Darrah Brustein is a writer, master-networker, and serial entrepreneur with businesses in merchant services, networking, and financial education for kids.
While I may not be quite under 30, I recently had the opportunity to participate in the Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia and share a couple days with about 1,500 other young and motivated entrepreneurs. Although there was a lot of sage wisdom shared, here's my Cliff's Notes version of the best advice from some of the big names at the Summit. So, even if you couldn't be there, you can gain from the lessons learned.
1. "What are you so passionate about that if you were fired, you would still want to do it?" Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos
Elizabeth said she was lucky to have found what she felt she was born to do at a young age. She encouraged others to start with a vision, then define a problem and create a solution. Why are you doing what you're doing? What role do you want to have? These are pressing questions, she said, recommending to be sure you're doing something you love. "You will get knocked down over and over again, but it's the passion that keeps you getting back up, so you better love it!"
2. "I try to be as earnest as possible." Tavi Gevinson, editor-in-chief of Rookie
Not many 12-year-olds skyrocket to fame like Tavi did seven years ago, yet she remains earnest. She started Rookie because she wanted to encourage herself to take risks with her fashion and share it, and, from there, she wanted to open her platform to give others an audience. Where some might discount a teen, she emphasizes not letting age hold you back. She also encouraged people to get offline and connect in person.
3. "The reason I succeeded is the exact reason I was told I would never succeed. I was different." Lindsey Stirling, violinist, composer, singer and performance artist
Lindsey shared the countless no's she received from record labels and "America's Got Talent," explaining that her dream of being a dancing violinist was turned down over and over, but now she has found great success doing what she knew was her gift. She also explained that there's always a new platform coming out, so don't fret if you think you've missed the boat on a trend, specifically as it pertains to social media. For Lindsey, MySpace didn't work out for her, but she was able to capitalize on other social media platforms to grow an audience since then. She says that it's important to remember what is critical for her to continue to do and not get overwhelmed by the outside pressures, which is applicable to artists and entrepreneurs alike.
4. "Startup is in your head. It's not an incorporation date." Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of Box
Aaron developed a public company currently valued close to $2 billion, so he naturally had some advice to share. His story is well-known, having started building companies in middle school -- many of which didn't work out, but he kept going. Mark Cuban sent a check for $300,000 to him and his partners while they were in college, so they decided to drop out and move to the Bay Area to build a business. They played around with different business models and finally landed on Box. Aaron shared that it's as simple as listening to customers in order to find the best model. He also emphasized that you need to be prepared to invest in your business for a long time to see success, not just for a couple years.
5. "What's your grandma pitch? Can you tell it in a way that a grandma can understand?" Dr. Amit Sood, the Mayo Clinic
Dr. Sood spoke at length about how to be successful without being miserable, sharing that a typical trajectory for entrepreneurs is to start with struggle, find success and end up miserable. He explained that the human mind needs meaning to be happy, but so often when we become successful, we lose meaning and subsequently become unhappy. He shared some tips to combat this cycle, which include creating businesses focused on the number of people served -- not the number of dollars made. He recommends we judge self-worth on intention rather than outcome. Ask yourself if your work is making you a better human and if you're engaged. If the answer is "yes," your work has meaning. He also says that you need a trusting network of people on whom you can rely and call at 2 a.m. Lastly, he shared the importance of prioritization and being okay with saying no.
6. "The only person stopping you is you. You're the one setting the limit. Put yourself out there. So what if you fail?" Michelle Phan, YouTube personality and founder of Ipsy
Michelle emphasized from her experience becoming a YouTube celebrity that anyone can be his or her own authority. Figure out what you can offer and get started. Find something you love, and do it every day. She explained that her success with Ipsy is much attributed to her partnerships. She encouraged acknowledging your weaknesses and harmonizing them with someone who strengthens what you lack, much like she did with her partner. She also shared that as you grow influence, you should be more conscience of what you're saying and the impact that you can have.
7. "I'm against one-night stands. I want people to have relationships and work things out." Dr. Ruth Westheimer, sex therapist and author
Dr. Ruth gave her well-respected sex and relationship advice publicly to three pairs of founders. She said that the problem lies in thinking you can change the other person to resolve a conflict. Getting angry at each other is a learning opportunity to figure out which buttons not to push. She believes that not everything needs to be shared saying, "Use some fantasies and keep your mouth shut."
8. "Every time something doesn't work out, there's a valuable lesson, so I can't call it a mistake." Shaun White, two-time Olympic gold medalist
Shaun White publicly "failed" when not winning gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. But he said it was one of the best things that ever happened to him, because it made him realize that he was no different after losing than he was before competing. He takes that attitude into business. When one deal gets shut down, he sees it as an opportunity to start other things of his choosing. He emphasized the importance of listening to your audience saying, "It's not if you build it they will come, but instead, if they build it, they'll stay." He also talked about the power in recognizing that you are not what you do.