Published: 13 Feb 2018
Updated: 13 Sep 2022
Category: Startups , SMEs , Entrepreneur

Life Lessons From Jack Ma To Rock Your New Year


Most people would expect any aspiring entrepreneur or creative to look up to guys like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg… but with the fast approaching Lunar New Year, we’ve decided to look closer to home for a bit of inspiration. Someone like Jack Ma, for his ability to not only dream larger than life, but to also be able to make those dreams come true in the most abysmal of environments and when all odds seem to be against him.

Here’s a little about who he is and what he has accomplished.

Born September 10, 1964 in Hangzhou, China, Jack Ma is the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group -  a collection of highly successful and popular internet companies such as:, Taobao,, Ali Express, Xiami, China Yahoo!, Alibaba Pictures and more…

What’s most impressive is not how successful these companies are now (collectively worth over $150 Billion), but rather - how he was able to go from an English teacher in China barely earning enough to get by and with absolutely no knowledge of the internet or technology - to getting to where he is today. The journey was brutal, to say the least - but for some reason, he was able to make it out alive.

What makes people like Jack Ma so special?
After his graduation Jack Ma applied to 30 different jobs including the Police and got rejected by each and every single one. In his own words: ‘‘I went for a job with the police; they said, ‘you’re no good’. I even went to KFC when it come to my city. Twenty-four people went for the job. Twenty-three were accepted. I was the only guy…”

If anything, his story can be seen as the beacon of hope for anyone struggling to find their place in history. And with the onset of the New Year, we want to share a few life lessons Jack Ma has been known to share throughout the years building what is known today as the Alibaba Group. If there’s only one person who we can learn from to find our own success, it’s Jack Ma. So without further ado, let’s get started.

Dream Big. Really Big
Because how else would you be able to get what you want from life if you can’t imagine it, believe in it, and have an end goal in mind?

Never Underestimate Yourself
You’re more powerful than you think. No matter your circumstances (just as Jack Ma proves), with enough dedication, determination and hustle you can make anything happen.

Never Overestimate Your Competitor
Everyone is vulnerable and weak and scared at times, and often times we forget that about our competition. Your competition were exactly where you are now at one point, they are human too - and should never be seen as anything more than that. If they did it, you can too.

Make Sure You Have a Great Idea
Because at the end of the day, your idea has to be practical and something people actually want. All the flashiness and advertising in the world can’t save a shitty idea that no one wants.

Build a Company to Last
So that you can focus on playing the long-term game.

The Bigger the Problem, the Greater the Opportunity
Because if you can be the one to solve the problem, then you’ll receive a much greater reward. By building Alibaba in an environment where there was no infrastructure for e-commerce (online banking / payment + poor logistics and shipping platforms), Jack Ma had to develop new systems for the entire process -  and thus, has found new opportunities that are currently paying off very handsomely.

Today is Tough but the Day After Tomorrow is Beautiful
Keep on pushing, and always aim to be the last man standing.

Focus on the Customer and the Rest Will Follow
Nothing else matters more than the customer when it comes to doing business. Focus on them first, before anything else.

Learn from Competitors but Never Copy Them
Because we are all unique, and the reason a customer would want to work with you is because you are different and authentic and true to yourself and your own personal values.

Don’t Waiver
If you’re out to accomplish a certain thing, don’t stop half way in order to accomplish something else. Focus on your current goal, do a good job, then move on to the next thing.

Be as Fast as a Rabbit but Patient as a Turtle
Be fast to implement things (this is especially true on the internet) because things are constantly changing / improving / adapting, but also have the grace to understand that it takes time for a payoff. Patience is everything.

It’s More Important to be Best Than First
Too many companies obsess about being the first. What they fail to understand is that being first doesn’t necessarily mean you are the best. Being the best is a much better position to put yourself in.

Free Is, Sometimes, a Business Model
Free will attract a lot more people to your business / product / whatever - and sometimes, can be a business model if you have a good enough product and are able to figure out just what your customers are willing to pay for in the long term.

Buy an Umbrella When it’s not Raining
So when it does rain, you won’t get wet. Prevention is always better than the cure. Always be prepared even if it’s not necessary.

Find Opportunity in Crisis
Whenever there is a crisis (no matter how bad), there is always a hidden opportunity. Your job is to find it.

Use Your Competitor’s Strength Against It
The fact that your competition is bigger / better / stronger and more financially stable than you also means that they are slower / more vulnerable / and out to please shareholders. How can you use their strength and weight against them in order to find success with your own endeavours?

Things change fast in today’s world, and it’s okay to leapfrog entire industries if it makes sense for your market.

Prepare for Winter In The Spring
There will always be a Spring and a Winter with business. Your job is to always prepare for the tough days when things seem to be going well.

Resist the Temptation to go Public
Because shareholders only care about money. Customers first, always.

Put Yourself in Position for Luck
Work really hard and hustle, so when luck finally comes to you - you’ll be ready and prepared for the opportunity.

Entrepreneurs Solve Problems -  Not Complain
That’s a given.

Don’t Dwell on Mistakes
Only losers dwell and complain. Get up, try again and fix mistakes.

Embrace Tough Decisions
Because you are the one in charge of your business and life - running away from them will only make them bigger over time.

Have the Team Work for the Goal - Not the Boss
Bosses come and go. A solid goal is constant.

Don’t Disregard the ‘Tech Dummies’
Because Jack Ma was one, and he has single handedly revolutionised the ecommerce industry in China. Enough said.

Don’t Let it Get Personal
Because when you do, you’ll be making rash decisions based on pure emotion - and that’s never a good thing.

Assemble a Team, Not a Collection of All-Stars
A team works together to accomplish a very specific goal, all-stars will compete against each other in order to be seen as the best.

Gather the Entire Team Once a Year
To celebrate and discuss where you are / where you’ve been / and what you’ll do next.

Spread the Wealth
Money is important no matter what anyone says. And knowing that more of it will come your way if you work hard creates a sense of ownership and is a great incentive for workers.

Integrate Values into the Company’s HR Systems
So that your company culture stays the same no matter how big you get.

Actions Speak Louder than Words
Speak less, do more. Words mean nothing without the proof of action.

Don’t Judge a Growing Company by a Snapshot - Look at the Overall Trends
Too often we assume a company is doing well or not so well based on a simple picture, when the truth is that things are a lot more complicated. If the overall trends are on a rapid rise, then you’re safe.

Allow for Sabbaticals
Because we are all human, and sometimes we just need a longer break.

Be Sure to Hire the Right People at the Right Time
Because hiring the right people at the wrong time would be a waste of their talent, and hiring the wrong people at the right time would be a waste of your time. The combination of both is ideal.

Respect the Work of People Who Came Before You
Paying respect to the work of others (no matter how little) will create good graces all around. Everyone likes to be credited for their work. Everyone appreciates appreciation.

Believing in yourself, being persistent in the face of adversities and treating rejections and failures as opportunities to propel yourself ahead is what Jack Ma’s extraordinary life speaks out to the world. Now go forth and rock your world!



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