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How an Outsider Mentality Can Be Your Key to Success

Dedicated immigrants have a long history of seizing exceptional opportunities and excelling in the world of work and business.
by Michael Benninger | Feb 27 2017

When Do Won “Don” Chang immigrated to California in 1981, the 18-year-old South Korean planned to make it big by selling coffee to caffeine-craving Los Angelenos. But when he saw that all the nicest cars in town were driven by fashion executives, Chang shifted his focus toward a career in clothing.

With no formal education and little knowledge about the garment industry, Chang wasted no time learning all he could about attire. He worked up to three jobs at once, saving money to launch a store of his own. And in 1984, just 3 years after arriving in America, Chang opened Fashion 21 in L.A.’s neighborhood of Highland Park.

Thanks to Chang’s hard work and can-do mentality, his store was a hit, raking in more than $700,000 in its first year. Fashion 21’s success quickly spawned other locations, and today, now known as Forever 21, Chang’s apparel empire comprises more than 600 stores spanning 50 countries.

The Ascent of Immigrant Entrepreneurs

New York's Mulberry Street

As successful as he is, Chang is only one star in a galaxy of immigrants who’ve found their fortunes in America. In Randall Lane’s You Only Have To be Right Once: The Unprecedented Rise of the Instant Tech Billionaires, the author cites several examples of outsiders like Chang who succeeded as entrepreneurs.

Take the story of Pejman Nozad, an Iranian national who fled to Germany then San Francisco with less than $1,000 to his name. Nozad didn’t know English upon arrival in the States, and lacked any specialized skill set. He scraped by working a variety of temporary jobs and eventually landed a gig selling carpets, a position at which he instantly excelled.

From these humble beginnings, Nozad developed a network of San Francisco’s most influential movers and shakers. He eventually put these relationships to good use when he founded the Amidzad investment fund, which earned more than $100 million by backing numerous successful startups.

Both Chang’s and Nozad’s stories can serve as inspiration for immigrants and outsiders the world over. Neither let their circumstances prevent them from succeeding, and each maintained an upbeat attitude and a commitment to get their dreams off the ground.

Dream Big, Work Hard

If you’re an outsider from any walk of life, making your dreams come true can be a challenge, but it is possible. If you ever doubt it, just walk into a Forever 21 store and take a look around at Don Chang’s dream.

A resilient, can-do mentality will go a long way toward helping you achieve your goals. And now there’s an invaluable tool that can keep you motivated while broadening your horizons. Blinkist.

Blinkist is a learning app that transforms the world’s best nonfiction books into 15-minute reads. You can learn about everything from fashion to venture capital funds, and find out how to stay motivated even when things aren’t going your way.

Don’t let being an outsider stand in your way of success. Download the Blinkist app today and put your dreams on the fast track to reality.

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