What There Is to Learn From Four Of The Most Influential Companies on Earth

The landscape of the path to success is constantly changing its appearance. Nobody can teach you how to take their guaranteed path, but they can help you figure out how to pave your own. Andrew Carnegie once said that to understand success, you must not only look at those who have succeeded, but also the millions who have been classified as "failures".  Luckily for us, there are people who have taken the time to research the habits of practice of the uber-successful. A great example of one such individual would be Scott Galloway, who wrote a book titled The Four, on the four biggest companies as of 2017: Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. However, the most interesting learnings are not from companies as entities, but from entrepreneurs who started them. To summarize, here are three principal ideas from this book applied by these entrepreneurs for you to contemplate in your daily business practice.

Don't Follow Your Passion, Follow Your Talent

As youth struggle to find a career path, or purpose, for that matter, they're always told: "do what you love." In a Utopian world, this is a perfect strategy, but the modern world is far from perfect. At a conference with Gary Vaynerchuk, an audience member had asked whether or not a person should follow a certain career path if they love it, but aren't necessarily good at it. His response: "To me, the answer is yes. The problem is, please also recognize: you're probably not going to get rich." Although this isn't an end-all-be-all statement, it is an ideology tested by time. It comes down to what you want the legacy of your life to look like. If financial success is your primary goal, you need to keep in mind that things you find interesting and intriguing might not be as attractive to your target audience. Try to find something that is relevant to your modern day society that you can incorporate yourself in well. As Galloway says, "You don't have to love it, just don't hate it." Ultimately, once finding what you're good at and making progress, you'll naturally love it. Nothing motivates a person more than seeing a powerful, effective result to their actions. 

Curiosity is crucial to success

As time goes on, technology advances, cultural trends arise, and people's interests change. Being a person trying to achieve success in any way shape or form, you must be curious and mindful of these changes. Pay close attention to trends, viral topics, fashions, etc. Economy and prosperity are largely predicated on the consumers opinions and decisions, so adapting to them lays the groundwork for any type of advancement you aim to make. British author Ken Robinson once said that "curiosity is the engine of achievement." That is of course if you know how to apply what you've learned into your business/venture. Curiosity is only beneficial if it follows the path of what the military calls the OODA Loop: Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.

The Key Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

Although they may seem too specific to function as a status quo, here are three of Galloway's tests/questions that make or break a successful entrepreneur:

1. Are you comfortable with public failure?

Any successful entrepreneur knows how to accept rejection, because they've faced it many times throughout their career. Going through a rejection therapy such as the one documented by Jia Jiang in his Ted Talk and being comfortable with it, is an extremely beneficial skill in any aspect of life.

2. Do you like selling?

"Entrepreneur" is synonymous with "salesperson." Whether you're selling a product, selling people to join your firm, selling investors, or customers on a product, it is your job to do it, and be good at it.

3. Do you lack the skills to work at a big firm?

Standing out and succeeding in a big firm isn't easy. It requires a dense skill set that includes ability to communicate well, work collectively, suffer injustices, and more. Big firms are a great platform for you to sort through your strengths and weaknesses.

In the end, it all comes down to your motivation and your abilities. First, find something you're good at. Second, find a way to fit that into modern day trends and culture, which you have to be mindful of at all times. Finally, stay on task, with your end goal in mind. You've got the  blueprint of a path to success, now go out and build it.

This article was co-authored by Daniel Trukhin

5 Startups Mark Cuban Thinks Will Shape the Future

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How an NFL Rookie Is Making a Name for Himself with Cyber Security

Former LSU defensive end Lewis Neal went from being undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft to being signed by and playing for the Dallas Cowboys. Neal knows that he is not guaranteed anything in the NFL and is prepared for life after football.

Neal owned a barber shop in college and is currently the co-owner of a financial investment firm as well as a cyber security company. It is the latter effort that Neal takes most pride in, always itching for an opportunity to talk about anything from patents in the cryptographic space to exposing weaknesses in blockchains.

I recently spoke with Neal about his entrepreneurial spirit and what caused him to be so proactive off the field at such an early age.

Why do you think it's important to start an off-the-field business while in the NFL?

Neal: Your personal brand is at an all-time high while you are playing professional sports. Starting while you are in the league gives you a head-start in your career after football. 

You need to capitalize on all the free marketing you can for your brand while you are playing sports so those relationships and connections are there for when you are done playing. It will be ten times harder to do those things when you are done playing, because at the end of the day, people follow you as of now because you play sports. When you are done playing it will not be the same relevancy anymore for the majority of the NFL players.

The average millionaire has 7 streams of income, so we should not just focus on one which is just football. We should build an empire while our personal brand is still relevant so when you are done playing football people are going to continue to be intrigued by what you are doing, because you have built a brand outside of the sport as well. Also, by creating your own business while playing football, you are setting yourself up for guaranteed money, because we all know NFL money is never guaranteed especially in times like the off-season.

Who is assisting you and why is that assistance so important?

Neal: A few people assisted me along my journey which I am very thankful for. Benjamin Davis, the owner of The Gents Place here in Dallas, who is also working with Jerry Jones and Emmitt Smith. Ben is a great friend and mentor he has really been there and helped me learn things as far as business deals and advice.

It is very important to network and get you a team, because me having the support system and a team around me has helped me achieve some of the things I have achieved and also most importantly doing things the right way. They make sure I get into the best deals and stay away from the wrong deals.

Having a team around you as an athlete is huge, because I get to focus on what I love to do which is playing football, because I know I have a credible team around me that has my best interest and get things done. Never think you can do it alone as an athlete, because it can be hard, but having the right team around you can make it easier for you while you are playing.

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

Neal: I was inspired to be an entrepreneur because I was always into making my own way in life to help support me and my family. I do not like depending on anyone to feed myself and my family but me. So, I have always had the mindset to where I am going to own my own business one day.

That is also what inspired me to become an investor, because I wanted my money working for me instead of me working for it.

While I am still young, I have accomplished a lot as a rookie in the NFL, which is very rare. I am super thankful as well to be where I am at. But I also just want to inspire other young athletes to do the same. The success I have had is bigger than me. I believe it's came to me for a bigger purpose and that's to show others it can be done and to open other athletes minds up that they are more than an athlete.

This 1 Unusual Habit Helped Make Dr. Dre, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs Successful

Everyone wants to be more productive -- especially entrepreneurs. One way to increase productivity? Simplify your decision-making processes by building habits.

In studying the effects of extraneous variables on the outcome of legal cases, researchers segmented judicial deliberations into three distinct "decision sessions." Over the course of these "decision sessions," they found the percentage of favorable rulings dropped gradually from about 65 percent to nearly zero within each session. After a break, it spiked back up to around 65 percent.

Part of the reason? Decision fatigue.

It's said the average person makes 35,000 decisions every day. What to eat for breakfast? What shirt to wear? Which door to go through? Where to go for lunch?

A simple way to save brain power is to cut down on the number of decisions you need to make. Some of the most successful people have already figured this out. They simply wear the same thing each and every day.

Uniforms for Success

In HBO's 2017 documentary series, Defiant Ones, Andre Young -- better known as Dr. Dre -- mentions he wears the same shoes every day: Nike's Air Force 1. Barack Obama wears only gray or blue suits. Mark Zuckerberg sports his iconic gray Brunello Cucinelli t-shirt. Steve Jobs became famous for a black turtleneck, jeans, and New Balance sneakers.

I've been wearing the same clothes for over 10 years. My getups typically include: Asics Gel Kayano sneakers, Levi's 513 jeans, a zip-up Lululemon Sojourn Jacket, ST33LE t-shirts, and Grant Slim-Fit Non-Iron Banana Republic dress shirts.

I have 15 pairs of Levi's, six Lululemon jackets, 10 of those t-shirts, and 15 dress shirts. No joke.

Unlike some entrepreneurs, I do swap out colors. But the staples remain the same.

Here's why we do it, and why you should too:

1. You'll waste less time.

I hate wasting time. Having a regular uniform makes it quick and easy to get dressed. Rather than deliberating for five or even ten minutes, I can grab my outfit, throw it on, and get started on the more important things on my to-do list.

A go-to outfit also saves loads of time shopping. You know what you're looking for and can get right to your favorite store. Or better yet, if you know your size, style, and color, you can order everything online -- without the annoyance of sending back returns.

2. You'll save brainpower.

As Obama said in an interview with Vanity Fair, "You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can't be going through the day distracted by trivia."

When you wear the same thing, you're one step closer to avoiding the distraction of trivia. It takes no thought to get dressed in the morning. You can channel all that decision-making power directly into growing your business.

3. You'll always feel good in what you're wearing.

If you choose your clothes for comfort, they'll always feel good. If you choose them for style, you'll always think they look good on you (even if others disagree). Either way, you'll feel good about what you're wearing. It's an automatic confidence boost.

I constantly get made fun of by my friends and family for wearing the same thing, but it works. See if it could work for you.

Mark My Words: Bill Gates is Running for President

I predict we'll see a Bill Gates for President campaign in 2020. 

Will he be a reluctant candidate? Will he have a shot at winning? It's too early to say.

But if his brief interview on CNN last night represents his thinking, I think he's thinking about running.

Gates is not normally mentioned among the long list of potential candidates. And, he's tried to dampen speculation that he might run in the past, that was before the 2016 election.

For just a few minutes last night, he sounded like somebody who might be thinking that his country needs him. The topic was the new tax law, which he was discussing with CNN's Fareed Zakaria:  

"It was not a progressive tax bill. It was a regressive tax bill. People who are wealthier tended to get dramatically more benefits than the middle class or those who are poor, and so it runs counter to the general trend you'd like to see, where the safety net is getting stronger and those at the top are paying higher taxes."

Most nonpartisan analysts say the new tax law indeed does provide small, temporary tax breaks for many middle class Americans--but also includes big tax hikes for others in the middle class, and giant, permanent tax cuts for the country's wealthiest people.

Gates, 62, who has an estimated $91 billion net worth and is the second-wealthiest person on the planet, also said he thinks that the government should be taxing people like him at a much higher rate.

"I need to pay higher taxes," Gates said on CNN Sunday evening. "I've paid, in absolute, more taxes, over $10 billion, than anyone else, but the government should require people in my position to pay significantly higher taxes."

There's nothing stopping Gates or any other billionaire from simply paying more taxes than he or she is required to. However, since retiring from his role as CEO and founder of Microsoft, however, Gates has devoted himself full-time to philanthropy.

In fact, he and Warren Buffett were the cofounders of The Giving Pledge, via which 158 of the world's richest billionaires have pledged to give at least half of their fortunes to charity. 

When he's tried to dampen speculation about a political future in the past, Gates often talks about the charitable work he's doing now as being something he's better suited for.

"I like my job at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation better than I would being president," Gates said in oft-cited remarks in early 2016. "Also, I wouldn't be good at doing what you need to do to get elected."

But, that's not exactly an ironclad "I won't serve if elected" speech. Also, note the date: "early 2016." 

A lot has changed since then in this country. And if Gates is thinking about it, I can imagine very few circumstances under which he wouldn't do run.

He's been been a consistent, if subdued critic of President Trump's policies since the 2016 election, pushing back against the tax bill, but also against Trump's entire "America First" foreign and domestic economic policy, which Gates sees as short-sighted.

And then you start to ask, how many people are there really in the United States who could envision running for president in 2020, and having a shot at winning? A thousand, at the most?

The 2016 election proved we're willing to consider candidates from outside politics and the military. 

And having done what Gates has done, and accomplished what he accomplished, it's almost impossible to imagine him not thinking of himself as part of that relative small group.

If you need more proof, in writing this column, I came across evidence that somebody else might think he's potentially running--the Russian government.

I say this because their state-funded news organization, RT, seems to have taken a strong anti-Gates position. Even their article about his remarks on CNN includes a tweet to a satirical video game they'd promoted, mockingly called, "Save Us Bill Gates!"

Do the Russians think they're experts on U.S. politics now? Do they know something we don't know? We'll find out soon enough.

Let us know in the comments: Will Bill Gates run for president? Should he?

Business Debt – Yes or No?

Oh boy.  Debt.  That nasty four-letter word nobody likes.  I'll go out on a limb and say there are a couple of very good reasons to go into debt as an entrepreneur and, if you are ever going to grow and scale your company, then debt is often the easiest way to do it.

First things first, though - we have to get our vocabulary right.  When you're dealing with "good" debt - the sort of stuff that can build your business and make you money, its often more comforting to call it "leverage" and smile as you say it.  What's more important, that leverage can be critical to taking your small company and making it into a big company ... the kind we like to call a Great, Growing Company.

Here's four scenarios where having some leverage might be just the ticket to success...

·         Increasing and developing product lines.  Everyone loves how Daymond John started FUBU with $40, a sewing machine, and a desire to build something great, but $40 isn't going to get you very far.  If you could bump that into $40,000, how many more products can you create?  How many more relationships can you foster?  How much more can you ship?  The leverage from loans and capital can give you the tools you need when the business plan is solid and you simply need to get bigger.  Don't be afraid of leverage if it's helping you move ideas into income-producing production.

·         Increased marketing.  Imagine you have a great product sitting on the shelves and you just need to get the word out about it.  Again, here's an example of a perfect time to take on some debt to buy the advertising that will, inevitably pay for the debt.  The key is this - the money from the debt is being used to generate the income to repay the debt and generate more income.  As in our previous example, leverage is being used simply to "kick-start" the sales process.  This is a good place for that leverage.

·         Credit line management.  At a certain point, you'll have grown your company large enough to develop lines of credit - essentially a revolving source of funding based on the total value set by the company and the institution.  The good news is that this is debt that is only as large as what you need.  A million-dollar line of credit might only need to provide $30,000, but you'll have the option of another $970,000.  Pay off the $30K and you're back to a million in potential leverage.

·         Hiring.  It's no surprise that if you can't pay folks, you won't have folks (or at least not a team worth having), so taking on some debt to ensure you can train your team and pay them while you ramp up production and distribution may be a critical step in company growth.  

There's something else, though, when it comes to leverage, and that's the psychological aspect of debt.   Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, discussed the idea of how a general should proceed if he was caught on "deadly ground" - where the likelihood of defeat was high and the options for retreat were low - and his advice was simple - order the soldiers to smash their cooking pots and engage in the battle.  The idea?  Simple - they know they must win or they will die.  Taking on debt in your business to actively grow your business could be a catalytic event in your business' growth.  You'll find yourself working harder, looking for the advantages for growth and expansion that you might never have looked at if you were comfortable and simply resting on your ... shall we say ... assets.

Healthcare Plans Aren’t Good Enough for Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon’s Employees. So They’re Creating Their Own. Here’s How

Healthcare has been making headlines this past year. 

The Trump administration attempted to repeal and replace ObamaCare on several occasions, and were continually met with a lack of support. And after numerous attempts to push out a new healthcare bill,the senate ultimately did not vote to pass the Trump Administration's healthcare bill.

This entire process took about five months, and left many wondering about the future of healthcare, and public benefits as a whole. While this administration continues to grapple with how to best structure the nation's healthcare system, a few business tycoons are taking matters into their own hands.

In late January of this year, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon announced their plans to reform healthcare for their own employees.

Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, alongside Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, all share a common pain point (pun intended): their companies employ hundreds of thousands of people, all of whom need healthcare. And according to TIME magazine, "The newly created company will be entirely 'free from profit-making incentives and constraints."

Translation: they don't need to turn a profit from their healthcare initiatives. They just need to build something that works better than the current system to provide their employees with better care--while simultaneously reducing their own company's coverage costs.

This is yet another incredible example of the leadership bone that lives in today's most forward-thinking founders, CEOs, and business leaders. 

In the case of Bezos, Buffett, and Dimon, they've spotted a huge need in the market, and more impressively, are using their resources to create something that will help people at scale. 

But what's most fascinating about this endeavor is that it comes at a time when government decision makers seem to be stuck with their hands tied, unsure of how to proceed effectively. Meanwhile, these business tycoons in the private sector are coming together to do what the public sector isn't. 

It's great to see CEOs prioritizing their employees needs in such a prominent way. And it's interesting to hear the concerns these CEOs have with America's current healthcare system. 

Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors in the world, explains that, "The ballooning costs of health care act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy... We share the belief that putting our collective resources behind the country's best talent can, in time, check the rise in health costs while concurrently enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes," according to CNN Money.

Their brilliant plan tackles two major obstacles provide by U.S. healthcare today. It targets rising medical costs, and it aims to provide better treatment for  patients. 

So, how are they going to make this happen? 

The healthcare company being created by JPMorgan Chase, Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway is looking to technology to provide solutions to making healthcare more affordable. 

One of the greatest challenges our current healthcare system faces is dependency on reactive medicine--instead of preventative. One of the primary focuses of entrepreneurs playing in the digital health space is to shift this model--being able to address sickness, injury, and other care-related issues--before there is a need to visit a hospital, take medication, get surgery, etc. Automation and technology is seen as a step in the right direction.

Of course, this means also addressing other pressing issues like obesity, which is still treated in a reactive instead of proactive way--but that's another issue entirely.

Since Bezos and his company Amazon are known for being on the cusp of tech innovation, it's no real surprise that this would be the pillar of Amazon's future healthcare company.  And according to Bloomberg, Amazon's preliminary steps into the industry have already been causing havoc among the group of long-established healthcare companies. 

How will their healthcare company differ from healthcare companies already out there?

According the the New York Times, these three prominent companies have said that the healthcare company they are building would be, "free from profit-making incentives and constraints".

In a recent statement, Jamie Dimon addresses why this is important by explaining that people value transparency and having the information and opportunity to manage their own healthcare. 

He noted that Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway each have an incredible amount of resources. And that together they plan to uses these resources to improve healthcare by creating solutions that benefit their employees, their families, and maybe the rest of America. 

In the same statement, Jeff Bezos also said that there are intricate issues surrounding healthcare, and potential healthcare reform. 

"The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty... Hard as it might be, reducing healthcare's burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner's mind, and a long-term orientation," said Bezos.

While this may be an uphill battle, all three of these companies have the experience and the resources to do something incredible in the healthcare space.