It’s difficult to fight against the assembly line of school-work-promotion that so many people find themselves stuck in, but it isn’t impossible. Here are six examples of dreamers, schemers and entrepreneurs who didn’t let society dictate where they were going, who followed their passions and became wealthy and successful while doing it.
1: John Koon
John Koon became a millionaire at the tender age of sixteen after MTV’s reality series Pimp My Ride started pumping his family’s motocross business for bling. Not satisfied with auto work, however, he ignored his windfall to pursue his real dream, that of a fashion designer. He traveled the world, teamed up with celebrities and let hundreds of dress fall from his sewing machine. He’s currently worth an estimated $40 million, and his creations have been seen on catwalks from Paris to Milan.
2: J.K. Rowling
Everyone knows the story of J.K. Rowling, the single mother who originally dreamed up Harry Potter on train rides with her daughter. But fewer realize that she had to ship her first manuscript to more than a half-dozen publishing houses, none of whom wanted a strange story about a boy wizard. It was only through her persistence, creativity and dedication to literature that Harry Potter saw the light of day and became the most famous fictional character in the world.
3: Bobby Kotick
Once upon a time, Activisionwas just a kid dropping out of college to tinker with gaming software and experiment with 16 bit video game systems. While he never found success with his entrepreneurial efforts, he did purchase stock in Activision, a young gaming company, and the rest is history. He rose through the ranks, became CEO and now Activision is one of the largest video game publishers on the planet.
4: Fraser Doherty
Fraser Doherty grew up on the taste of his grandmother’s jam, and at 14, he decided to share it with the rest of the world as well. He began selling it to his friends, relatives and neighbors, all of whom spread positive buzz about its strawberry goodness, and eventually he was approached by a local grocer about putting it on their shelves, too. Today, “SuperJam” is available in markets worldwide, and Frasier Doherty is a self-made millionaire.
5: Ursula Burns
When Ursula Burns took a job as a summer intern at Xerox, she never expected that she would eventually become its CEO and the first African-American woman to lead a Fortune 500 Company. She found her calling, however, in management and printing development, despite the difficulties that her race and gender presented in the ’80s business hierarchy. She just held her head high and let no one stop her ascent into the big leagues, and now her dedication is billions in her pocket.
6: Bill Gates
With a net worth of more than $76 billion, Bill Gates is one of the richest men alive, and it’s all thanks to his work as a programmer, software developer and all-around technological genius. If he’d listened to his parents in college, however, he would’ve become a lawyer. That’s right: Bill Gates went to Harvard under pressure to get a law degree. It’s only because the siren call of computers couldn’t be denied that he changed tracks and founded a little company called Microsoft.