“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” – Zig Ziglar

Whether you’re starting a business, writing a bestseller or coming up with a plan for world domination, everyone has to start somewhere. And for many people, that starting point – the blank canvas; day one – can be a pretty daunting place. You’ve got to plan everything out in minute, miniscule detail and anticipate every possible screw-up that may or may not happen. That’s right, isn’t it?

Nope. Not at all.

Thousands of world-changing projects have been started right off the bat with nothing more than a simple idea and the spark of motivation to begin. If you can find 20 minutes, you can take your first step to start your own business.

Here are some key figures who had an idea and jumped straight into action – with awesome results.

Peter Shankman

Titanic T shirtThe journey of multimillionaire, Peter Shankman, began in 1998, sparked by the hatred of a hit film. Having recently left his job, Peter wanted to start his own advertising agency. The problem was that he didn’t have much of a clue how to go about doing it and he didn’t have any money.

Then when the film Titanic was sweeping the world, an idea struck him based on his personal hatred of the flick. Using his rent money, he created 500 t-shirts that said ‘It Sank. Get Over It.’ and began selling them in Times Square. Within six hours he had sold all 500.

Peter immediately pitched his cute success story to the media, and he and his T-shirts ended up on the front cover of the Life section of USA Today. When asked by a journalist whether he had a website he automatically responded ‘yes’. He then ran straight home and launched his site that very night.

The result: Peter sold 10,000 shirts at $15 a piece leaving him a profit of $100,000. He used that money to launch his first agency. Peter went on to found Help a Reporter Out (HARO), author four bestselling books and become an international marketing pundit.


Ben Lerer ThrillistBen Lerer is co-founder of Thrillist. His amazingly successful and lucrative entrepreneurial journey started when he and his co-founder, Adam Rich, brainstormed a load of ‘get rich quick schemes’. They came up with a city guide aimed exclusively at young men like themselves.

With no listings content to draw on, Ben and his co-founder hit the streets of New York, exploring neighborhoods on nights and weekends to write their own version of a city guide, which they would send along to their friends every few days.

However, even though they had a great idea they still didn’t have much clue as to how to go about launching it. When sending out their first email newsletter, Adam turned to Ben and asked, ‘how do we send it?’ ‘That’s how absolutely stupid we were,’ Lerer recalls.

As they attracted more subscribers, they began hearing from businesses that had noticed an increase in sales when Thrillist wrote about them. Within 60 days Ben quit his job to focus on the burgeoning business. They started doing advertising deals and within 4 months managed to get funding for the business.

Despite being ‘absolutely stupid’, Thrillist became a huge success, with the business going from earnings of $50k per annum to millions. Today, Thrillist Media Group is a global media and ecommerce company with 250 employees and 25 local editions, reaching from Los Angeles to London. They have millions of subscribers, and as of 2015 their revenue was $92 million. All pretty incredible, particularly if you consider that the company started with zero start-up costs!

Richard Branson

Virgin logo on napkinBranson’s Virgin Empire is worth over $5 billion and the charismatic founder thrust himself into business at an early age, always relying on instinct and action. He doesn’t have the patience for long, drawn-out presentations; he prefers spur of the moment pitches and ideas, even if they’re written on a beer mat.

The brand name Virgin was chosen as Branson considered himself a virgin in business, and the V in the logo was picked for its similarity to an expressive tick, representing the Virgin seal of approval.

In fact, the iconic Virgin logo was scribbled on a cocktail napkin at a pizza restaurant in a moment of inspiration nearly 50 years ago; that impulsive scribble is now the focal point for over 400 Virgin companies across the globe.

Arianna Huffington

Huffington is an author, columnist, and co-founder of the immensely successful Huffington Post. She’s never been one to spend too long planning, preferring to get started with her projects and take it from there.

When preparing to set up her ‘What’s Working’ editorial – an initiative focusing on positive stories in the news – she dismissed the long drawn-out plans by her editors saying they would launch first and tinker later: ‘I think let’s start iterating. Let’s not wait for the perfect product.’ The section is now an incredible hit, contributing massively to The Huffington Post’s 200 million unique monthly visitors.    

What's Working


Want to launch your own venture faster? What’s your first action that you could do in 20 minutes? Why not do it right now!

My new book Screw Work Break Free will show you how to launch your own venture faster than you ever thought possible. Download a free chapter here: