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12 mins

4 Poorly Educated But Highly Successful People

Richard Branson, Abraham Lincoln, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad and Levi Strauss all had one thing in common, they dropped out of school but mastered life.
by Sandra Wu | Dec 20 2016

RichardBransonOriginal photo by Chatham House

Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin group, may be worth $5.2 billion today, but he was not always a hotshot. He used to be that kid in your class who flunked every test.

As a teenager, Branson struggled academically due to his dyslexia, but he didn’t let that define him. He ditched school to start The Student; a magazine about pop culture and contemporary issues. It became an overnight sensation and Branson went on to interview top personalities like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and John Lennon.

With this determined attitude, Branson started his iconic, “Virgin” brand – named after his lack of experience in entrepreneurship. Decades later, he’s conquered eight different industries, and picked up a knighthood along the way.

What Is The Moral Of This Story?

We often think we lack the skills and qualifications to face certain challenges, like changing jobs, or starting a business. However, sometimes all it takes is some confidence and resourcefulness to get ahead in life. As Theodore Roosevelt famously put it:

“When you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.”

His takeaway for everyone: seize every opportunity, even if you’re not prepared.

History’s Most Successful Underdogs

Richard Branson isn’t the only successful person to make a 180-degree career change.

The founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad, was born into a Swedish family of humble origins. In his youth, he sold matches and pencils, but soon found a greater calling in life – to make beautiful furniture affordable to every family. Initially, IKEA was seen as an abomination due to its low quality, but it met a need and quickly became a household name.

The original maker of blue jeans, Levi Strauss was a German-Jewish immigrant who once sold dry goods for a living. Wanting to leave a bigger legacy, Strauss worked with tailor Jacob Davis to debut the perfect garment for manual laborers – sturdy denim pants. It took the working class by storm and subsequently became an essential item in every wardrobe.

The man who abolished slavery in the US, Abraham Lincoln, grew up on a farm in the western frontier. Lincoln received almost no formal education, but desired a career in politics. He proceeded to teach himself law through books, and eventually passed the bar-exam. From that point on, Lincoln became a political prodigy, and led the nation through its most troubling time.

These famous figures decided to take on new challenges despite not having the right background. What goals would you like to achieve?

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