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Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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9 Successful People Share Their Advice On Success

Written by Dana Iskoldski

As students, we don’t always have our priorities completely straight, and we’re constantly juggling in-the-moment living with worries about our future. Like when we nurture our friendships and try to get good grades. Or better yet, when we consume sugary lattes but always make it to yoga class on time. It’s hard to focus on what’s important.

So for the past six months I’ve been exploring what success is. I’ve been fascinated by how many definitions of it there are, and how people chase it. To research, I interviewed successful people from all walks of life: a former CEO, academics, beloved teachers, a couple of up-and-comers, entrepreneurs, and many more. And—full disclosure—every Q&A session I’ve done blew me away. Below is a compilation of the amazing, inspiring advice I’ve collected from people who know what success is like.

Advice from Successful People

1. Fake it ‘till you make it. “When I read articles about the top 30 under 30, I would get the sense that people had it so together. But when I met those people, and took the time to listen to their stories, I realized they don’t have everything figured out. Not to discredit everybody’s achievements, but there’s a lot of “fake it ‘till you make it” going on. We’re all constantly figuring new things out for the first time.” —Giovanna Ngai, Jewellery Designer @ Simply Giovanna

2. Meeting new people leads to amazing things. “If you’re social, and you don’t mind putting yourself out there, I would look at companies you want to work for and approach them. What I did is cold call managers and say, ‘I saw the article you wrote recently, it was so inspiring. I would love to work for you. Do you want to meet for coffee and discuss what you’re looking for?’ Worst case scenario is they say no. But they could end up loving how proactive you are and saying ‘Yeah, we’ll keep you in mind when we do our hiring.’” —Joanne Adair, Experiential Learning Advisor @ School of Environment, Enterprise and Development

3. Passion is contagious. “It started with a summer job I had at my uncle’s warehouse. I had known Marathon [a watch company] for a while, and when a shipment of binoculars came in from them I asked my uncle if he could get me a deal on one of their watches. He called up the VP, who invited me to see all the watches Marathon had so I could pick one. I spent two hours talking to the man about watches. I think he liked me, because he told me to give him a call when I started school in September.” —Aaron Young, Junior Consultant @ Marathon Watch Co

4. Don’t force anything. “If I had gone to university right out of high school, with my personality, I wouldn’t have put as much effort into it as I did… I’m not someone who can learn just by reading books, so having experiences I could ground theory in made everything salient to me.” —Michael Wood, Professor @ School of Environment, Enterprise & Development

5. Sometimes you have to risk looking stupid. “Then the question was, ‘Do you have a potential business?’ I was pretty sure companies had need for it, but wasn’t sure whether there was perception of that need yet. So I thought, ‘Who’s the most senior business person in Canada in the resource sector that I could talk to, to ask whether or not all this makes sense?’ And there was someone… So I wrote him a letter and asked if we could meet to talk about advancing sustainable development for mining and forestry operations. I thought I’d never hear from him, but his secretary contacted me a week later. She said he’d be happy to meet with me.” —Dr Blair Feltmate, Head @ Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation

6. Be patient. “There were days where I was sitting in the Lakeview plant thinking, ‘I’ll never get out of here.’ That was where patience came in. When jobs came open, I applied. And I talked to people and made it known that I wanted change, and that made a difference. Also, when opportunities came up that other people didn’t want to do, I thought it would be good exposure and experience and I went for those things.” —Jim Burpee, Former CEO @ Ontario Power Generation

7. Know how to deal with conflict in a mature, productive way. “People are going to be rude and disrespectful to you without any provocation… You can’t get angry, it’s not an option. If you do you’re taking it home with you and you’re going to be a bitter person.” —Simon Carpenter, Teacher @ W. L. Mackenzie C.I.

8. Be active in seeking out opportunities. “Everything grows with what you do. It would be counterproductive to not look for opportunities and hope they come to you. I think I sent out 70 job applications this summer, and I got rejected a lot. So, yes, at the same time you do have to get lucky, but if you don’t try it’s not going to happen.” —Zakariya Ahmed, Summer Intern @ Boston Consulting Group

9. Travel. “For the first time in my life every decision I made, once landed in Spain, was mine. Where I lived, who I was going to be friends with, what I ate, everything. Just being far away from the influence of my parents had me thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, this is really great.’ I saw the world at large, I got to travel Europe, I had a European boyfriend… After that experience, almost everywhere in the world I go I know someone. And it makes such a difference. Beyond just a tour group, I have a human connection wherever I am.” —Victoria Dombrower, Owner @ Two Yogurty’s Franchise Locations

The Takeaway

The most important thing to remember when reading this advice, and tips from others in general, is that your path is unique. You may not be able to completely integrate somebody’s wisdom into your life, but you can draw your own conclusions from it. And that’s really what success is about—making life your own.

All the quotes youve read are part of the 100 Cups of Coffee series on The X Class, a blog committed to exploring success. What are your own tips on success? Share them in the comments below.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.