Creators: Define Success First!

Recently, I had the good fortune to speak to a room full of young, aspiring entrepreneurs about my professional journey. I hoped to draw some parallels for them to follow, to the extent that those parallels could aid them.

The first part of the session was a 60 minute prepared talk about the initial hurdles that young startups face from a legal standpoint. Following the discussion, there was a question and answer segment, and I was asked the following question by the host:

“How long did it take you to achieve your success?”

This very question is asked of businesspeople all the time in interviews. It is a question that you really should answer with another question.

Thus, I responded to my counterpart: “How you define success?”


All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did. 

T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph  

    You each have done some pretty great things so far. No matter where you are coming from professionally, you made an important decision to start developing your project. In any potential endeavor, starting is the hardest part. Conceiving of an actionable plan to create a new company, a new film, or a new creative career is one thing. Doing the work to execute that plan is entirely another thing.  The first steps are what separates you from many of your peers. Not everybody can transform a plan or an idea into reality.  Congratulations on your first steps.

    Social innovation and entrepreneurship are hard.  Even with the best intentions, building an organization with scarce financial resources is not always feasible, no matter how noble the idea may be.  You have to be part politician, part salesperson, part educator and part evangelist.