyone else sees. They don’t know that you’re biracial. They don’t know who your mother is and they aren’t going to care.”

 Winning Attitude

Since that conversation, Halle developed a strong sense of pride about being black. Her mother’s warnings on matters about race challenged her to work harder and be better than her peers to succeed. Despite many racist attacks thrown at her in school, she flourished as she became a high school cheerleader, honor society member, class president, newspaper editor, and prom queen.

Halle began competing in beauty contests in the 1980s. Her first win was as Miss Teen All-American in 1985. A year later, she went on to win the coveted title of Miss Ohio USA. She was a Miss USA runner-up and subsequently, the first African American to enter the Miss World contest.

Halle didn’t win the Miss World title but she did walk away from that pageant with enough money to put herself through community college. She enrolled in Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland but soon turned her attention to modeling and left college. While trying to find work in New York city, she ran out of money and was forced stay in a homeless shelter.

 Making a mark

Halle tried out for an acting role in Angels ’88, an updated version 1970s TV series Charlie’s Angels. Although she didn’t get the part and the show never aired, she remained determined to pursue acting. As she never failed to keep her eyes on the goal, her road to stardom soon began when she landed a role as a brainy fashion model in ABC’s comedy series Living Dolls. Impressed with her undeniable potential, Director Spike Lee offered her a role in his 1991 film Jungle Fever. This was her first movie role and the first major boost in her acting career. After this big break, Halle became unstoppable.

More substantial supporting roles followed, including The Last Boy Scout (1991), Boomerang (1992), The Flintstones (1994), Losing Isaiah (1995)halle berry and Bulworth (1998). Her first major breakthrough was the critically acclaimed movie, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999), for which she won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV movie/ miniseries.

In March 2002, Halle became the first black woman to win the Academy Award for best actress. She also won a Screen Actors Guild Award for the film. Halle Berry’s Academy win is so significant considering that majority of African Americans films have been disproportionately male. When Halle accepted the award, she paid homage to her ancestry by saying, “This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Caroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angella Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.” Her acceptance speech opened the eyes of many to the remarkable talents of her race.

Halle’s career continues on the upswing. Her rise to success is as theatrical as the roles she plays in the movies. Being one of the biggest stars in show business could be a compensation for her initial rough experiences in life. Fighting against racism all her life, she is a woman whose personal triumph has transformed into a historic achievement.


Reid Hoffman: Successfully Linking People Despite Adversity

“We were going to call it Colleaguester, but that sounded kinda weird.” — Chairman and Co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman.

In 2003, Hoffman and his colleagues officially launched LinkedIn, an international social networking site intended to connect professionals around Ried Hoffman Master of Adversitythe world.  As an entrepreneur, Reid believed that establishing one’s network is a vital key to succeed in the business world.

As a student, Hoffman wasn’t that keen on establishing networks with people.  He even considered himself a “loner” in his college years with only five friends at most.  Clearly, he was not Mr. Popular.

But being a natural visionary, Hoffman wanted to create a ‘new community’ with the use of technology.  And so in 1993, he thought of starting up a software company—believing that software was the best medium to reach millions of people in order to accomplish his goal. He laid out his plans carefully and strategically, and was determined to revolutionize the way people interacted online. However, things did not go as smoothly as planned, adversity was a constant companion.

He encountered countless rejections during the time he was looking for initial funding.  His lack of professional experience became a major problem when he presented his idea to various capitalists.  Potential investors would tell him this: “You probably should go learn how to launch software.”

One thing became clear: Reid needed work experience.  He needed a set of mentors, as well as an existing company that would show him how things were being done in the software industry. And so with the right connections, Hoffman became Project Manager of Apple in 1994, where he learned the fundamentals of startups. In 1996, he transferred to Fujitsu, where he was involved in product and business management.  His work experiences in these companies became his training grounds in establishing his first company – SocialNet.

Founded in 1997, SocialNet aimed to connect millions of people through online dating.  However, Hoffman encountered problems with product distribution strategy. Since the market of online dating is rather crowded, they decided to partner with newspapers, but to no avail.  And so in 2000, Hoffman finally shut down the company and left. Nonetheless, this was never reason enough for him to turn away from his vision.

Right after he left SocialNet, Hoffman was tapped by former classmate and founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel.  Hoffman became PayPal’s EVP for Business Development, and his main task was to look for people from various industries that could help the company resolve some of its operational problems.  Hoffman personally experienced the trouble that one had to undergo in order to connect with people in various industries and sectors.  Through this, he was able to come up with his next grand business idea.

Basically, what Reid did was create a digital version of a resume.  He developed an electronic overlay of the professional world by placing one’s career details on the Internet.  This way, employers and employees alike would have easy access to professional profiles.

In May 2003, Reid, together with some colleagues from SocialNet and PayPal, started LinkedIn.  The site became an instant hit as it offered an avenue for professionals and businessmen to build their career portfolio and make it accessible to professionals worldwide.  Although most would say that LinkedIn had a smooth start, Hoffman himself thinks otherwise. He said that there were certain underlying issues that made some people unsure of LinkedIn’s potential benefits. “For one, having a professional identity, doesn’t that mean you’re disloyal to your company? You’re looking for a job? Human-resource departments liked that the platform made finding potential hires easier but didn’t want to lose the talent they had: They would prefer their own employees are completely undiscoverable to the world.”

Reid Hoffman Forbes coverCompanies were also hesitant in using LinkedIn as a networking tool.  In fact, Nokia banned LinkedIn during its early days because of confidentiality reasons.  Investment banks also veered away from using LinkedIn because of compliance issues.  Then again, these adversities never hindered Hoffman to continue to grow the company.

At present, LinkedIn has 332 million members, and this number increasing at a steady rate.  It has over 6000 employees with offices in 30 cities worldwide.  Looking at these figures, it’s safe to say that Hoffman’s vision was finally realized.

Hoffman’s story of success teaches us one basic thing: Never stop pursuing your ideas.  Despite all the rejections and challenges he had to endure, he carried on.  He had a vision.  One that must be pursued no matter how much struggle he had to overcome.



The Life and Works of Steve Jobs Through Adversity and Success

Steve Paul Jobs (1955-2011) was one of our modern digital age’s most passionate entrepreneurs. A visionary with a passion for impeccability and relentless motivation, Steve Jobs revolutionized the way we use our computers, mobile phones, and portable music devices.

Steve Jobs always had a charismatic leadership style matched by his uncanny ability, but his early days at Apple was marked by manipulative, Steve Jobsdemanding, and overly aggressive behavior. There were some upsides to his occasionally demeaning behavior because it infused an abiding passion and a strong urge to make a good impression to the people he worked with. His personality was tightly parallel to the close-system design of Apples’ hardware and software. His vision of “making a dent in the universe,” and his intense commitment to positioning Apple at the forefront of information technology by foreseeing trends has led to many breakthrough innovations. During his career, he had a fair share of product failures as well as product successes. Most of his successes were based on the lessons he acquired from his failures and the adversities he had to overcome.

The story of his career is filled with lessons about innovation, leadership, character, and being true to one’s own values. Followers pick up the next big thing after others are already using it, but a leader has the forethought to try things no one has thought of trying before.


Background and Rise To Success

Born on February 24, 1955, his birth parents were an unwed couple in Wisconsin. He was put up for adoption and was taken in by Paul Jobs and his wife, Clara. In his high school years, he already showed an enthusiastic interest in electronics. At one point, Jobs needed some parts of an electronic counting machine for a class project. He looked up the phone number of Bill Hewlett, the cofounder of Hewlett-Packard and boldly chatted with him for about twenty minutes. He got the parts he needed as well as a summer job at HP. Jobs was in high school when he met Steve Wozniak, who would later on become his partner in Apple Computers. His first commercial venture with Wozniak actually started out as a prank. The two peddled “blue boxes” which allowed illegal phone calls to be made free of charge. They built and sold about a hundred of these machines.

After high school, Jobs attended college at Reed College in Oregon. Reed was an expensive college which his parents couldn’t afford but he enrolled anyway. Six months later, he dropped out of college and instead, he took optional classes. He later revealed that the courses just seemed too expensive and lacked the relevance to properly engage him.


Power of Vision

In 1974, Jobs returned to California and had a short stint at computer game manufacturer, Atari. He immersed himself in the counterculture—hippie lifestyle and drugs. He also found his personal solace while working in an apple orchard. After saving up enough money, he traveled around India in search of enlightenment. When he returned to California, he began attending meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club. Most of the members were geeks interested only in microprocessors but Jobs was different. Early on, he had an eye for marketability. Around that time, Wozniak was already working as an engineer at Hewlett-Packard but he persuaded Wozniak to give up his job at Hewlett-Packard so they could start their own business.

In 1976, Jobs and Wozniak founded Apple Computer Inc. The company aimed to develop the first readymade personal computer. To raise funds for their startup, they sold their prized possessions (Jobs’s Volkswagen and Wozniak’s Hewlett-Packard scientific calculator). With their starting capital, they established their first production line. Shortly, they built their first computer called the Apple I. It was designed in Jobs’s bedroom and its prototype was constructed in his garage. It was Jobs who led Apple to make money out of Wozniak’s engineering brilliance. While Wozniak provided technical innovation, Jobs supplied the vision and how this vision could be applied to design and usability.


Selling Apples

Jobs secured the company’s first sale of Apple I priced at $666 in 1976. Over the next year, sales of the Apple I brought in $774,000 and soon, the two were working on the Apple II. The second incarnation of the Apple computer was a resounding success. This was not just because of its engineering; it was also due in large part to Jobs’s marketing savvy.

In the early 1980s, Jobs devoted most of his time developing the original Macintosh. The Macintosh became the first commercially successfully Young Steve Jobssmall computer, which featured a mouse, a set of icons, and graphical user interface. It attracted millions of users upon its release.

As CEO of Apple, Jobs oversaw the development of the tremendously successful Macintosh. Jobs’s work relationship was marred by controversy. His idealistic vision and impossibly high standards also had a downside to some of his employees due to his erratic and temperamental management. An industry-wide sales slump towards the end of 1984 caused deterioration in Jobs’s working relation with Sculley as well as layoffs and disappointing sales performance.


After Apple

After a growing divergence with Sculley over management style and Apple’s future priorities, Jobs left the company in 1985. Using the money from selling his Apple stock, Jobs bought a controlling interest in Pixar, a graphics studio that had been spun off from LucasFilm.

In 1996, he formed a new company to purchase NeXT computers. Jobs ended up right where he began when Apple purchased NeXT computer for hundreds of millions of dollars. By that time, Apple was almost bankrupt. He was named CEO of Apple after a few months.

Through the years, Apple has been a consistent innovator in the digital electronics industry. Jobs’s leadership brought out the iPod music player and launched the iTunes online music store. The company is also trying to change the e-book industry through its new iPad, introduced in early 2010. Meanwhile, Pixar released hit after hit, including Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Cars, in partnership with Disney.

In 2004, Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, leading to his death in 2011. He was 56 years old.


Looking Ahead

Today, few doubt that Apple thrived as a company because Steve Jobs was at the right place and at the right time. Although it might be true, it is uncertain that Apple would have been successful without him. His intelligence, strategic thinking, charismatic leadership, marketing acumen, and resilience in the face of adversity contributed to the incredible success of Apple Computers.



Travis Kalanick: Beyond Adversity in the Startup Industry

At a relatively young age of 38, Travis Kalanick, CEO and co-founder of Uber Technologies, Inc., proved that confidence, competitiveness, and a little bit of creativity are the vital characteristics of a successful entrepreneur and master of adversity.

Travis was recently listed by Forbes as one of the 400 wealthiest personalities in the USA.  Ranked at 204, he was estimated to be worth $3 billion Travis Kalanickgiven his well-known ride-sharing service application, Uber.

Kalanick was a computer engineering student at UCLA.  However, in 1998, he decided to drop out and get on board a project called Scour, which was a venture of his college colleagues Michael Todd and Vince Busam.

Scour became a widely-used peer-to-peer (P2P) file exchange system with over 250,000 users sharing music and videos online.  It wasn’t until over 30 media companies sued Scour for $250 billion copyright infringement that the company had to cease operations in 2000.  Shortly after the demise of Scour, Kalanick and Todd launched Red Swoosh in 2001, another P2P file sharing website.  Learning from the previous shortcomings they encountered with Scour, they made sure to legalize the operations and services of Red Swoosh.  Unfortunately, issues with the IRS abound.  A dispute regarding the withholding taxes of Red Swoosh employees became a major problem for the company.  To avoid further legal charges and damages, as well as serious jail time, Kalanick and Todd paid an IRS bill of $110,000.  In 2007, they had to sell Red Swoosh to Akamai Technologies for $19 million.

But being the fighter that he was, Kalanick was never disheartened by these failures. He did not allow adversity to halt his journey to success.  And so after parting ways with Todd and with sufficient money earned from selling Red Swoosh, Kalanick went on to find his next business idea.


The birth of Uber was prompted by one unexpected incident in 2008.  After attending a conference in Paris, Travis and his friend Garrett Camp were having difficulty hailing a cab. Due to this frustrating experience, Travis realized that there should be an app to help people like him, have easier access to public transportation; thus, the onset of UberCab.

Travis and his colleagues launched UberCab in 2009.  The premise of this application was very simple: Push a button and get a car.  Although Kalanick claimed that UberCab’s operation was legal, the US government ordered him to shut his company down.  With many issues with how the word Cab was used in UberCab, considering that it is not a taxi company, Travis changed the name of UberCab to Uber in 2010 and bought the domain name from UMG.  This, in turn, became Kalanick’s way to avoid going head-to-head with authorities once again.

This wise, strategic move of Travis paved the way to the rapid success of Uber.  In just a short span of time, Uber was able to connect more than Travis in a Car200 cities worldwide.  Investors came instantly—including a $10 million funding from Benchmark in 2011, which now valued Uber at $60 million.  Not only that—the company raised $1.2 billion from private equity investors at a valuation of $18.2 billion last June 2014, making Travis Kalanick a certified self-made billionaire.

However, it seemed that Kalanick was really a controversy magnet.  Not only was Uber greatly opposed by many taxi companies, online bashers increased on a daily basis as well.  Over the years, the company faced numerous lawsuits, strikes, and complaints from both its drivers and passengers regarding poor performance and services.

Nonetheless, Kalanick stood firm to his conviction.  “We have a bad rep but I’m no Darth Vader,” he said.  Since many critics consider Uber as the Darth Vader of the startup world, Travis had to defend Uber somehow.  Most importantly, he urged people to know the back story of Uber in order to fully understand where the company is coming from.

At present, Travis Kalanick still oversees Uber’s operations. The company had also expanded from cars to motorcycles as they launched a motorcycle-pickup service in Paris. And, although Uber faces various lawsuits in any city it ventures out to, Kalanick sees to it that all actions are done legally.  “That’s part of me, that freedom fighter in me,” as he would say.

Kalanick’s story reminds us that in order to be successful in the business world, one must sometimes be aggressive in pursuing his goals. We must use certain experiences to strengthen our conviction and further realize our dreams.  His story is indeed an affirmation that being brave and taking risks is all you need to go the distance and rise from adversity.



Akio Morita: Traditions and Adversity


As the pragmatic co-founder of Sony Corporation, Akio Morita was admired and honored as the man behind Sony’s international success. Aside from being a businessman and a marketer, he was a visionary for he saw the vast opportunities for gaining global presence.Morita was recognized as a Master of Adversity for his ability to see only opportunity.

Early Years
Akio Morita was born in Nagoya, Japan in 1921 to a wealthy middle class family. His family had been brewing sake or rice wine for nearly 400 years. Since Morita was the eldest son, he was groomedAkio Morita with Camera to become the heir to the family business. At a young age, he was already an expert at brewing and evaluating their product, as well as managing the workers in their factory. Everything had been planned and laid out for him, and it was always assumed that he would eventually take over the family venture. However, Morita deeply preferred electronics, and was fixated on tinkering with electronic equipment at an early age. Mathematics and physics were his favorite subjects during his elementary and junior high school days, which was during the midst of the Pacific War.

Morita graduated in 1944 and rose to the rank of Navy lieutenant that same year. He first encountered Masaru Ibuka in the Navy’s Wartime Research Committee. When he returned to the family home in Nagoya after the war, Morita was offered a faculty position at Tokyo Institute of Technology. Once, he read an article about a research laboratory founded by Ibuka. Upon reading this, Morita immediately visited Ibuka in Tokyo and they decided to start a new company together.

Ibuka and Morita founded Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo K.K. (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation) in a bomb-damaged department store. While Ibuka devoted his energies to engineering and product development, Morita was responsible in leading Sony in the areas of globalization, marketing, human resources and finance. Morita also ushered Sony’s entry into the software business while overseeing the company’s day-to-day operations.

Biggest Breakthrough
The first product prototype of their company was an electrical rice cooker – a Japanese rice cooker made from the fuel tanks of American fighter planes. In May 1954, The rice cooker was a failure, it did not work and it only sold 100 units. Sony launched Japan’s first transistor. They created sophistical electrical equipment from then on.

Akio Morita saw the possibility of expanding their business globally. Then in 1958, he made a brilliant decision when the company changed its corporate name to Sony. This was a combination of the Latin word for sound, sonus, and the colloquial English word ‘sonny’ which symbolizes the company’s ingenious and enthusiastic staff.
In 1963, Morita moved to the United States with his family while he set up the Sony Corporation of America. From there, Morita positioned Sony as a symbol of innovation and world-class quality. Seven years later, they were the first Japanese firm to be included on the list of New York Stock Exchange.

Morita suffered a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair in 1993. But despite his condition, he was able to finish his book entitled “Made in Japan,” in which he explained Japan’s success as an industrial power as a result of creativity and innovation, both of which reflected in Sony’s brand identity.

Rise to the Challenge
Sony is famed for products that have revolutionized the way technology is being used around the world. Sony’s inventions entertain millions of people worldwide with their iconic products such as VAIO laptops, Playstation and Walkman. The Walkman may seem bulky and tacky nowadays but these players are perhaps a distinctive innovation in the popular culture of our time.

Sony's SuccessIt is also interesting to note that when Morita was in New York, he was able to closely observe gangs with boom boxes on their shoulders. Most people saw and heard nuisance and fear but Akio Morita saw opportunity. He saw the need for a device that would allow to people, especially the youth, to listen to music wherever they went. He made this idea come to life and the world was introduced to the iconic Walkman.

Morita was a risk-taker who followed his intuition. It is apparent when he started his own electronics company, when he could have easily been the heir of their family business. His biggest decision was to globalize Sony and help put Japan’s technological expertise on the world map. The original plan was to simply make Sony the number 1 technology company in Japan, but what he envisioned was for Sony to go beyond borders. Morita’s “Think globally, act locally” strategy clearly worked because his company transcended adversity and national objectives as they began to serve international customers, employees and shareholders. Sony surmounted the obstacle that Japanese products have the lowest quality. Through Morita’s borderless vision, Sony became a symbol of Japan’s industrial success.


Steven Spielberg: Adversity and Success in Movies

Steven Spielberg’s path to becoming Hollywood’s most successful motion picture director of all time was not straightforward, nor was it without adversity. Before he got his name up in lights for directing 6 of 25 top-grossing films in Hollywood, Spielberg had to come face-to-face with numerous rejection and adversities.Steven Spielberg

“I dream for a living. This is what I’ve done with my life. This is what I want to do with my life.”

Spielberg knew at a very young age that he wanted to become a filmmaker. Inspired by the first film he watched with his father, he created his first motion picture showing two toy trains crashing into each other. This was followed by more films shot at home using his father’s 8-millimeter Bell & Howell wind-up camera, with his friends as actors.

Spielberg also drew inspiration for his films mostly from his life experiences. Some of his greatest movies were drawn from real-life circumstances he had to face while growing up.

In his high school days, Spielberg was bullied because of his religion. He was harassed by his anti-semitic classmates who would sneeze ‘Hah-jew’ whenever he passed by, and who would also beat him up after school. This experience would later inspire him to create the film Schindler’s List, which is one of the top-grossing creations in his career.

Spielberg was in high school when his parents went through a divorce. It was a rough time, and he attributes his film E.T. to this experience. According to Spielberg, E.T. isn’t just about a boy with a friend from another planet; it is about a young boy searching for some stability in his life. This was reflective of Spielberg’s real-life experiences when his parents’ relationship was on the rocks.

With blockbusters like Jaws, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T., the Extraterrestrial under Spielberg’s belt today, one might assume that he graduated top of his class from a prestigious film school. But many would be surprised to know that Spielberg, in fact, got rejected from USC and UCLA film schools due to his poor grades in high school. Needless to say, these rejections did not stop him from pursuing his dreams.

He went to a university near Hollywood, the California State University at Long Beach. Due to his lack of interest in his classes and his burning desire to get started with his movie career, Spielberg dropped out from school and started hanging around at the Universal Studios lot to observe how real TV shows and movies were made. He spent most of his time watching and learning everything he can from these shoots.

Boldly introducing himself to directors, actors, and producers, Spielberg was able to build a network within the film industry. Through these connections, Spielberg got the chance to present his first short film, Amblin, to the studio executives at the Universal Studios. Impressed by Spielberg’s talent and determination, the executives gave Spielberg his first directing contract under Universal Studios. From then on, Spielberg became unstoppable- creating top grossing films for cinema and T.V., and eventually becoming the successful filmmaker that he is today.

From Spielberg’s story, we can learn that we should never allow rejection and horrific experiences from the past stop us from pursuing our dreams. Instead of letting his past experiences haunt him, Spielberg used them as inspiration to create blockbuster films. When he was rejected from his dream schools, Spielberg made the “real world” his own school- the professionals producing real films as his teachers and his experiences as lessons. He knew that there’s no single way to success. When opportunities didn’t come to him, Spielberg sought for other opportunities and created his own path to victory.


Soichiro Honda: Turning Adversity Into Opportunity

A single-minded determination will motivate you to venture into new heights with renewed vigor. Soichiro Honda, founder of the Honda Motor Company, is known to be a man who defied clichés where Japanese businessmen are stringent. An

Honda, Adversity
Soichiro Honda

outsider to Japan’s industrial establishment, he became one of the 20th century’s industrial giants. This Japanese engineer and industrialist went from countless failures, innumerable adversities and threatening bankruptcies for over four decades in search of success. His persistent efforts, dedication and confidence finally paid off when he founded one of the largest automobile companies in the world. He was the first Japanese citizen to be inducted into Detroit’s Automotive Hall of Fame. To this day, Soichiro holds more than 100 patents.

Soichiro Honda was born in a small farming village. The eldest son of a blacksmith who repaired bicycles, he spent his early childhood helping his father in the repair business. At age 15, he dropped out of school to travel to Tokyo and look for work. There, he spent six years as a simple apprentice in an auto-repair shop where he quickly acquired a taste for fast cars. At the age of 21, he opened his own automotive shop. In 1923, however, the Great Kanto Earthquake destroyed Tokyo. It was during this calamity that Honda discovered his passion for motorcycles and the value of entrepreneurship.

In 1928, Honda returned to his home region and opened a garage of his own. His business prospered to the point of

Honda, Adversity
Soichiro Honda early Years

having 50 employees in several shops. Before long, his company’s motorcycles and cars started to win numerous races, including national and world titles. During his spare time, he built his own racing car using an old aircraft engine and handmade parts. He even used the car when he entered the 1936 All Japan Speed Rally. But as he was approaching the finish line, he had a near-fatal crash, which cut short his racing aspirations. This accident could’ve stopped him from realizing his dream but instead it fueled his desire to pursue his greatest ambition. While recuperating from his injuries, Honda made a decision to get out of the garage business and expand into manufacturing.

He was never one to remain on the sidelines, and although he wasn’t very good at making piston rings, he persisted. He was painfully aware that he lacked basic knowledge of metallurgy, yet this did not discourage him. At the age of 31, he went back to school to learn about metals.  He then applied the theories he learned inside the classroom later on.

After studying engineering, Honda began to invent and innovate. One of his early patents was a cast piston ring, which took him three long years of trial and error. Before perfecting the manufacture of a piston ring, he again faced another hurdle about quality control. When Toyota placed an order for 50,000 piston rings, only three out of 50 piston rings met the specifications during a random inspection. In 1945, he sold his company to Toyota to take a year’s sabbatical.

After the Second World War, Japan’s roads and railways were destroyed. Food shipments were not reaching cities while city dwellers had to walk or bike into the countryside to find food. Automobiles became a major part of postwar business recovery of Japan. Honda saw this business prospect and so he designed his own small engine out of small army engines left by the war. By 1948, the first product of Honda motor was made.

“Looking back on my work, I feel that I have made nothing but mistakes, a series of failures, a series of regrets,” a humble Honda said after he reached the finish line of his career. “But I am also proud of an accomplishment: Although I made one mistake after another, I never made the same mistake, and I always tried my hardest and succeeded in improving my efforts.”

He elaborated on that principle when he delivered a graduation speech to the class of ‘74 at Michigan Technological University. “Many people dream of success,” he said. “To me, success can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents 1% of your work which results from the 99% that is called failure.”

Until Soichiro Honda’s death in 1992, the company continues to thrive as the most popular motorcycle manufacturer in the world and remains high in rankings of the world’s leading automobile manufacturers.

Soichiro Honda is the Honda Motor Company and everything he upholds—an untiring quest towards excellence in technology, a deep skepticism towards the status quo, an exceptionally democratic approach to business, and a strong interest with all things new and exciting. These qualities make Honda such a vital and important manufacturer of motorcycles. More than simply founding a successful corporation, Honda’s lasting impact to human history is his greatest achievement.

Honda is a man who turned adversities into success. For him, learning from failure is part of success. Honda held on to his belief that true success lies in one’s willpower to overcome hurdles and take risks. He lived by this principle by exemplifying that failure is where we learn most because failure creates and nurtures innovation. He proved that part of learning what works is also learning what doesn’t. Like Honda, we should count every failure as an essential stepping stone to the pinnacle of ultimate success and adversity as an opportunity to take us to a higher ground.






Colonel Sanders Overcame a Lifetime of Adversity with his Recipe For Success

Colonel Sanders master of adversity
Colonel Harland Sanders Innovator and Master of Adversity

At 65, all Colonel Harland Sanders had was his old Caddie roadster luggage trailer, his small pension check, and a recipe for chicken. Little did he know that all of these were enough to change his life and become part of almost every family in the world. Colonel Sanders was indeed a Master of Adversity.

Before he became an icon printed in buckets and KFC fast-food chains from all corners of the globe, he was first a baby-sitter to his siblings. His father died when he was six, obliging his mother to take a full-time job in order to support the family. And because young Sanders was left to look after his siblings and cook for them, he learned to make many different dishes at a very young age. It was during this time that he discovered his passion for simple yet delicious recipes. However, challenging life circumstances did not allow Sanders to pursue his calling until much later.

A sixth-grade dropout, Sanders jumped from one job to another for 30 years; from a farmworker, to an army mascot, an engine fireman, a railroad operative, an insurance seller, a steamboat pilot, a tire salesman, an amateur obstetrician, a country lawyer, a defeated political candidate and finally, to a gas station operator. He often teased by his own brother: “no good fellow… who can’t hold a job.” But although he failed to consistently pursue all of these professions, his passion for cooking never wavered.

When Sanders opened up a service station, he began to cook for travelers who stopped by for gas refills. He didn’t own a restaurant, so customers only ate on the dining table he set up in the station. He then started selling meals to families. It was through this small business that he formulated and completed his famous recipe for fried chicken. Sanders slowly made a name for himself, and Governor Ruby Laffoon even made him a Kentucky Colonel to recognize all of his contributions to the state’s cuisine. He had a short taste of success, but his business was closed down when a highway was built on his restaurant’s location. He retired and received his pension amounting to $105. This marked the beginning of his new life.

Proving that it’s never too late to reach one’s dreams, Sanders travelled everywhere with his trailer in hopes of getting his chicken recipe sold. Many restaurant owners turned him down yet he remained undeterred. He received several positive responses after his long search, not only because of his delicious chicken, but because of his interminable spirit.

Earlier in his life Sanders was involved in several failed business ventures and got fired from numerous jobs. When he finally made up his mind and decided to invest in his trusted chicken recipe, he refused to give up, even in spite of repeated rejection. He knew that if he kept on seeking, and knocking on doors, someone would eventually say yes. He once said, “I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, no amount of labor, no amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it.

Sander’s business voyage is the same as with many other businessmen who have bounced from one business concept to another before reaching that one winning idea. The key ingredients have always been to never give up, to believe in one’s self, and to always trust the success waiting to be achieved as one reaches his full potential.


Business Mogul Sheldon Adelson’s Adversity-Ridden Journey To Success

Sheldon Adelson, American business magnate and self-made billionaire, Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, was

Sheldon Adelson Wiki
Sheldon Adelson Wiki

born to a poor Jewish family in Boston in 1933. His father was a taxicab driver while his mother had a knitting shop. When he was 12, he borrowed $200 from his uncle to sell newspapers at busy street corners. What followed was a seemingly endless journey to success of a strong-willed and business-minded young man.

At sixteen, he owned and managed his first business – a small candy-vending machine company. Later on, he began selling ice cream bars from the nickels he collected. He attended college to major in corporate finance and real estate, but decided to drop out later on. Sheldon joined the Army and, afterwards, took a job as a secretary to the owner of a financial magazine in New York City. In the years that followed, he worked as a financial consultant for advertising, a mortgage broker, a real estate investor, and a tour business operator. You can tell that although he had the spirit of a real businessman, he still had to work hard as an employee until he had enough to invest in his chosen ventures. However, it wasn’t a smooth ride.

Sheldon’s financial empire fell as some of these business ventures failed; and it didn’t help that the stock market during that time was experiencing a massive decline. He started recovering when he entered the real estate business by converting apartment buildings into condominiums. He did very well for a while but this venture failed as well. The drastic ups and downs of his businesses could have stopped him but Sheldon relentlessly and actively sought the next big thing. “I have had a couple of set-backs but I have never failed,” Sheldon said in one of his interviews.

 Sheldon is a self-made businessman who didn’t know when to quit. The beginning of his ultimate success was when he went into the media business by acquiring a small publishing company in 1972. One of the magazines he purchased from the company was the Communications User magazine. Once, while attending a condominium-conversion trade show, he had a life-changing vision. He visualized trade shows as “living magazines” and recognized the need for trade shows (for computers) in the communications industry. Sheldon quickly sold his condo business to concentrate on the trade show business. He formed Interface Group Inc. in 1972 and seven years later, Sheldon staged his first high-tech trade show. The company, COMDEX or Computer Dealers Expo, was conceived while the personal computer was emerging.

The timing was perfect. By the 1980s, COMDEX was the leading computer show in the world and one of the largest trade shows in the United States.

The success of his trade shows led to his next logical steps. He decided to build his own convention facility upon recognizing that Las Vegas did not have enough convention space.  He went from renter to owner when he bought the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and redeveloped the property. He then built a shopping mall, resort and convention facility to house COMDEX and other shows. After years of successful shows, he sold COMDEX to a Japanese company for $862 million in 1995. A year later, the Venetian Hotel and Resort Casino was constructed. Not resting on his laurels, he expanded his hotel and casino franchise in Asia by opening Sands Macao in China and Marina Bay in Singapore.

Devout giving

During the 2000s, Sheldon has given millions of dollars to various charitable organizations which support Israeli and Jewish causes. He has been philanthropic in funding for education, religious, cultural, and medical research projects.

Rags to Riches

 Sheldon’s story could be aptly described as a rags-to-riches story. Despite investing and losing a multimillion-dollar fortune twice, Sheldon did not give up. Many a time his ideas failed but he continuously kept his attention on the next big thing. To date, Forbes magazine declares Adelson as the 8th richest person in the world with a net worth of $38 billion. Not bad for a college dropout who started out with a borrowed $200, who jumped around numerous day jobs as a middle-aged man, and who was terribly bankrupt a number of times. Adversity was Sheldon’s constant adversary and Sheldon always won.

Sheldon’s forward and outside-of-the-box mentality is what led him to his enormous success. The self-made billionaire’s inspiring words: “I look at every business and ask, How long can this last? How can I identify the status quo and change it?”




Simon Cowell: Overcoming Adversity in the Music Industry

“If you had lived 2,000 years ago and sung like that, I think they would have stoned you,” says Simon Cowell as a judgesimon-cowell1 in one of the episodes on the television show, American Idol. Cowell is a record producer but has been known as a commentator—even more famous for his bruising words. What most people don’t know, however, is that behind this strong character is a roller coaster ride to success.Simon Cowell is a master of adversity.

What guided Cowell to fame and victory was his father’s advice. “My dad said to me, ‘Work hard and be patient.’ It was the best advice he ever gave me. You have to put the hours in.” He jumped over the barriers and courageously faced adversities that came his way.

Being a son of a music industry executive and a former ballet dancer, music has been a constant part of his childhood. However, entering the music industry has not been as easy for him as you may think.

Cowell attended school at Dover College but dropped out at 16. He went for several jobs and bounced from one unsuccessful career to another.

Being trapped in a vicious cycle of unemployment and a relatively low educational attainment as compared to his peers was never reason enough for Cowell to give up. With the help of his father, he got a job at EMI Music Publishing as a mailroom clerk. He worked hard, remained humble, and successfully built a strong network of influential people in the music franchise. This eventually earned him a position as an assistant to an A&R executive at EMI. Later on, he was promoted as a talent scout. Cowell then left EMI and formed E&S Music together with Ellis Rich (Zeleznock, 2008).

Cowell was courageous and always willing to take risks. Partnering with Iain Burton in 1985, Cowell bravely put up their own company, Fanfare Records. Unfortunately, the venture folded in 1989 due to financial difficulties. Although this tragic event buried Cowell in debt, he remained undeterred and worked as a consultant for BMG Records that same year. From there, he slowly propelled to success by signing up a number of great talents for the company. It is said that he was able to sell more that 150 million records and 70 top-charting singles in the UK and United States alone.

 No matter how hard life hit him, Cowell managed to stand back up. Indeed, he has been a pop icon despite his fair share of serious obstacles. Personally, I would say that he inspires people to be a more resilient and determined. Cowell knew what it felt like to have nothing—so he is wise enough to know how to live life now that he almost has everything. He once said, “Money brings you security and choice. You can make decisions in a different way if you have a lot of money. But when you have nothing, you have a naiveté and a more fearless attitude because you have nothing to lose.”

More than this, being open to criticism is one of Cowell’s best qualities. He inspires people to be more comfortable with the possibility of rejection. As a judge of the most popular singing competitions of this generation, Cowell is not afraid to be hated as he throws out such honest criticism to the shaking contestants of American Idol. This commitment to being true and transparent is a trait that I find deeply admirable.

Cowell’s struggles as he climbed the ladder of success serve as a reminder that life is never a smooth-sailing ride. One has to be fearless for him to achieve his dreams. Cowell’s story also tells us that we must boldly conquer our dreams and think less of what other people may think. The trials he encountered made him a strong man and this quality makes him invincible—he does not get thrown off easily. We as individuals must take his story as an inspiration to never give up on becoming a better and more successful individual despite all odds.


Simon Phillip Cowell. (2014). The website. Retrieved 05:30, Sep 16, 2014, from.

Zeleznock, T. (2008). 7 Entrepreneurs Whose Perseverance Will Inspire You. Retrieved Sep 16,2-14.

Simon Cowell. (2014). Feeling website. Retrieved Sep 16, 2014. from