5 Ways the Rules of Success Have Changed

UPDATED: June 16, 2023
PUBLISHED: June 13, 2016

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We’re living in an opportunity-filled age where anyone can open the door to success.

Thanks to the very technology you’re using to read these words, ordinary people can solve extraordinary problems. And experience extraordinary results.

The rules of success have changed rapidly in the last 20 years, giving you the keys to unlocking achievement that no one predicted were even possible just decades ago.

Rule #1: The “little guy” holds all the power.

If you’re reading this, you are the little guy. You don’t have the capital, the workforce or resources available to Fortune 100 companies, or at least you don’t have access to them right now. But what you do have is all of the power you need to create necessities for success—ideas, money, people to help.

Technology has made it possible for you to create the essential elements of business out of thin air. For the very first time, individuals can disrupt entire industries by themselves. Just think about all the dorm room startups we’ve seen turn into million and billion dollar companies. We’re living in an incredible age and big business is shaking in its boots.

As you’re about to discover, all you need is a problem to solve, an idea and a passion to drive you. Let’s use startup costs as an example…

Rule #2: Startup costs are no longer an issue.

While compiling research for entrepreneurs and students at Singularity University to embrace as part of an Exponential Thinking exercise, I sat down and spoke with Eric Migicovsky, the founder of Pebble, an Apple iWatch competitor.

Eric went from next to nothing—just an idea in a project “incubator” think-tank program to a direct competitor to Apple, overnight with a single Kickstarter Campaign.

He had planned to do it step-by-step, sending press releases, going to events, looking for angel investors—all the strategies you had to use 20 or even 10 years ago to get funding for an idea.

But within two hours of his Kickstarter launch, his idea caught on and his followers, fueled by passion and viral internet hype, raised his entire $100,000 goal. Within six days, his project was the most funded project in Kickstarter history. He raised $4.7 million with 30 days left.

Money used to be the issue that kept businesses off the ground—even the smallest of startups. You had to take a massive risk to get started, investing your money or convincing investors while moving forward to create a product or offer you had to hope people would buy.

Crowdfunding has eliminated this barrier. If you have a great idea, you no longer need money to get it off the ground.

Rule #3: You can crowdsource your workforce.

You don’t need physical employees or a team in place to launch your idea anymore. And I’m not talking about your ability to outsource work to a single freelancer—I’m talking about true incentive-based crowdsourcing.

I sat down recently with Jack Hughes, the founder of TopCoder, a platform that allows you to hire design and technology experts using a competition model: You submit a project, people from all over the world compete to give you the best possible work and you pay only the winner.

Using incentive competitions like this, lean companies with a small workforce have a distinct advantage over corporate powerhouses. Crowdsourcing your workforce is much less expensive than a room full of employees working on a project—and it often results in better work.

Rule #4: All it takes is an idea you’re willing to act on.

“Yes, but I don’t have an idea” is something I hear quite a bit from entrepreneurs who have bold business dreams but nothing to build them on. My response is always this: Look to your passion for ideas.

What can you see yourself doing every day? What gets you excited? How do you spend time when you’re not working?

Back in 1996, I wanted to go to space—that was my passion. But I was never going to be an astronaut. At the time, I didn’t have the money, but I announced a $10-million prize to the first privately financed team who could put a passenger vehicle 100 kilometers into space twice within two weeks.

It was the first “XPRIZE” and the beginning of my XPRIZE Foundation.

Twenty-six teams from around the world invested well over $100 million in attempts to win the “Ansari XPRIZE” for sending a private passenger spacecraft into space. All it took to get started was that big idea.

Supporters joined, we raised the prize money and crowdsourced the solution. SpaceshipOne was the result.

Rule #5: Look for the billion-person problems.

Here’s the big lesson I like to leave entrepreneurs with, or really anyone looking to build a successful venture: The first step is finding a billion-person problem. One problem that affects at least one billion people. A big goal you want to solve. I call it a “moonshot” goal.

For example, take a look at the work Elon Musk is doing with Tesla or any one of his companies right now. Their business models revolve around billion-person problems.

When you discover one of these problems and get passionate about it, you also inspire the passion of billions of other people who are ready to help you succeed. After those people get on board, you don’t need to worry about resources, ideas or even capital. The crowd helps you take care of it all.

These are the new rules of success—and they are changing every day. Can you keep up?

Related: 3 Pieces of Advice for First-Time Entrepreneurs