The Blog

What It Takes to Build Something Great

'At last the mighty task is done;

Resplendent in the western sun

The Bridge looms mountain high;

Its titan piers grip ocean floor,

Its great steel arms link shore with shore,

Its towers pierce the sky.'

Joseph P. Strauss, Chief Engineer, Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District

As I write I am sat looking out over the Golden Gate Bridge, now the most photographed landmark in the world. I am astounded by not just the loftiness of the structure itself but the fact that we created such a practical masterpiece that has stood proudly for so many years. The bridge was first opened in May 1937 and took just over 4 years in total to build, spanning an impressive 4200 feet in length.

I am not structural engineer, I am simply not left-brained enough, so why am I writing about the Golden Gate Bridge? Because it gives us invaluable lessons in how to build something great.

So what can we learn and apply to our own lives?

Why-power over willpower

I am a big fan of why-power over willpower. Never start a large project in life or business without fully understanding the reason why. Make sure the why is bigger than just your own personal wants and needs; the bridge was built to aid a whole city of people to transport products in and out of San Francisco, enabling growth of the city. Make your plans for people you care about, never set selfish goals because they will not drive you in the way that a selfless goal will. Even if your goal is to build a business to make millions then make sure you document why that will be of benefit to those close to you. How will this wealth affect your spouse and your family? How many jobs will it create for people? What will your business provide for its customers? Once you are operating from this place you won't need to worry about staying on course. It is easy to stop when no one is counting on you.

Be Patient

Don't expect to build something monumental in a week or a month or even a year. Map your timeframes out before you start but if things move slower and they probably will then don't be disheartened, just stay the course. Remember that delays are not denials. If it was easy then everybody would be able to do it. It drives me crazy the way that people think they can just move into a space and make a ton of money overnight.

Prepare for losses

Minimise risk as much as you can but you will suffer setbacks, financially, emotionally and even physically. 11 people died building the Golden Gate Bridge, now I'm not suggesting that you die for your cause - but that said if that is the mindset you are operating from then you are on to a winner. What I'm really saying is be prepared for things not to go your way, to lose money, to lose friendships, to lose sleep and much more. Damage limitation helps, establish good practices and strong rituals but it is your faith in yourself and in your purpose that will pull you through.

Be the hardest worker you know

Tommy Newberry summed it up best when he said 'success is not an accident' My personal inbox is inundated with people that ask to work with me because they saw some posts on Instagram and think that I will just casually offer them a jet setter lifestyle. On the contrary if you work for me then you will work hard as hell for years before you reap anywhere close to what I reap because that is what I do. They see the fruits of the labour but they miss the labour part because they don't see it. They don't recognise the correlation between success and work ethic. I have worked and travelled with some of the most successful people on the planet and their work ethic has never ceased to amaze me.

It's not true that top celebrities who we often think just travel around and party (the truly successful ones anyway). When I toured with Akon we literally moved back to back from one place to the next, we ate and slept when we could (mostly in planes and cars, our hotel rooms were barely touched) and the rest was all work. No play, no alcohol, no messing around. Now I'm not a 50 Cent fan but I respect the fact that he is now one of the wealthiest rappers in the world and no surprise, the man recorded an entire album at the same time as filming 'Get Rich or Die Trying'. When a reporter asked 50 Cent when he sleeps he responded with 'sleep, sleep is for those people who are broke. I don't sleep, I might miss the opportunity to make a dream become a reality.'

Get the right people for the job

Build a team of great people. Bear in mind that you will spend a lot of time with these people, so chose ones that you love in and out of your cause. Don't be afraid to drop people if it transpires they aren't the right fit, it is doing the best for you, them and the rest of your team. The 'hire slow and fire fast' approach has always worked well for me, saving me time, money and sanity. The right people are not just the most competent, in fact it is more important that you build a tribe; a group with strong and congruent values that work well together. As a side note, personally, I always steer clear of hiring people that are working just for money - I never put wages on job specs and rarely offer cash incentives. Find people that share your overall vision.