10 Life Lessons Marc Randolph Shared With HPU Students

10 Life Lessons

Co-Founder of Netflix Marc Randolph, High Point University’s Entrepreneur in Residence, recently returned to campus to share wisdom with students during HPU’s Innovation Summit. At High Point University, students are instilled with the life skills required to succeed outside of the classroom. With access to innovators such as Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, HPU’s Innovator in Residence; Anchor of ABC News’ “Nightline” Byron Pitts, HPU’s Journalist in Residence; and best-selling author Scott McKain, HPU’s Corporate Educator in Residence, students are exposed to industry professionals starting as soon as they step foot on campus. Here are a few pieces of wisdom Randolph shared during his visit, edited for clarity and brevity:


1. Use college as a time to explore your passions

“It is critical to be a happy person. Make sure you take time now to learn what it is you love doing and ensure that is weaved into any business idea. College is a great opportunity for you to try new things and test limits without facing huge consequences. While there will still be consequences, you learn how to prioritize, enlist volunteers, advertise and market things on a manageable scale. Then, when you graduate, you can step into your passion on a much larger scale, having gained those experiences.”


2. Embrace life skills

“Having the ability to communicate effectively, being good at learning, trusting people and giving clear direction were all key to my success as an entrepreneur. Here at HPU, the Premiere Life Skills University, students are learning these valuable skills. Life skills are going to work for you regardless of what way your business and life take you.”


3. Educate yourself and have self-knowledge

“You have to be able to teach yourself. Find people skilled in your field of interest and realize that there is someone who knows a lot more about this than you. The second skill you need to develop is self-knowledge. In the beginning of launching Netflix, I would spend time taking customer service or technical support calls, and I began to internalize who the customers are, what issues they really have, and how are they using the product. After I took the first 200, 300 or 500 calls, I had a good internal sense of what the problem was. This allowed me to jump in with confidence and make decisions with the knowledge of my customers backing me.”


4. Scale your aspirations to match your abilities

“Scale the risk back to something you’re comfortable taking. That, I’ve found is the real skill of being a risk-taker. When people have an idea, they always think of the big problem and focus on what can’t be accomplished because they don’t have the means to accomplish it. Instead, scale the problem down into something you can do. You’ll find out that the risk wasn’t that bad, and you’ll become more comfortable taking bigger risks in the future.”


5. Take the first step 

“Start the business. Entrepreneurship is learned by practicing and doing it. You want to put yourself in a scenario where you get a chance to do it. If you have an idea you can learn from now, why aren’t you doing it? If you want to be a movie maker, shoot a two-minute movie on your phone first. Don’t obsess over getting a camera, a crew or a script. Take that first step. You’ll see so much more than you did when you were standing back imagining it in your head.”


6. Look at failures as experiments 

“I don’t like calling things that didn’t work failures. I like calling them experiments because even when an experiment doesn’t produce the results you expected, that doesn’t mean it failed. You learned something, and hopefully, if you are curious, the thing you learned informs your next experiment. At the same time, have the grit to learn from things that didn’t work, and know when to stop. If you keep going and every single thing you do has zero results, you’re using your grit in the wrong direction.”


7. There are no “good” ideas

“Even experiments that are successful had 900,000 that were unsuccessful first. What I’ve come to realize is that every idea is a bad idea. There is no such thing as starting out with a good idea. People get so hung up on the thought of a good idea, but again, that meandering path, either in life or a company, is a succession of ideas that you tried and most of them didn’t work. Our society encourages the idea that you must have the right answers, so all the risk-taking is squeezed out because there’s a set result. You have to realize not everything you try is going to work, but nurturing the curiosity of ‘Let’s see what’s going to happen,’ builds excitement and creates a growth mindset.”


8. Mentors are invaluable 

“I was lucky enough to fall into the orbit of two, then eventually three really good entrepreneurs, especially the person I met who led me to a lot of self-taught knowledge. A mentor willingly teaches you things but also puts you in situations where you struggle, while still being right behind you and offering a different perspective. By letting me struggle first, the advice my mentor gave me was more valuable because I understood how difficult the situation was.”


9. Love the problem, not the idea

“It is so easy to fall in love with your own idea that you miss the opportunities that the problem can present us with. When you start experimenting, you’ll find that the idea is quickly going to be proven wrong and will leave you disappointed and upset. But if you fall in love with the problem, you’re almost never going to understand everything you need to know about the problem. That’s what leads you to these things you keep trying, and each time you fail, you’ll learn from it.”


10. Focus on the fundamentals

“In dire situations, medical professionals use triage as a means of assessing the degree of urgency to decide the order of treatment to take. I like to use this method in a business setting to handle stressful situations. You have to be able to leave things imperfect and rough because believe me, everything will be always be screaming at you all the time. But recognize that you don’t have to do everything all of the time. Having the ability to think, ‘What are the one or two things here that if I fix, will fundamentally make a difference between if we succeed or don’t succeed?’ Getting those issues out of the way and letting some of the others go will dull some of the background noise screaming at you for attention.”

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