Need extra motivation for the next chapter in your life? Whatever is coming up next, it’s important to surround yourself with both people and experiences that inspire you. From overcoming personal challenges to changing an industry’s landscape, here are ten professionals with and the lessons they’ve taught us to help jump start your inspiration:
1. Tan France, Fashion: Don’t be afraid to change the narrative.
When Netflix approached Tan France to audition for the upcoming reboot of Queer Eye, he wasn’t sold on the offer. France would become the first openly gay South Asian man on a major network show, and with that responsibility came immense pressure. Over time, France realized that this challenge would become his greatest success. “I could have an opportunity to change the narrative for my people,” he shared. “And so that’s why I decided to take the actual audition. … I’ve got to continue to show that Pakistanis are wonderful people, that we are caring people.”
2. Lee Jones, Poker: Always learn from your losses.
It’s inevitable that we’re not going to win at everything we try; in fact, losing is often part of the growth process. Lee Jones, professional poker player, agrees—in talking about his career, he noted that, “you can’t win every pot and you can’t win every session. The key to winning poker is to go back and review your play—from winning and losing sessions—and figure out how to play better next time.”
3. LeBron James, Basketball: Give back to your community.
While LeBron James has forever cemented his legacy as one of the world’s greatest basketball players, he also is an excellent example of building up the community around you amid your success. With a focus on education and equitable access to resources, James has built an ecosystem of support through the LeBron James Family Foundation and continues to give back to his community.
4. Serena Williams, Tennis: Challenge the status quo.
When Serena Williams and her sister Venus took to the tennis stage, they found themselves at the center of attention. While their success was undeniable, both sisters were also victim to malicious comments on their race, body, talent and appearance. Serena Williams has actively spent her entire career carving out space for athletes like her to thrive in an environment without barriers. When speaking to the criticism she faced on her appearance, she remarked, “how amazing that my body has been able to give me the career that I’ve had, and I’m really thankful for it. I only wish I had been thankful sooner…It just all comes full circle when I look at my daughter.”
5. Vera Wang, Designer: It’s never too late to follow your dream.
Success doesn’t just come in your 20’s, and it’s never too late to pursue a new passion. At 40 years old, Vera Wang knew she wanted to build her own brand, despite self-doubt that it wasn’t the right time. ““There have been a million days where I said to myself, ‘What was I thinking?’ or ‘Why did I do this?’” Wang shared with CNBC. “But there have been way more days where I felt extremely lucky to be doing something that I love so much and learning new lessons as not only designer but as an entrepreneur every day.”
6. Cody Sun, Gamer: Find balance with work and play.
When you have a dream worth pursuing, it’s easy to forget everything else around you—and while dedication is a trademark of success, it’s important to fill your life with balance. For professional gamer Cody Sun, finding time to off-set his rigorous training hours with simple pleasures like exercise or a meal out with friends are what help him succeed. In an interview with Intel he noted that many other players share this mentality and will, “mention their schedules and what they do… so sometimes I’ll look at interviews or whatever and then it’s like, ‘Oh!’ Like exercising in the morning, that sounds pretty good, because it just helps you with your mindset and practice.”
7. Stephanie Lampkin, Tech Entrepreneur: Keep going because the best is yet to come.
What does it take to build a tech-based recruiting empire? Stephanie Lampkin will say it’s a combination of hard work, inspiration and a drive to keep going. When asked what advice she would give to her 18-year-old self, Lampkin responded that, “Probably the same thing that I’d tell my 31-year-old self looking back 13 years from now: The best is yet to come. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees, but in the words of Dori (Finding Nemo), “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming”
8. SZA, Music Artist: Embrace your authentic self.
Known for her mesmerizing songs and musical genius, SZA has cemented herself as an icon in the music industry. Her success is bred by authenticity, and she never strays away from being herself. In speaking to her unconventional personality, she shared that even as a child she was, “taking up sculpture, or doing martial arts on my own, or going to the library by myself and looking up UFOs.” That weirdness led her to working with a variety of artists from Pharrell Williams to Childish Gambino and most recently, Doja Cat.
9. Dan Levy, Writer and Actor: Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Coming off the success of his hit TV show Schitt’s Creek, Dany Levy has become a fan favorite actor of many. Before he came to the big screen, Levy talks of how coming out to his family and friends as gay was an important cornerstone of both his life and career. “I really got to a point where I felt like if I didn’t make an active choice to pull myself out of this shell that was becoming such a comfort,” Levy shared in an interview, “I would not be the adult that I want to be.” Sometimes, in order to become our most authentic self, we have to fully accept ourselves—and learn to appreciate and love that person in the process.
10. Ego Nwodim, Comedian: Pursue your passions with patience.
As a supporting cast member of SNL, Ego Nwodim has had audiences laughing at her impressions and skits based on personal experiences. Nwodim wasn’t always a comedian, and following a longer path to her dream career took time. “I made a deal with my family that I would get a degree in biology and be pre-med as long as I could move across the country to Los Angeles,” she shared. And she did just that! After completing her education, she began to pursue a career in entertainment, eventually joining one of the most famous comedy stages in the country.