What is success?
Churchill once defined it as “going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”; Stanley Tang found its formula to be “hard work plus passion, over time”; and 17-year-old Annie Xu sees it as simply being able to inspire others with your story.
In the past month, Annie has conducted over 30 interviews with “successful youth”, including young entrepreneurs, Olympic sportswomen, and Youtubers. The one question she would always start with is: “What’s your definitive trait?” When I asked the same question back to her, I got the answer: “I’m passionate about my crazy ideas!”
At age 12, her first short-lived business venture involved buying hundreds of packs of “Orbeez” from China at 0.5 Yuan and selling them at $1 AUD at school in Australia. As she carried them in her suitcase, there was no shipping fees and so for the first 20 packs, she made a 92% net profit. She remembers that figure to this day because after her first $20, a teacher came and told her that selling merchandise is forbidden on school grounds.
Some other youthful ideas have included glasses for cats because they’re shortsighted and a VR zoo for us to run alongside the cheetahs on the African plain.
But looking back, she says, “One thing that I somehow missed – and it’s an obvious marker for success – was that these ideas need to be actually realized. I was in the same mindset that many many of my peers are still in. I had this idea, thought it could work, but never did anything about it.”
Her moment of inspiration came after attending the 2016 Yale Young Global Scholars program for Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. Everyday she would find herself talking to someone her age who’s manufacturing roll-on bandages, writing best-selling books, or even going on Shark Tank for his startup, NOHBO. She tells me, “When everyone in the room had similar IQs (except for the 1 or 2 geniuses), the one thing separating me from the young game-designer next to me was that only now was I beginning to feel inspired to go ‘do it’.
Returning to Sydney, Annie then created a networking site for her school, called Lettuce Learn. It ran on two features: a recognition system where students are nominated by each other to share their inspirational story, and a Q&A platform where the interviewees answer questions from the rest of the school. Annie attends a private girls’ school – while she loves it, she says that sometimes the culture can feel a bit slack. Lettuce Learn was designed to encourage her peers to inspire each other to make the most of their school life.
Four months of hard work and two trials involving 100+ girls later, the school decided that maintenance was going to be an issue for a site to support a huge organization like our school. WOSHI was born out of the rejection.
Annie has tremendous faith in her generation, and seeing the way students learnt from one another made her all the more determined to offer more youth the spark of inspiration she’d felt personally at YYGS. There are many very successful young people in our generation who we see on the news, but getting to know them personally is the key to striving to be like them.
Yes, ambition is an intrinsic part of someone that cannot be forced, but most of the time it is there somewhere and just needs to be unleashed. “That’s why what we’re starting at WOSHI isn’t just a few stories or even a global network, it’s a paradigm. A new way for young people to have faith in ourselves.”
WOSHI’s expansion truly surprised Annie. One week after she established the brand on social media, it has reached nearly 2k Facebook likes and 1.6k Instagram followers. She realizes that what WOSHI offers is invaluable to the high school students, who may have just suffered from hours of procrastination or feel enveloped by a general loss of direction.
For 2017, Annie and her team of 12 young people aim to reach out for sponsorships and investments, spread their movement locally through School Ambassadors, and begin onsite monetization through Google AdSense.
A COMMON TRAIT IN SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE
Being exposed to some of the greatest hustlers of our generation, Annie has personally learnt invaluable lessons about leadership, business, networking, and hard work. The most important lesson: Stay Hungry. Many people agree that hard work beats talent. But Annie says people undervalue the ability to let yourself be inspired, let a constant dissatisfaction and curiosity for more lead you to work harder than any one else.
“This spark of inspiration is what I personally feel with everyone I talk to through WOSHI. I want to translate this for my readers so that they look back on in 10 years and consider these conversations their “Eureka” moment.”