Innovation can occur in all walks of life, regardless of background or budget. Common excuses for not doing anything to fulfill one’s dream today is “someday, but I don’t have time now”, or “nobody’s willing to help me”. In the end, people in general appear to be their own biggest obstacles, consistently putting their wildest, innovative aspirations on the back burner, typically citing financial, familial or personal reasons. Regardless of what may be occurring in their personal lives, successful innovators and entrepreneurs are able to break through these obstacles and lay down the foundation for what will amount to their life’s work.
So how do they do it? Simple. By working with what they have and making it happen. Below are four examples of innovators from humble beginnings who have taken their respective worlds by storm.
1) Chris Gardner
Overcoming homelessness, loss and financial ruin, Chris Gardner rose through the realm of finance by initially taking on training positions at multiple brokerages. Without a formal education and hardly any connections, Gardner lived on next to nothing, but was able to keep his impoverished living conditions to himself and work as hard as he could. In 1983, he became a top earner at Bear Stearns & Company, starting his own brokerage firm, Gardner Rich, in 1987, with only $10,000 from his own home.
Gardner has gone on to back numerous homelessness, education and child welfare initiatives, as well as being a motivational speaker and writer, publishing his autobiography in 2006. Gardner is truly a testament to what is possible if you set your mind to it, and is a great example of a truly driven innovator.
2) Acid Wizard Studio
A then-unknown firm with no marketing budget to speak of, Poland-based Acid Wizard Studio started an Indigogo campaign to fund their survival horror game, Darkwood. They knew that in order for their campaign to get successful, they needed help to market their vision. Instead of hiring an expensive marketing firm, they went directly to gaming websites and industry influencers on YouTube, sending them a playable demo, presskits and a trailer.
Due to their numerous outreaches and excellent content creation, Acid Wizard Studio was able to get more exposure on large gaming sites like Rock, Paper, Shotgun & Kotaku. Their campaign was initially launched with a $40,000 funding goal, but ultimately earned $57,323. Given that no one on the team had marketing experience or a large budget, Acid Wizard Studio’s success proves that even with a limited budget, anything’s possible.
3) Oprah Winfrey
There’s no question that Oprah Winfrey is one of the most influential and affluent entrepreneurs in recent history. Growing up poor with a teenage mother and sexually abusive relatives, she was able to rise above these numerous obstacles and started working in radio at the age of 17 and co-anchored the local evening news at the age of 19. She soon went on to daytime television with her own show, A.M. Chicago.
Many have accredited her heightened sense of emotional intelligence and open, warm-hearted nature as major contributors to her success. Through effectively conveying empathy and staying calm under pressure, Oprah has an almost uncanny knack for connecting with her audience effectively. Using only her natural talents, Oprah has crafted a multi-billion dollar empire that will not be going away anytime soon.
4) Maria Das Gracas Silva Foster
Growing up poor in a shantytown on the outskirts of Rio De Janiero, Foster made money as a child by picking through trash and selling recyclable materials. Regardless of their poor living conditions, Foster’s mother encouraged her to be successful. After graduating from Fluminense Federal University with a chemical engineering degree, she became an intern with Petrobas. Through sheer grit, she was able to break down barriers and became the company’s first female CEO in 2007.
In short, Foster wasn’t given anything, but was pushed by a strong family member to be the best she can be. She paid her dues as an intern and worked her way up the corporate ladder. Given her humble beginnings and her own inherent grit, she has truly earned the nickname “Caveirao”, or armored vehicle, using only her intelligence and determination.
Given the varied backgrounds of all of these individuals, it goes to show that regardless of your socioeconomic status, anyone can be successful. None of the individuals listed were born with a “silver spoon” or any other advantage in life. But there is one trait that they all have in common: grit.
The next time you’re feeling down about a project, let these people be your inspiration. All of them have survived some sort of sleight in lift, but instead of becoming prisoner to it, they were able to harness their natural gifts and went onto success. It’s an ideal that has been driven home many times, but after researching these amazing people, I’ll state it again: anyone can do it.
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Robert Conrad is a former manager/trainer who has received multiple accolades throughout his career. These include invitations to company focus meetings and a handcrafted plaque presented to him by his team. Now, he is a mentor for at-risk youth and even cooks at a local detention facility. In his off-time, he enjoys playing video games and spending time with his family. Robert can be found on Twitter and Facebook.