Ralph Lauren started his $12 billion empire making neckties. He was not born into privilege and instead, one of the modern American success stories.
The son of Jewish immigrant parents, he grew up poor in the Bronx, but he wrote in his 1957 high school yearbook that one of his life’s goals was to be a millionaire. Today he not only achieved that goal, he has surpassed it.
Lauren gave himself a goal: to escape the bonds of poverty and live his life as he envisioned living it. He took many risks along the way, but his perseverance and determination has brought him to riches perhaps beyond his wildest imagination.
Here are the 10 success lessons from Ralph Lauren – “Rags-To-Riches” for entrepreneurs,
1. Control your own destiny
“I don’t design clothes, I design dreams.”
Every designer piece Ralph Lauren has made had been another dream he has achieved on his road to becoming a successful millionaire. Despite growing up poor in the Bronx, Ralph Lauren never let his position in life control the direction he decided to take it.
His boss once said to him, “The world isn’t ready for Ralph Lauren.” Even though it wasn’t intended as such, Lauren took this as a compliment. He became determined to pursue his own vision for a fashion company and eventually began weaving the first fabrics of what would become Polo Ralph Lauren.
2. Live to dream, and dream to live
Perhaps as impressive as Lauren’s success was his ability to imagine. Growing up it had been a hobby of Lauren’s to dream of living like the movie stars lived; to throw himself into their world and imagine himself living that high class lifestyle.
That same imaginative spirit lead him to develop the fashion style that Polo Ralph Lauren is now known for today. Ralph Lauren dared to dream of the seemingly impossible, and now he lives his dream everyday. With determination, hard work, and perseverance, you can do the same.
3. Be comfortable in your own shoes
In the world of fashion, being comfortable in what you are wearing (both physically and socially) is vital to your success. Ralph Lauren understood that fashion trends come and go. What really lasts is a person’s personal taste and style.
In his pursuit of the American Dream, Ralph Lauren never cowered to express his own individuality. He did not let fear of acceptance or failure stop him from living the life he wanted to live and running the company he wanted to run.
4. Stay positive
Remembering that each day is a new opportunity is vital to both your personal and professional success. Ralph Lauren always tried to maintain a positive attitude towards life. He viewed everyday as a new opportunity to fail or succeed, but he recognized that no matter which outcome, he would gain something from the experience.
We all fail at something at one point or another. How we deal with our failure determines greatly the amount of success we can achieve. The next time you fail at something, step back and make note of what you have learned from it, and next time, you will be successful.
5. Know yourself
Ralph Lauren once said, “Personal style is about having a sense of yourself and what you believe in everyday.” He never failed to remain true to his own beliefs and tastes, and he tried to show a piece of himself in his work everyday.
We cannot have a vision or a dream if we do not know who we are underneath. Staying in touch with our morals and our values is what keeps our dream in focus, and allows us to persevere in working towards accomplishing it.
6. Take risks
After viewing his first polo match in New York, Lauren was inspired to quit his job as a clerk at Brooks Brothers and start his own company. He had no experience, and only a high school diploma and a few business classes on his résumé, but he won over Bloomingdale’s with his brazen attitude. Within one year, the designer sold $500,000 worth of ties at the department store.
7. Appreciate your accomplishments, but always strive to improve
Despite Lauren’s immediate success, the designer relentlessly expanded his company. His protégé John Varvatos told Bloomberg, “Ralph doesn’t sit on his laurels for one minute. You can enjoy the moment, but you have to keep things going—and you can’t be a one-trick pony.”
8. Say ‘No Thanks’ if an opportunity doesn’t honor your brand
Ralph’s first big break was with Bloomingdale’s—the hottest store around at the time. They said they loved his neckties, but they wanted to take his name off the label and replace it with the Bloomingdale’s name. He said, no way, left the deal on the table and walked away.
Six months later, Bloomingdale’s came back. Turns out they DID want his neckties AND they’d keep his name on them!
9. There will always be copycats – but nothing replaces the real deal
Not long after Bloomingdale’s started selling his neckties, another rack—right next to his—started selling neckties that looked exactly like his. “Oh no,” he thought, “where am I going to go from here?”
But a Bloomingdale’s employee advised him not to worry because his ties were made with love and passion. Yep, break out the Kumbaya: love & passion trump the competition!
10. Be innovative
No matter what industry you are in or what profession you practice, bringing new ideas to the table is what makes an individual, or in this case a company, progress. Ralph Lauren first achieved success by designing colorful and patterned ties in a world where thin and black uniform ties was still the norm.
The decision paid off handsomely in the end, earning Lauren $500,000 in his first year alone. From there he was able to expand on new ideas and take his company in new directions. So the next time you have an idea, don’t be afraid to share it. You never know where it might lead you.