Scott’s feature Wiley book Strive is available for pre-order. Find out how doing the things most uncomfortable leads to success. Pioneering thought leader and TEDx speaker Scott Amyx shows anyone striving to succeed, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are, that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but doing the things uncomfortable he calls “strive”.
Drawing on his own powerful story of an impoverished immigrant frequently told that he would mount to nothing, Amyx, now a celebrated venture capitalist and futurist, describes his meteoric rise from obscurity to prominence, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not intellect, opportunities or even network but pursuing personal change that’s uncomfortable. In this book, Scott takes readers into his defining life moments and stories from some of the most unlikely individuals who persevered through change to become outrageously successful. He also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in high performance.
Finally, he shares what he’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers—from corporate CEOs, unicorn startup entrepreneurs to global policy leaders. Strive shows how you can shape your life and your career, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of delightful surprise.
Scott Amyx’s TEDx Speech on Strive
Does success elude you?
We’re told that if we work hard that we’ll succeed. Study hard, get into a great school, get a great job and you’ll be successful. But, this is a lie. Matter of fact, this approach will almost entirely guarantee that you become mediocre.
Here are some myths about success.
1) We’re told that if we pursue our passion that we’ll be successful. Right? Do what you love and success will follow. Well how do you explain all those artists and actors who are passionate about their art but will never become famous. YouTube is full of them.
2) Or the one about putting in 10,000 hours? How do you explains millions of kids who’ve played soccer or some other sports for 10 – 15 years but never make pro or go to the olympics?
3) Or the one about there’s something special about you? Everyone thinks you’re the smartest, come from a great pedigree. Well, that was the case for Samuel Langley. He was a professor, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, a member of high society and received major funding to develop a piloted airplane, yet, he was beaten by the Wright brothers who had no pedigree, no connections, no money.
4) Malcolm Gladwell attributes success to other hidden variables such as the year that you were born, your family upbringing, and even luck. Those are all great but what about everyone else who weren’t born in that year or didn’t have those favorable circumstances?
There is, however, a way to reach your goals—and I’m a living proof. I have found a way to move my life in a positive direction, realizing success I never dreamed possible.
What I have realized through my life experience is that anyone striving to succeed, regardless of who or where we are in life, that the secret to outstanding achievement is not 10,000 hours, being born into the right family or being as smart as Albert Einstein.
It’s a secret that I call Strive. It’s about doing the things that’s most uncomfortable that forces you to create new spheres of influence and power.
People sometimes look at me and assume that I come from a good family. That’s far from the truth.
I was born in South Korea into poverty. I never knew my father. My mother had less than 4th grade education. I still remember when after the rice harvest, we would go out to the field to glean, picking up the rice that fell unto the ground. We lived month to month.
And in school, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get better than C’s. Apparently, I was copying from the wrong kid.
It was during the volatile time of Gwangju Democratic Movement in South Korea in 1980’s, that my mother decided to immigrate us to the U.S. so that I would have a future. But soon after we arrived, she had a mental breakdown and I was placed into foster care. Since the age of 13, I moved around from home to home. I had no one. And I literally should have ended up as a nobody.
Yet, I am a living proof of the concept of Strive. When we do the things most uncomfortable, we create incredible success.
The problem is that most of us are on autopilot. Day in and day out, our habits anchor us down. We want success yet it eludes us.
In order to realize success, we first have to disrupt ourselves.
Do you know how to build muscle? In order to build muscle, our body has to tear the muscle fibers to build new ones? That’s what bodybuilders do to disrupt themselves.
My mother and I were hated by our relatives because of her choice to marry my father.
When I was 3, my mother asked my father to leave. I grew up without a father. It left a big hole in my heart. When I was growing up in Korea in the 70’s, not having a father was not ok. People treated me like I was a bastard.
Fast forward, I was in 5th grade in the States, when one day the school counselor pulled me out of class. I didn’t know what was going on. Then I was taken to the police station. No one explained anything to me. It wasn’t until hours later that a social worker told me that my mother was no longer capable of caring for me. The social worker contacted all four of my uncles nearby.
One by one, they refused to take me in. That night, I was taken to an emergency foster home for boys.
My world fell apart. Wasn’t it bad enough that I grew up dirt poor, without a father or even a sibling. Now, I’ve been turned down by my relatives. I had no one.
When everything seemed completely bleak and hopeless, that’s when my first foster parents introduced me to God.
Most of my life, I lived behind a mask, a facade. I’m great. Actually, I’m perfect. People assumed that I came from a great family.
But then in college and graduate school, I was experiencing panic attacks and severe depression. Then I started my career, but something didn’t feel right. I was driven, I wanted success but something was holding me back.
I was broken. I was permanently damaged.
My poor wife, she had no idea what she had signed up for.
When our kids were little, my wife would say, “I hate dealing with a selfish, stubborn child. I said, “Be easy on the kids, hon.” And she replied, “No, I was talking about you.”
I’m not naturally good at smiling and sometimes I look a little angry. My daughter comes up and asks, “Dad, did I do something wrong?” I tell her, “No sweetheart. It’s your brother.
It was after my first venture failure that I realized that I needed to do something different. Something was holding me back from success. It took 3 years of counseling and healing for me to emerge from that process. This was my first major disruption.
My next major disruption came when I turned 40. By then, I had achieved a lot but I was still not experiencing that wild, incredible success that I wanted. Then it dawned on me. In all my past ventures, it was always about the idea, the product, the team. What was missing in the picture was me.
I never wanted to be in the limelight. I shied away from public attention. I was deathly afraid of sharing anything personal. I wanted to be anonymous.
That’s when I decided to disrupt myself again. I worked with a speech therapist to improve my speaking and articulation. I worked with a physical therapist for my neck and posture so I could walk tall and confident. I joined Toastmaster’s to become a public speaker. I aggressively submitted papers to speak at conferences. And I kept on pushing myself. Every step of the way was uncomfortable but earned. No one gave me a free ticket.
Today, I work with nations, sovereignties and NGOs, such as the European Commission and countries around the world.
Until I became intentional about disrupting myself, the success that I always wanted was not attainable. I am where I am today because I did these things that took me way outside of my comfort zone.
Abandon Your Comfort Zone
A big component of disrupting yourself is abandoning your comfort zone.
Our natural tendency is to stay in our comfort zone where it’s safe and familiar.
My work in the Internet of Things and the Fourth Industrial Revolution has garnered global attention. And as I travel the world speaking on disruptive technologies, something began to emerge. In many of these regions, they are struggling to adapt to exponential technologies and to use these technologies to transform their economies.
Two of the biggest recurring themes are: 1) commercializing research from universities into viable startups and 2) the inability of their startups to access global markets.
I decided to do something incredibly hard and completely outside of my comfort zone — to create a venture capital firm to transform nations!
Amyx Ventures works with nations to 1) create sustainable economic growth through investment in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 2) we work with the local region to address knowledge and skill gaps, 3) we help steward the process of IP to commercialization, 4) we fund those startups and help build international teams, and 5) we help them to successfully enter global markets.
It would be a lot easier to create a global fund and invest in promising startups in Silicon Valley but I have chosen to transform some of the most conflict-ridden regions. Why? Human history is chock-full of failed government and military interventions. How do we stabilize a country or a region? It’s not with guns, sanctions or government aid. Research has shown that only through sustainable economic growth can we overcome difficult geopolitical, human rights and income inequality issues.
Do you know how South Korea went from being one of the poorest countries to become an OECD and G20 nation in less than 50 years? Doing the things that’s most uncomfortable as a nation to transform the country. In the 1980’s, “Made in Korea” meant it was cheap quality. Well, they kept pushing themselves to move up the value-add curve. Today, South Korea is a world leader in consumer electronics and semiconductors.
Many countries around the world are stuck in low-value, commodity products and services. For example, German automakers leverage Czech Republic companies to assemble auto parts. Why? Because of lower wage. But what’s going to happen as automakers replace humans with more robots? We’re working with Czech Republic’s ecosystem to harness their advanced research to commercialize them into Industry 4.0 startups.
Colombia has been hit hard by fallen oil prices. This is a critical juncture for Colombia as they are coming out of a peace agreement and is looking to join the OECD. Yet, less than 0.2% of their GDP is spent on innovation. We’re working with them to strengthen their human capital and IP-driven innovation to modernize their oil & gas, mining and manufacturing industries.
Similarly, Saudi Arabia has been hit hard by low oil prices. Moreover, they recognize that their oil reserve will run out in about 25 years. Unless they begin to shift from oil to non-oil industries, the country is at high risk. As part of the National Transformation Plan, we’re working with the Saudi ecosystem to take their expertise in oil & gas and to create new IPs that can be applied to other industries.
Every step of this journey is uncomfortable for the nation and for its people. But unless they take these uncomfortable steps to transform themselves, they will be left behind, leading to social unrest, conflict and regional destabilization.
But success doesn’t suddenly show up at the front door because you took a few risks. It requires years of persevering, even when others and sometimes even you doubt yourself.
Transforming a nation doesn’t happen overnight.
Perhaps the hardest aspect of transforming a nation is the mindset. How the local citizens view the notion of risk and failure? Many young people steer clear from startups because they are afraid of failure. When it fact, in Silicon Valley, we celebrate failures.
Many older people are afraid of change. Innovation is seen as risky, untested. So they hold tightly unto what they know, not realizing that the industries of today will become obsolete and their country will be left behind.
Changing mindset will take time.
Success requires resolve. When we fall, we need to get back up. And again and again.
Regardless of how you choose to define success, raise your hand if you want more success out of life?
Most of us want more out of life, for ourselves, for our kids, for a greater purpose. How are you going to make an impact in the world if you are spinning in the same circle doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results?
I challenge you to do the things that’s most uncomfortable for you. You have the opportunity to realize great success. It’s available to everyone.