From Arlene: Nobody Succeeds Alone

From Arlene: Nobody Succeeds Alone

Leadership | Posted by - June 28, 2017 at 12:30 am

The entrepreneurs that I admire most share one significant trait: they don't consider themselves the sole architects of their success. They have the humility to recognize that many others have helped them along the way: dedicated employees who believed in what they were doing; mentors and advisors who gave generously of their time and expertise; loved ones who supported and put up with them; inspirers who served as their role models. They also know that while they worked hard, persisted and seized opportunities where others might have overlooked them, to some extent luck also figured in their good fortune.

Because the most remarkable entrepreneurs don't generally consider themselves remarkable, they tend to think inclusively. They want to make money, but they don't view money strictly as something with which to line their own pockets; they see it as a way to give something back to their businesses, their employees and their communities so all can grow and flourish.

What I'm really speaking about here is an intuitive understanding that success can be fleeting. As a result, the best entrepreneurs possess gratitude and a sense of humility. Consider, for instance, the inscription on the tombstone of Andrew Carnegie, one of America's great 19th century entrepreneurs, who went from being a telegraph messenger to founding U.S. Steel: "Here lies a man who knew how to enlist the service of better men than himself." But I'd argue that even Steve Jobs, who wasn't exactly known for his humility, understood that life was full of vicissitudes and that he did not stand alone. I think he understood it because he came from a humble background and he had a remarkably messy life. (He was adopted at birth by loving parents, but only after being passed over by a lawyer and his wife who decided at the last minute that they wanted a girl, and only after his biological mother initially refused to sign the adoption papers for the next couple in line because they weren't college-educated. She only relented a few months later when they promised to send her son to college one day. Steve's adoptive parents made good on their promise, and he went to college, although he famously dropped out after six months. And of course, he was kicked out of his own company.) Still, whatever his flaws, Jobs understood that he was only as good as the people around him, he surrounded himself with the best people, and he remained remarkably loyal to them--as they remained to him.

Of course confidence is essential for an entrepreneur, and confidence flows from a healthy sense of self, but there's a big difference between healthy egotism and that of the blind, bloated, runaway, abusive-to-others variety. That's why I think it's so important to stay grounded and be careful not to start believing your own press. To run a successful company, you need to hear the truth, and to hear the truth you need to surround yourself with people who will tell it to you. But if you've turned into one of those bosses who's a legend in his or her own mind, that's not going to happen.

That's why I think it's so vital to regularly take stock of yourself, and to put in place a series of checks and balances to ensure that you're not becoming somebody you no longer like. Try to remember why you became an entrepreneur in the first place, and the person you were when you first started out. Try to remember the people who helped you back then. And try to remember to perform small acts of kindness for those around you. Those little gestures can go a long, long way.

How important do you think having humility is for an entrepreneur? What benefits flow to those who possess it? What about the damage that can result in business when an entrepreneur lacks humility?

Tags: arlene dickinson, dickinson, blog, success, alone, architect, tools, gratitude, humility, Steve Jobs, effective entrepreneur, employees, entrepreneur, teamwork

Zulubear ~ Annette Young
November 21, 2012 at 10:21 pm

In my line of work, I am often referred to as a 'leading edge teacher'.

I most enjoy it when others get that I am the mere student.

I prefer it that way. It keeps the fires for learning alive.

Everything I know, I learned from kids who have difficulty with learning.

Everything I do, as an authour, is from kids who asked me to say something

about their learning experience, to give their voice a place.

Marion Heintzman
November 23, 2012 at 1:01 am

I have a saying "  you are only as good as those who you chose to surround yourself with".  I value my team and their opinions.  If you involve your staff and really listen to what they have say, then they are engaged and feel that they also have a vested interest in whatever you are working on....It becomes theirs too, they can take pride of ownership in the finished product.  Quite often Managers are not on the ground level and may think they really have a grasp of what is needed or what is going on.....I think its best to ask those who are there doing it!

Derek Kaye
November 23, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I've always felt that successful leadership & entrepreneurship involved being 'held up' and 'carried' by those around you. Many people prefer to step on those around them in their quest for the top. Personally, I'd rather they be the path that guides me but, ultimately, have them with me at the destination.

Ms Janet T. Winterz
November 28, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Beautifully said. The best business owners are the most humble. And business owners who have been employed know from experience what it can be like with a boss who is not humble.

Tatiana Dudyez
November 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Lack of humility prevents one  from experiencing gratitude every day in every way. It blinds people from the awareness of humble beginnings and saturates their appetite for continuously looking for bigger and better dreams... It makes you impermeable to all that surrounds you!

Gary Lee
December 2, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Am I unique? I like to think so haha. But no seriously. I have worked my $&% off to get where I am. I feel like I am all alone with very little help if any from anyone. I have created multiple businesses one currently exceeding $800k a year. I have no idea how to expand faster but the industry has huge growth. So I find it hard to agree with the title of this article in my case Arlene. I am all humility and would love help.

Define Success? if it is building up a business to a healthy profit and getting to a point where you need help to expand then it was done alone. If it was getting to this point to then get VC funding to make it bigger then I welcome the notion "Nobody Succeeds Alone" :)

Laura-Jean Bernhardson
December 21, 2012 at 9:54 pm

I am seeing more clearly how to let my business out of the strangle hold I had it in.  Not understanding how to be a leader who empowers others, I held onto too many decisions and ran my growing business with the small business gut feeling and emotional pull of a few years ago when it was a lot smaller.  This year I reached a critical point in growth where I have no choice (except shrinking or complete failure) but to start sharing the leadership and decision making. I have recently taken on a CFO to help create the financial structure to go forward, and I feel like the crazy dictator (me!) has been forced out of power to create a better structure of leadership.  Thank goodness because now we can grow beyond what I can manage myself. 

Allaboutyouvideo Judy Whale
January 23, 2013 at 11:32 pm

So many people have encouraged, inspired and challenged me and I can't imagine what I would do without them! No man (or woman) is an island, though some may think they are. :)

Humility is vital to life, not just to business. I agree with Tatiana that lack of humility prevents you from experiencing gratitude and gratitude (or lack of it) can paint the picture a beautiful prism or a muddy black.

Michael W Palmer
March 18, 2017 at 10:43 am
Excellent article Arlene and agree.... Michael w Palmer/Solves Strips
Joe Wasylyk
March 18, 2017 at 12:56 pm
Unfortunately in Canada we don't have 'business support' groups or mentors for the older 50+ entrepreneurs. I remember Arlene when on Dragon's Den you helped a 80+ entrepreneur develop and market the self-adjusting metal saw horse. Without your timely help this older entrepreneur would have been forced to work alone. And, with no business support group coming on the horizon he probably would have failed with his good idea project. I know that you can't possibly help every older entrepreneur but why in Canada do we treat senior entrepreneurs like 'old geezers' who can't possibly have revolutionary new ideas. And what about the older retired electric engineer living in Ontario who invented the e-sight product (digital glasses) that allows blind people an opportunity to have some sight in their lives. Imagine what other new products there are out there where older Canadian entrepreneurs are working long hours by themselves to get their product or service developed and brought out to the marketplace.
Shari Blanchard
March 24, 2017 at 2:17 pm
Grounded confidence is vital to living a happy life. Thanks for the article. This is an important topic.
Mark Morin
March 31, 2017 at 3:00 am
Nailed it !! and in North Bay at the Capital Center yesterday .

Grateful, as everyone else evidently was for your ''living testimony'' ..reflective of the delicate balance you share here between confidence and humility. Loved that you took time to field questions and made everyone feel at ease - as you did with me - while also celebrating the ''thimble'' idea when so many seemed either too shy to express your enthusiasm or failed to see the potential you recognized in her. A great ''commercial moment'' [ inside :) ] for the everyone.

Although it seems typical for most entrepreneurs to experience adversity, the bright side is it seems by default ; weather they bloom early or late, humility seems to come natural when one has to ''persevere for it'' . I dare suggest, given how long it took him, you'll not find any happier than the 80+ entrepreneur who Joe Wasylyk posted here, who developed the self-adjusting metal saw horse. I too was re-inspired by that episode, among many. As for the benefits, I think its as you inferred here.. that that desire to give back becomes the rocket fuel that not only keeps you going but inspires others to do the same.

As for the damage, Richard Branson once posted ''what affects one affects us all''. Good or Bad. As a 50+ entrepreneur myself ( 54 ) I can testify that had my own (prospected ) customers not betrayed me by '' copying our tech'' when we reached out to share our solutions(IP's) with them 16 years ago but remembered their own roots ( like you shared we all have our stories including our adversaries who likewise ought have remembered and known better) ... had they not stolen that which we offered them in the first place, ( even if it took 5 years ) I can only imagine how much more exponential good we could have achieved over the remain next 11 years ... how many more innovators would have been inspired, by our story, like I was by yours. 3:00 am thats how long its taken for the adrenaline to tame down. Thanks for all you do.

Although you could (hypothetically) sit back now, seems in and of itself proof positive of the demonstrable effects of balancing humility with confidence !

Cheers, Mark

Shari Blanchard
April 15, 2017 at 10:13 pm
Insightful article!
Alisha Kujawski
April 28, 2017 at 3:41 am
This was an article I needed to read . It can be so disappointing at times . You can feel as though you've exposed your soul for the greater good just to have it covered in the very thing you fight so hard to change. Humility is light you can see when your being pushed further away from the shore . It becomes the line that not only separates but connects the yin to the yang. Humility is string tied on your finger reminding you everyday where your dreams truly lay. That was an inspiring thought that this lone lady really needed to hear. Thank you.