The X Factor

Idrees Syed (C’13) is a Workshop Leader for CFA’s Computer Literacy Project. He will be teaching a workshop on using Microsoft Excel as a tool for financial management.

I started attending Dr. Weigelt’s workshops on entrepreneurship about three weeks ago. The talks are catered to an audience that mainly comes from the West Philadelphia community. The program that makes these workshops possible is Dr. Weigelt’s Building Bridges to Wealth non-profit. So it was apparent that the audience of the workshop was from a low-income background. These individuals’ economic backgrounds, I noticed, did not wane any of the noticeable passion and energy in the classroom. Through my experience talking and interacting with the participants of the workshop, it seemed that human passion is independent of income and is a currency that has higher value in entrepreneurship than financial resources alone do.

I began talking with a participant of the workshop, Greg, a 21-year-old entrepreneur working to complete his bachelors at the Community College of Philadelphia. He is working to continue expanding on the success of his party-planning company that he started as an 18-year-old and is starting to plan his dream business, which is a trendy clothing line. My first impressions of Greg were that he possessed something I consider to be that special “X-Factor”—that extra edge that motivates and pushes you to stay up that extra hour, to travel that extra mile. It’s something that I’ve always considered to be innate before meeting Greg. I used to think that maybe Donald Trump, Mark Cuban, and the likes were just born with some special business knack that no one else had and that’s what motivated them towards business success.

I decided to ask the source directly, Greg, what was it that made him strive towards business and entrepreneurship success? What were the factors that drove him to travel 40 miles on a Saturday morning to access Dr. Weigelt’s wealth of entrepreneurship knowledge? The answer was straightforward and there was no trace of doubt in his tone. “The answer to that is easy—it’s failure. I’ve failed and I never want to feel that way ever again.” Greg began to open up to me and many of the factors that have inhibited his success were factors outside of his control—his father left his family when he was four, his mom relied on hard drugs to cope with this fact and having two children, and there was never any meaning to school work because the valedictorian of his high school class became a mechanic at a tire shop across from his neighborhood. Greg had provided me an insight I had never really understood before. Greg’s passion was sourced from his difficult experiences, but moreover he was willing to do whatever it took to turn his luck and become a success. It is not success that leads to further success; it is failure that drives individuals to success.

Motivation does not discriminate across income-brackets. I realized the value and purpose of Dr. Weigelt’s seminars—to prove that anyone can succeed as an entrepreneur, regardless of their economic background. Drawing these observations and insights from that Saturday has strengthened my desire to help and support the cause in any way that I can.