Standing on the shoulders of giants

Do you want to reach higher levels of success faster?

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Congratulations to the newly inducted group of 40 Under 40 honorees! You have joined an elite group of the area’s most successful and driven young professionals. Although I haven’t had the chance to meet all of you, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many successful millennials.

I’m sure you all have different strategies, traits, and networks that helped you become successful early in your career, but I’m guessing there is at least one commonality — in your life and career, you’ve stepped on the shoulders of giants to reach higher levels of success. What do I mean by that? I mean you have identified people who are highly successful, which is where you want to be in terms of career, business, and life. Then in order to accelerate your own journey, you found ways to learn from what they have already achieved.

Examples of local giants cited by members of this year’s 40 Under 40 class as people they would like to emulate include the likes of Juan Jose Lopez of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and the Latino Chamber of Commerce, Molly Barker who founded Girls on the Run, and Heather Wentler of the Doyenne Group. Beyond Wisconsin, they identified with giants such as Warren Buffet, the late Steve Jobs, and Google’s Laszlo Bock. As one can see, a giant can be someone you’ve actually met or someone whose example has inspired you from afar.

In my career, standing on the shoulders of giants has been a helpful strategy. Before launching my podcast, I listened to many “podcasters” to find someone who created the type of content I wanted to provide. I found such a podcaster in John Lee Dumas, who built the award-winning Entrepreneur on Fire podcast that generated more than six figures in monthly income because it provided great value to listeners. Dumas also created The Freedom Journal which, as I’ve noted in a previous column, is a guide to reaching your biggest goal in 100 days.

After reaching out to John and eventually meeting him at a conference, we built a professional relationship. In a number of ways he has helped build my business faster than I thought possible. I look for ways to add value to what he is trying to accomplish and he does the same for me.



Here are four action items to reach higher levels of success faster by standing on giant shoulders:

  • Identify key individuals who are your “giants.” These are people who have already created or achieved the exact type of career, business, or life you aspire to.
  • Find ways to add value to them and their current projects. Even the most successful people are looking for ways to improve their career, business, and life.
  • Reach out to them to introduce yourself in person. Are they speaking at a forthcoming event? Buy a ticket because it will be worth the investment.
  • Be very clear about what you would like from them. Don’t just ask for a few minutes of their time. Do you have a specific question about the industry? Are you looking for a mentor or coach? The more specific you can be, the more likely they will point you in the right direction.

I’d love to hear about the “giants” who have inspired you to climb higher and faster. Shoot me an email at

Jenna Atkinson is the president of CONNECT Madison, a young professionals group offering development, community engagement, and relationship-building opportunities to local business leaders.

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