We’ve all been there.
It can be at a job, in your personal life, or anywhere in between, but there is always that moment: You hit a wall and you have no clue what to do.
For a lucky few, the careful guidance of a mentor can help maneuver them past those frustrating stumbling blocks. But for many of us, there isn’t anyone to turn to. We’re left with nothing but our own devices.
Gillian Zoe Segal, author of the new book Getting There: A Book of Mentors, was one of the many. She told CT Boom that she never had a mentor, but knew deep down that this idea of “success stories without hurdles” had to be a misconception.
So she decided to do something about it.
Segal sought out 30 of the most successful people on the planet, from Anderson Cooper (journalist, CNN anchor) and Matthew Weiner (creator of Mad Men) to Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist) and Warren Buffet (CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the wealthiest people on Earth). She got them to agree to sit down with her and answer whatever questions she wanted to ask. And when she was done, she compiled their collective wisdom into this book and put it out into the world to share with the rest of us.
“When you go through something, whether you fail or you’re rejected, it’s easy to blow that out of proportion and get depressed and let it knock you off track,” Segal said of the inspiration behind the project. “But the best way to persevere is to get inspiration from the people on top and learn about their difficulties and how they overcame them.”
That’s right. Believe it or not, all of these people (even the ones who seem like they have been household names forever) struggled just like you did at one point or another.
J. Craig Venter, one of the first to sequence the human genome, was a D-minus student throughout high school and just wanted to spend his days surfing before turning his life around.
John Paul DeJoria, the founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and Patrón tequila, got fired from four different jobs and lived out of his car on $2.50 a day before creating two of the most recognizable brands today.
Sara Blakely, the inventor of Spanx, failed the LSAT twice and ended up selling fax machines door-to-door for 8 years before getting her idea and making it big.
Even knowing all this, it’s still hard to think about these success stories as anything but smooth. And thankfully, Segal anticipated that.
She wisely gave her readers the chance to interact more directly with her subjects by crafting her interviews into brief essays told in their voices.
“I just thought, ‘I want it to be as close to sitting down and having a heart-to-heart conversation as possible,'” Segal said. “I wanted the intimacy… It’s way more powerful to hear a story from the person it happened to instead of somebody else talking about it.”
The result is 30 stories from some of the most admirable people on the planet, with all of them serving as a reminder that when you hit that wall, you shouldn’t worry so much. You’re in good company.