Jack Ma is one of the richest men in Asia (worth about $41 Billion) who founded one of the largest companies in China — Alibaba. But he wasn’t a genius who instantly created this amazing company. He faced rejection his whole life.
He applied for 30 different jobs (including the police and KFC) and was rejected. In addition, he applied to Harvard University and got rejected 10 different times.
But, after discovering the internet in the mid 90’s he understood the possibilities that existed. He went on to create several companies despite all the rejection he had previously faced.
He learned English in a clever way
Jack Ma was born in 1964. As a boy, he did everything he could to learn English. He was an avid reader of Mark Twain and used every opportunity to get better at English. Aged 12, he had an idea of how he could improve his English skills.
Every morning at five o’clock he rode his bicycle for 40 minutes to an international hotel in his hometown and waited there for tourists. When he approached them, he proposed a deal. He would show them around the city as a travel guide and they would teach him English in return.
Even in rain and snow, he waited outside the hotel day after day, morning after morning, year after year. One day he met an Australian family and soon became friends with them. They ended up inviting him to Australia, where he was impressed by the high standard of living that people enjoyed compared with China.
Ma failed his University entrance exam
His English was improving constantly, but he was so weak in maths that he failed the standardized university entrance test—he only achieved 1 out of 120 possible points. He tried again, and this time he scored 19 out of 120. His overall results were so bad that the university turned him down.
Still, he persevered and eventually managed to get into Teachers’ College—although he admits that it was the least respected university in his city. In 1988, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in English and found a job as an English teacher which was one of the lowest paid jobs in China earning $12 a month.
A trip changed everything
A trip to Seattle in 1995, where a friend showed him the internet for the first time, proved to be decisive in shaping his future. He was immediately smitten and intuitively recognized the role the internet would play in years to come.
That same year, he founded a company, China Yellow Pages, which struggled to eke out an existence. He had spent almost all of his money on registering the company and had little left for anything else. The company’s office consisted of a single room with a workstation and a very old PC in the middle.
The biggest problem was that it was not possible to access the internet in his hometown of Hangzhou at that time. Given such circumstances, anyone else would have given up on the idea of setting up an internet company.
He believed in the potential and in himself
Over the next few years, Ma repeatedly changed his business model—combining experimentation with perseverance. In 1999, he founded the Alibaba Group as a business-to-business, e-commerce platform.
Things were by no means easy at first. Jack Ma remembered: “First week, we have seven employees. We buy and sell, ourselves. The second week, somebody started to sell on our website. We bought everything they sell. We had two rooms full of things we bought for no use, all garbage, for the first two weeks—in order to tell people that it works.”
From the outset he thought big and set himself very ambitious goals. Shortly after founding his company, he told a journalist: “We don’t want to be number one in China. We want to be number one in the world.”
“I’m not good at technology”
As far as Ma was concerned, even technological knowledge was not necessary as he strived to achieve exceptional success as an internet entrepreneur: “I’m not good at technology,” he declared in 2014. “I was trained to be a high school teacher.
It’s a funny thing. I’m running one of the biggest e-commerce companies in China, maybe in the world, but I know nothing about computers. All I know about computers is how to send and receive email and browse.”
In 2007, he managed to beat his fiercest competitor, eBay, which had far greater financial muscle than Ma’s company. eBay was forced to wind up its business in China because it never managed to understand the Chinese market. In 2004, Ma went on to found Alipay, the world’s largest internet payment service.
He embraces failure and difficulty
Jack Ma was and is always open to new ideas. “From day one,” he explained in 2004, “all entrepreneurs know that their day is about dealing with difficulty and failure rather than defined by ‘success.’
Nearly a decade of entrepreneurial experience tells me these difficult times can’t be evaded or shouldered by others—the entrepreneur must be able to face failure and never give up.”
Thoughts for the week:
- How many times have you failed or been rejected?
- How have you responded to these tough times?
- In life we will fail, and we will be rejected – this is life.
- However, it’s not what happens to us which counts it’s how we respond which makes all the difference.
- If you give up you fail – if you get back up you succeed.
Well that’s it for this week have a wonderful weekend and keep getting back up.