Lady Gaga, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates: The Surprising Secret Behind Their Success


The human race has sent men to the moon, cured many diseases, mapped the human genome, and descended to the deepest depths of the world’s oceans, but nobody can be really too sure about the reasons why one business is successful and another business is a complete failure. There are too many types of businesses, and it is extremely difficult to identify the actual reasons behind success. What really makes a restaurant, boutique, or spa, a success? People who say they know are really guessing. We can can only really tell what the next big thing is when it becomes the next big thing.

That said, we know that the reason for a business success is based on very tight, but not necessarily apparent factors, of which the successful entrepreneur may not even understand. Who can tell exactly why Lady Gaga succeeded? You can give me a number of reasons but you can’t tell me which ones are the most important. If you could predict the future hits with any certainty – no doubt you would already be a multi-billionaire and probably not reading this.

Business success is about the future and there is no way to predict the future accurately. Any new business is developed along the lines of trying something to see if it works, and then continuing to do it if it actually does. Success doesn’t come from beautiful business plans, it comes from experimenting until – BINGO! You’ve got it. Then you have your own magic bullet that works for you, whether it is a small stall by the side of the road or an airline like Air Asia. Why did new Coke fail in 1985 and the iPad come to be an instant success? There is no way of knowing why consumers accepted word processors and spreadsheets but rejected 3G video calls on their mobile phones. There is a unique and hidden success formula waiting for you to find in your business. You may stumble upon it very quickly or never find it at all.

There are plenty of business books out there with the 10 rules, habits, or points that claim to lead to success. The factors mentioned may exist but not necessarily be the true reasons behind your achievement. Having a lucky charm may have just as much influence over the matter. Think I’m too hard – then just see how many business books stand the test of time. We’ve had scientific management, MBO, TQM, one minute manager, the seven S framework, and so on, mostly relics left behind in school and university libraries. And that leads the discussion onto the “B” school. Most of what is taught at these places is from books written in different times and contexts with little relevance to our life here today.

Many successful entrepreneurs are just not patient enough to see out a course on business or entrepreneurship and would rather go and “just do it.” Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Li Ka Shing, Richard Branson, Lawrence J. Ellison, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Ray Kroc, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of school with little determent to their successful careers as entrepreneurs.

Going out in your own venture is an adventure to find out what works for you. Take some guidance from what the “gurus” and “B” schools say. But be sure to see if it’s really what you need to do, particularly here in Malaysia (where I am) where we seem to have our own ways of doing things. Remember “when in Rome do what the Romans do” and in “Singapore or Bangkok do what the Singaporeans and Bangkokians do” and not the New Yorkers.