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7 Secrets of Wildly Successful Entrepreneurs
Last Updated August 6th, 2015

Long before Steven Spielberg made E.T., his dad told him to “work his way up” to the director’s chair.1

Spielberg wisely ignored his father’s advice. He said, “The first film I do, I will be the director.”

He never worked in the mailroom and never brought anyone coffee. Instead of painstakingly working his way up through the ranks, he made amateur films – and heck, he even charged some of his friends 25 cents to watch them.

And when the time was right, Steven Spielberg was the director on the first professional film he worked on.2

I call this strategy “Cutting The Line,” and that’s just one of the seven secrets of wildly successful entrepreneurs.

Want to know the other 6? I reveal them all in this new video.

Which Of These 7 Secrets Will You Start Using?

When you’re done, here’s what I want to hear from you:

Do you have a secret you live by?

If enough good ones get shared, I plan on doing a followup where I share the best on my new Periscope channel (you can find me @DerekHalpern).

1Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Second Edition, by Joseph McBride
2Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Second Edition, by Joseph McBride

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98 comments Leave a comment

Zig when others Zag. In my industry, it’s as if no one is allowed to have a sense of humor. You aren’t supposed to inject yourself into the conversation. It’s all about the client. That’s okay, except you are supposed to be helping people. If they don’t think you are human and also make mistakes, how are they ever going to trust you? Humor and my ability to open up about my real life is my super power. It’s okay to laugh about my life and what happens because it’s funny. Yes, things are serious. I’m able to overcome them with some grace and only a little bit of chocolate. Okay, a lot of chocolate.


I resonate with 7) Zig when others Zag. I sell homewares through an ecommerce store in Australia. Many others sell similar products, however nobody has created a successful content strategy to promote ways to use our homewares effectively in schools, universities and day care centres (our biggest market). I will be offering more value through making life for these establishments easier and getting them familiar with our brand in the mean time.


Develop a thick skin. Running a business is hard work and sometimes you don’t get the right advice or support that you were expecting because they don’t expect you to succeed.


Love the zig when others zag….what great advice! Thanks!


Zig where others zag. Definitely! It’s my natural habit to be different, to do different but I always let myself cut back by the comment of others. So besides following my path – or in other words climb the right ladder – I also need to develop a thick skin and accept I’m the ***hole. Zig where others zag automatically initiates 3 other secrets to live by.


Zigging when others zag. Great video, glad I ran across it.

Matthew Stock

Hi Derek-

Long time reader. First time commenter.

In my industry – which is basement waterproofing – everyone waits for a sales guy to come out to their home for a free estimate. Problem with that is who really wants to wait as little as a few days and as much as several weeks (during high rainfall periods) when they have water actively seeping into the basement?

So I decided to create a “Virtual Advisor” service where we provide Skype / FaceTime video consultations. We’re working towards providing near instantaneous answers.

Never been done before in our industry. And didn’t do it just to be different – as we are already a market leader.

Zig when others zag!

Thx for the inspiration Derek!


This had some great stuff in it Derek. Thanks.
Reframing hate to results or humour works really well, you can do that with other parts of your belief set too, like the I’m not good enough belief.
I particularly liked the concentrate on bigger value products, it fits so well for me with zigging while other zag.
Thanks again


Hey, I’d love to hear these in audio form. I often miss out on your stuff just because I don’t often have time to watch your videos.

If you could make a bunch of 10 minute podcasts that would be awesome!


Definitely need to work on Developing a Thick Skin. I actually already knew that, but what your video showed me is that turning those haters into lessons is a GREAT way to not let it get to me. I’m excited to try this on my photography blog this month! Thanks Derek!

Farooq Marwat

Great job Derek,
I really like the idea of “cutting the line”, as it makes sense to focus on and work towards what you truly want to do.
Best info & video
Thanks for sharing.


Thanks for all the great ideas! I’ve definitely started climbing the wrong ladder a couple of times- once I spent several years training to be a teacher before I realized that was NOT what I wanted to do with my life. But I think I’m on the right track now.

I notice you have an idiosyncrasy common to avid readers; that is, knowing what an unusual word means and how it’s spelled but not how to pronounce it. (I used to do this a lot; for example, I tried to pronounce the word “misled” as “mice-l-d” for some reason.) So in case you ever need to speak it again, “mediocrities” should be pronounced “mee-dee-aw-krih-tees” with the emphasis on the third syllable. Or maybe you just don’t care how it’s pronounced and that’s okay too. 🙂

I also really loved your advice to focus on high value work. I’m not at the stage yet where I could afford to employ everyone, but I come of a family and a subculture that thinks a little too highly of the idea that a penny saved is a penny earned. I find that this is blatantly untrue if it takes me any longer than 1/14th of a second to save that penny, because at that point I’m wasting money by indulging in penny-saving activities rather than working.


Hi Derek

I would love to see a follow up video that goes through, lets say, 3 real life ways you stop yourself thinking or allowing the haters or negativaty to affect you. I.e how do you move one from it?



Thanks for the awesome video. Right now I would say #7 Zig when others Zag.

Keep it up with those videos.


These are great.
I love that you’re sharing more of your story now.
One of my “secrets” is to keep showing up…
so many want the secrets and try one thing… and when it doesn’t work immediately, they give up… or try something else… without ever giving the first thing long enough.

good stuff. always great content and energy!


Hi Derek
You always make fantastic videos etc. I love reading books, but I have found that watching you and other fast movers on the net, makes it possible for me to know all the new things that are happening around the world although I live in Denmark, Scandinavia.
By the way. Your tip about Periscope will revolutionize my language teaching.

Theodore Nwangene

Hello Derek,
This is really a very interesting video and I enjoyed every bit of it.

I love Steven’s got, it only shows that there are so many ways of getting around things rather than just doing what everyone else is doing or doing what you’re asked to do because other are doing it same wat.

Really amazing indeed.

Thanks for sharing Derek.

Deana Steele

Hey Derek,
I watch you on Periscope and before that I didn’t like your style very much but watching you LIVE I know you are you. Un-scripted, Raw and real. That is the power of Periscope for me and you! See you here and there and perhaps I’ll run into on the streets of NYC when I visit. Enjoy Yacht Week!


Great tips in your video and in your viewers’ comments.

“What got you here …” resonates for me. I’m about to open a small business, and I feel as though I’ve learned to think in a different way. I’m coming up with ideas to find and create opportunities, rather than waiting for things to happen (as I used to). Exciting times!


Great training.

4 books Derek mentioned:
1) How tone rich
2) mademoiselle rhonda garelick
3) Carnegie
4) Break Through Advertising



Thanks Derek, your energy jumped out right at me!
Number 7 hit home the most with me… I’ve always been different, a goat and never a sheep so this makes sense to continue to stand out and Zig when the rest of the flock are Zagging!
Thanks. x

Laura Christine


There’s a lot of people who do similar work as me, but no one is me. Time to be creative and see what happens!
My work is healing the body, mind & spirit. My specialties are massage, yoga, nutrition, coaching & music/sound healing.
I know I have what it takes and I know I’m the asshole! Time to rock this!
Thank you for the inspiration Derek!


I relate to climb the right ladder – Been in my job for 4 and a half years and learned a lot Keep hitting the ceiling as there are no opportunities to get me where I want in life. Tried to climb the ladder and create my own opportunities within the company but I am working for dinosaurs.

The success I have seen personally is listen more than talk, and go in with the attitude that if you cant personally help them, you will refer them to someone who can if you cant help with their particular challenge. Make them feel like someone cares enough to listen to their problem first before doing a song and dace about how I can help them. (I do a lot of phone work).


Great article, awesome Periscope! I may be 10 hours late on this one but definitely growing that thick skin is most important. Haters gonna hate!


Hey Derek,
Thanks for investing your energy into these messages!


Decide your ethics now. Then *resolve* to not to be a pansy and cave.

This way, when someone asks you to do something questionable (or sleazy… or illegal), you’re not going to slide… even though you have the skills to do it (and get paid) — BECAUSE if you cave and do it, you strip that “I know what I can count on [your name] to do or not do” feeling from people.

And no one should want people to have any ‘gray area’ about them. Be consistent. Stand firm.


Great scope tonight! You have become my fave scoper so far because I come away knowing you have dropped some knowledge that I can convert to progress toward my objectives and none of my time has been wasted. Much appreciated. Your personal story is pretty darned awesome too. Would love to share it with my readers. Btw, I need that last book you mentioned during the scope. How can I find it?

Sarah Laurence

Inspiring video! Loved the line “… I even read about successful criminals, because I didn’t have any of those in my family either”.

Lately I’ve been meeting lots of “important” and successful people. I’m remembering that they’re no better than me (but no worse either), which makes me feel like an equal (albeit one with lots to learn) in conversations. It also helps to remember that all arrogance stems from insecurity.

Leo Alvarenga

Zig when others zag… Genius!

I think you’ve talked about that in some other place.

Also, I’ve put theses books on my read list!



My favorite piece of advice is Cut the Line. This is exactly what I chose to do because the line is just too long. I know people who have been in the massage therapy field for twice as long as I have but make far less money. When I talk about my success they act like I cheated. One person said that no one should charge what I do for a massage. But I’m booked out with a long wait list and new business constantly coming in. My point is that cutting the line worked for me so I like it.


Hi Derek,
Great video. I need to work on No 1.
I have always been a believer in no 6, what got you here won’t get you there. A lot of people keep doing the same stuff over and over.
I’m looking into no 7. Zig instead of zag. Makes perfect sense, now to find my zig… 🙂


Success secret: hussle Hunter. When I find an event job that I can schedule and pays a reward I shoot off a message immediately. I don’t wait if I know it’s right.
Success secret : buliding a personal panel of experts. I have to cover a lot of knowledge areas: marketing, muscle skeletal research, massage therapy what works when, parenting, movement, ect. I find a go to resource maximum 3 and don’t worry about much other advice and information.

Priya Florence

I love “Develop a Thick Skin”. Goes right along with what another great man said about not taking anything personally. And yes, love the take responsibility and be accountable point too.


Climb the right ladder!! Whew, what a great and simple idea. It’s too easy to get excited about getting ahead and enjoying that lifestyle and forgetting that you’re not climbing the right ladder.


Loving you on the Scope Derek. Thanks for another great piece of content. 🙂


Loved your scope today! You’re my fave scoper so far! Love the location ones the best.

Great book recommendations!


Zig when others zag. Be different. I love it!

Great example of creating less content and promoting more. I think most people are content in just creating content and letting it be found because they feel a little slimy self-promoting. But if they have confidence in their message, they shouldn’t feel slimy at all.
Thank you, Derek. Great material as always.


Great Periscope session. I think “Climb the Right Ladder” is very important


Zig when others zag!

Loved your periscope..Thank you so much for the content. No idea how we got connected but feeling blessed I stumbled upon you. Xx


Hey hey! 58 comments as of my comment! Not shabby for a platform where “no one is able to remember links, etc”! 😉 Your scope was wonderful, as always!!!
My favorite tip was your last: zig when others zag! Brilliant! I’ve always lived by that, and will continue to do so.
I loved your book list – I love knowing what others are reading! I’ve added yours to my book list! Thanks!!


Hey brother,
Just saw this video and went into periscope as I finished;) so I’m doing the homework and leaving a comment:) you did a great job brother and highly appreciate the info and books.

Also, periscope is fast with comments, but just in case you didn’t catch my comment a few times- there is actually a good way of putting a site or reference for people to login after they view the periscope broadcast. It’s simple. Just go old school write the url before or while you’re doing the broadcast on a sticky note or a pad of some sort . Then just show it to the viewers and tell them to click a pic as you’re showing it . This way it’s pretty easy to go back to your photos, check out the URL, and plug it into the computer later on . So yes, I’m with you and think you can make some money using periscope- and reach a lot of people. I’m very excited about it too . I’ll be looking forward to all your broadcasts and again I appreciate what you’re doing.


    Awesome tip! Thanks for sharing!


I love this post! I love the one about what got you there won’t get you here.


Hi Derek!
I am the one you ranted because you thought I said your mail was spam…
I started my Blog not much action there but working on the marketing of it. I don’t have a business YET. I am an actress who comes from the business world and I still have not figured out the how I will make the money living my new life… Before I make it as an actress. I love to write and act of course so I guess I will find the path soon enough. http://Www.nanaponceleon.com
Periscope is great by the way I think it is an amazing tool for me as well 😉


Although as a former VA, I’m not a fan of some of the lower paying companies like Zirtual but I know everyone’s budget is different.

I LOVE “What got you here, won’t get you there.”

Thanks for embracing Periscope!


A secret I live by is asking myself this question whenever I find myself not wanting to take the next step..

“What’s stopping me?”

If I can clearly define the thoughts or obstacles that are keeping me from moving forward it gives my brain something better to work with and helps me find solutions.


Great blog post! Love the book recommendations! Give more anytime!


Rantaclassascope! Whatever you want to call it, I LOVED it!

#4, 2, 5, answer D – all of the above 🙂

SO jazzed about the books! Thank you! Keep rocking on 🙂

P.S. When you need motivational music for your next event, I’m your girl! Aw, yeah!!!

Brandy VanDeKop

Derek, you are such an inspiration!! I think I gotta go with #4- You’re the Big A-hole. I chose this one because it is so important not just in business, but in life in general!!

Tanya Patxot

I really enjoyed the not copying. I remember wanting to be so successful I copied what others did instead of finding my own voice ans mastering what I liked and was good at.


Just proving Periscope can make things happen. Thanks for the tips Derek.


Rantscope! lol! I’ve been going back and forth about Periscope but I have to say I get value (and entertainment) out of your scopes. I resonated most with taking responsibility for yourself and not blaming others (I’m the big a–!!!!) I am excited to read the books that you shared.


6th Rule: What got you here won’t get you there. That really resonated with me. Love watching your scopes Derek. Thanks.


Hi Derek,
Loving the periscopes! I started to e mail you about the app a couple of months ago. I wish I could have been the one to introduce you to it!

My favorite secret and the one I think most people should learn is to accept that you are the @$$hole and own it. Take responsibility for your actions, and for where you are in life. It is not about the economy or how you were raised. It is all about accepting that you are responsible for everything that happens in your life. Life is 10% of what happens and 90% how you react to it… it’s all on you, no one or anything else.



YOU. JUST. KILLED. IT…. wow, Derek LOVED this Periscope !!!! Thank you for the tips. I am a 2 min walk from a library and going. there. NOW!! So cool to see into your mind and experience your unscripted passion!!

Ciao bello (and good boy to stay away from the Coke)



You went from Facebook Mentions to Periscope & then asked us to comment on your blog. Good thing I got all my action items done already today since you’ve been pumping me full of great knowledge this afternoon. Looking forward to your future Scopes this month! 🙂


Great Periscope Derek, thanks so much for all the value that you’re sharing.

My favourite secret is to concentrate on high value work and not to get tied up in low value stuff that you can either delegate or just get rid of altogether.

But all of the other six secrets are great too!


Coming over from Periscope, the 6th rule “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” is my favorite tip. I have struggled with letting change happen in the past and this tip is exactly what I needed to hear!
Time to begin a new chapter…..

Kareem Harvey

Love the content. Zig when other zag was my favorite.


Thanks for the 7 Secrets – I just watched your periscope video. Great! The most important secret to me is WHAT GOT YOU HERE, WON’T GET YOU THERE


Another comment proving you can have an impact with Periscope.


Periscope video shout-out… great job on the books. Since you went old-school, check out… Frank Bettger’s book “How I Raised Myself…”


Just saw your periscope. super! The 4 books every successful entrepreneur should read! thanks man!


and I like all of them. best is focus on high value work. number 3.


Love your reaction to the haters! LOL. Keep rockin and thanks for the Periscope chat. Freakin’ awesome!


Great book recommendations. I look forward to checking out Breakthrough Advertising. Thanks!


Awesome information! I actually have Breakthrough Advertising already, but plan to get all the other books!


Thank you for a great Periscope! Can’t wait to start reading the books you recommended.

Ashley Jenkins

I love your Periscope live. I listened, even though I too, am an “asshole in charge.” Way to get live.

Rick Ortiz

Love to learn about new tech and new social apps. Digging Periscope and your use of it. Thanks for diving in.


Great article and periscope today. Thanks for the book recommendations!


Loved your periscope session! Thank you so much. Loved the four book recommendations, too.



All of these are great. Also, in line with “you’re the asshole” – no blame/no shame. Own your stuff, but drop the guilt because guilt just keeps you stuck. Learn what you need to from having been an asshole, and keep moving forward.

Love your work.

Thank you!

Fabiola Giordani

Derek I was just on your scope. It was awesome thanks for the tip. I would say the best tip was to zig when others are Zagging. I find that when I do that I get better results. Being unique is important in my industry.

Alex Shalman

You’re killing this right now on Periscope. I don’t know why you always yell, but I love it and you’re coming through right and clear. 🙂

Thank you for all the wisdom you’re dropping.

Laura | Life & Biz Coach

Derek this is a fantastic video!!

Thank you for sharing, I really love learning from you! These are GREAT!

I certainly use the “Cutting the Line” and “Zig when others Zag” strategy, I’ve been using it my whole life, was planning on writing a book about it.

when I use both together I like to call it … “It is what it is … OR IS IT??”

When people tell me well … that’s they way it is … I disagree and find a work around … every time!


I thought they were all good. One that stuck out the most reminded me of a New England saying “you can’t get there from here” which incorporates a few of your secrets. “What got you here won’t get you there”. In so many instances you have to cut your losses, buck the crowd to keep going and succeed. The thick skin comes into play because I’ve allowed others lack of support and agreement to hold me back. Only to see someone else come in and totally succeed in what i wanted to di, had i not hesitated, it would have been me.


I absolutely love “You’re The Big A**hole, Just Accept It.” It’s so easy to try to do something and then get discouraged when something goes wrong or gets in your way. Instead of thinking of it as something out of your control, taking responsibility for the inconvenience yourself as well as how to go about solving it restores the control right back to you, so you can push through and keep going. It’s a lot more empowering to say “Oops, that was a bit hasty of a decision on my part and now I’m out a few hundred dollars. I’d better do more research next time so that doesn’t happen again.”

By internalizing this crucial rule, you’re already miles ahead of everyone around you who’s trying to do the same thing but instead makes excuses or blames other things or other people when they can’t do something.


Zig when most zag works for me in most of my ventures. Opening businesses before their time and acceptance (ie. Spartanburg Health Enhancement Center opened in 1980. Who knew then, before much focus on preventive health, what the heck health enhancement was, or even meant…duhhh!). This followed by a couple of other similar ventures before most were doing them. Now I’m focusing on reinventing, and helping others avoid the blips and stumbles of reinventing…..at an age when most of my peers, classmates, etc., are retiring. Go figure!


Very interesting advice. I liked the zig when you can say examples you gave. I have tried to differentiate our products by not only making them movable and interactive but also informed with symbolism, mythology and essentially education.
Two of the rules I try to live by are
“You never know what you can have until you ask.”
“Go big or go home.”
I find the second one harder by far.


I resonate with number 1 and agree with all the other advice. Cutting the line could potentially be very useful to more people than the one who cut the line. By cutting the line successfully, you are encouraging other people to be creative and think outside the box.


Some of the secrets I have been talking about now I will stop talking and start doing using the seven secrets.


Derek, You shoot great videos.

For me, it’s cutting the line. It means to skip freelancing, and focus on building an online business. Why? My target is impact. I’d rather do the work upfront and enhance people’s lives while I sleep.

How do you decide when to cut the shot in your videos? Is it like one new idea per shot?



I accept that I’m the big ***hole, but what’s with the subliminal message, “If my books appear to a reader to be oversimplified…”?


2,6,7. Gotta go but great work.

Nicole Holland

Love this, love you! Every bit is pure gold!
Totally cutting the line and am so ready. 🙂

Ray John

Awesome video as usual Derek! I have always tried to zig when others zag 🙂
Since you mentioned something about hiring in the video, would it be okay to ask you if how do you do your hiring process? How do you screen them in terms of being the right person for the job? Thanks in advance!

Jane Dickinson, CZT

“Don’t underestimate yourself”. “Act as if”. As you said, Derek, you have to have the skills/talents to back this up, but don’t sell yourself short which many of my students and readers (98% women) do, almost automatically. “Well, my work isn’t as good as hers, I’ll just keep quiet”.
There are professions where you can’t “cut the line”, such as clinical; you’ll never be a nurse as good as one who has 20+ more years’ experience. BUT, as a person, you have unique insights and experiences and the voice to share those with the world. Want to bring that compassionate voice to help millions of people? Be an entrepreneur, reach out to the people you admire, and build the support system that will help you believe on those days when it’s hard for *you* to believe. You don’t need to be told *what* to be passionate about, you already know that.
I also love “What got you here won’t get you there”. Much as Einstein said, ““We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”. We also cannot build the next level of growth with the same thought styles that brought us this far.
Thanks for a terrific video, Derek!


The most valuable to me was #7 – Zig when others Zag. I am getting into a crowded online space and was facing some fears of being different. Now I know it’s not just a “good idea”, it’s essential! Thanks for this post *thumbs-up*


I love this video Derek! You’re advice is great, I love how well-read you are, and your energy and enthusiasm is contagious!


Hey Derek, awesome video! Thanks.

My secret has been a “speed of implementation”. I learned this concept from Eben Pagan, and it made a big difference in the way I work in my business. It basically says that if you don’t implement a good idea right when it occurred to you, you’re likely to forget it and as a result never act on it.

If I hear a new idea or an insight, and I think of a way how this could work for me, I just jump on trying it out and testing to see what happens. It can fail or it can give you a massive advantage over your competition. You’ll never now if you never try.


Larry G. Maguire

Howya Derek,

I like to do it myself. I want to know how to do it, I don’t want other people to do it for me because I need to understand it inside out. I’m that way with most things. I like to make the “mistakes”, although I don’t call them mistakes, rather it’s how I learn the thing. I can’t stand other people telling me “hey, don’t do that like that, do it this way”… I’d rather feck it up completely doing it myself because that way I get to know every single part of it. That’s the challenge you see…

Know what I mean?

Later, when I perfect it, I might delegate it. But right now it’s mine, I need to own it. I think if I am to effectively delegate something then I’ve got to know what a good result is when I see it.

This attitude is my best friend and worst enemy. Regardless of the consequences I’ve got to get to understand the thing inside out. Mind you… I maybe I should take that approach with my tax returns too lol!



My secret is fluent listening. Listening to God and to other people with keen discernment helps me see the question behind the question and focus on what’s really worth doing.

Mary Ann

Great job Derek, best info & video to date! Thanks.


I actually did not know that about Spielberg. I really like the idea of “cutting the line”, not because it sounds easier, but because it makes sense to focus on and work towards what you truly want to do.

Reelika @Financially Wise On Heels

Nice and informative points to think about. I have to admit, my favorite one was definitely not following the “traditional path.” I grew up in Soviet Union and had nothing, no freedom either. My family always told me to go to college and get a great job, so I can get everything I want in life. So I did get couple of degrees, studied in different countries, got experience, etc. However, the best decision ever was turning down a job offer from Fortune 500 company. Why? Because it wasn’t my priority and what I wanted. I never wanted to follow the traditional path. There is more in life than just that. Freedom is much more important for me (as I didn’t have it in my childhood). Sending out my voice makes a difference for my clients and me and this is what I consider success. And you are absolutely right, Derek, these are awesome ideas that make a huge difference, and reading has opened my eyes in so many ways as well.


I practice “Unreasonable Requests” – asking for the most outrageous things – and 8 times out of 10, I get a YES. It’s better than asking for the little stuff 😉


    I’m going to try this. Thanks for the idea.

Farhad Irani

My secret I live by is radical empathy. I’ll worry about how I felt later, in the situation I make it all about others because I find that’s what’s inline for the all around better good.

I feel that’s a vague statement but what I’m basically talking on is that I don’t think anyone ever looks back at a situation and thinks “I wish I had acted more emotional.” Instead we usually wish we were calmer because we can then think better. That’s were this comes from, I use empathy to keep myself calm because then I can stay effective.


Absolutely love this blog! It was exactly what I needed especially since my line of work is in the art world. The 6th rule “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” resonated with me the most because it’s almost like a force of habit to continue down the same path since it has worked well for you. But you’re not really growing if you are doing the same thing over and over – so you have to change it up! Thanks Derek!

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