“Bootstrapping.” If you know any entrepreneurs, you probably hear this word often. Bootstrapping is all about succeeding in what you’re doing with nothing more than your own resources and talents. It’s how most entrepreneurs define what they’re doing and how they’re functioning as a company — usually out of necessity — before they receive significant external investment. Bootstrapping (sometimes) works for startup companies. It never works for leadership development.

You can’t bootstrap leadership. In other words, there’s no such thing as a self-made leader. People who do dynamic, world-changing things always have a story to tell of someone investing in them, inspiring them, or setting an example for them before they became the person they are today.

I’ve spent alot of time thinking about what made the people I admire who they are. A common trait that I have found is that they aligned themselves with someone very early on in their lives who was doing something big. They found someone who was changing the world in some way, no matter how small or large, and they got involved with what that person was doing. For some of them, this led to a future partnership or company, and every one of them learned valuable lessons from the experience. It almost always took them going out of their way to seek out this person to work for, with, or around and (most importantly) learn from — it doesn’t usually happen the other way around.

More often than not, this person they sought out turns out to be a pivotal part of their future success story. I’ve heard multiple stories from people who point to one conversation they had with someone who they admired that literally changed the course of their lives and inspired them to do what they’re doing today. Get yourself into a place where those kind of conversations can happen. If you can find someone who is doing something big and somehow get involved in or around what they’re doing, good things will happen. At the very least, you’ll come away with valuable lessons that you would never have learned otherwise, and you very well may find yourself with opportunities you would have never dreamed of. If you can put yourself in a position to learn from and be involved with someone of this calibre — someone whose footsteps you wouldn’t mind following in one day — you’ll see huge dividends in the future.

You’d be surprised at what people are willing to do for you if you just ask. Successful people want to pass on their knowledge and experience to others — especially people they see as next-generation leaders. Find someone who is doing something big and see if there’s a possibility to be involved in what they’re doing. Better yet, prove to them that you are the person they should spend their time and energy investing in. You may not be able to prove that to them right away, but the first step is getting in the door and getting involved in what they are doing.

They can’t pay you for your time? Do it anyways. They live in another country? Buy your plane ticket. It’ll force you out of your comfort zone? Enjoy it.

Do whatever it takes to make it happen — take a few risks. Actually, take alot of risks. You never know what opportunities could lie ahead of you if you aren’t willing to ask.


Photo Credit: Leonard John Matthews via Flickr

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