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Lesson #2: The Path to Success is to Pursue Your Passion
From the time he was a young boy, Omidyar knew that his future lied in computers. He didn’t know in what capacity, but when other boys were out playing baseball, Omidyar was busy teaching himself Basic. To have denied himself a career in what was obviously his passion would have been to deny himself the success of eBay.
“I always wanted to be involved with computers,” recalls Omidyar. His original career choice was computer engineering, but enrollment in Tufts quickly changed that decision. He had been accepted into a rigorous electrical engineering and computer engineering program, but by his own admission, it proved a little too rigorous for Omidyar.
Forced to take a chemistry class in his freshman year, Omidyar had little interest in chemistry and struggled to make it through. “I worked so hard for that class trying to understand what was going on and study for the test and everything, and did so poorly,” says Omidyar. “I remember for the mid-term I had studied harder than I had for anything else and got 25 out of 100 on the test. And it was at that point I said, ‘You know what, this is kind of ridiculous.’”
Omidyar was struggling but he didn’t completely turn away from his passion. Instead, he redirected it towards a more appropriate avenue. He transferred out of the engineering college, enrolled in liberal arts and focused on pure computer science. Despite achieving poor grades in chemistry, Omidyar knew that if he worked through his passion long enough, he would find a way to succeed at it. And indeed, he did.
“Like most software people, it is very much passion more than anything else,” says Omidyar. “The ability to create software that could have a benefit or an impact on people that used it was what was driving me.” Once he made the switch to computer science, he began to refine his focus, teaching himself C, and from there, how to program a Macintosh. “I was just very excited about learning everything I could about it,” he says.
It was this passion of his that landed him his first job – programming Macs for a software company in California – and fueled his further success. To those entrepreneurs who tell Omidyar they want to follow exactly in his footsteps, Omidyar says don’t. “You should pursue your passion,” he urges. “If you’re passionate about something and you work hard, then I think you will be successful.” On the other hand, Omidyar suggests that if you start a business motivated by money, success will be hard to attain.
“You have to really believe in what you’re doing, be passionate enough about it so that you will put in the hours and hard work that it takes to actually succeed there, and then you’ll be successful,” he says.
What would have happened without eBay? What if Omidyar had not followed his passion? “I wouldn’t be having as much fun,” he says. “That’s for sure.”
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