Been there, saw that, did not get the T-shirt.

That could effectively sum up Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar journey up until last night.

The 2016 Oscars, however, finally turned out to be different for him.

The 41-year-old actor, nominated for the Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993), Best Actor category for The Aviator (2004), Blood Diamond (2006) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), finally won it for last year’s survival tale The Revenant. This was his sixth overall Oscar nomination and first win.

He may be walking on air, or he may be past the point of caring since this victory has been a long time coming. Nevertheless, Leo’s is a classic story of talent, ambition, heartbreak, perseverance and success, underlined by passion. Startup owners can certainly relate and learn from Leo.

Luck has nothing to do with it

Luck is getting an early break. It is being born in a privileged family or a prized geographical location. It is knowing the right people in an influential industry or happening to possess an extraordinary talent at a young age.

Luck isn’t is turning up for work day after day, year after year, improving yourself in the process to the extent that the masses and the critics alike love you.

It isn’t conquering your personal demons and setting aside temporary setbacks. It isn’t seeking out the best in a competitive industry for a chance to work with and prove yourself every single time.

Those of us who have followed Leo’s career know that his resume in Hollywood is continuously more impressive each year. His performances over the years have become more nuanced, subtle, and spell-binding. We have seen Leo grow as an actor. I think he was brilliant in The Shutter Island as a torn father, husband and ex-soldier. He was unforgettable in The Beach as a young and vulnerable traveler.

Neither of the movies got him nominated for the Oscars, but as a fan, I don’t care. A good movie is an immersive experience that is rare, regardless of the cherry at the top – the awards.

You could say Leo made his own luck. We can too! Whoever said that opportunity looks a lot like hard work and perseverance was right on the money.

Keep doing what you love, and recognition will follow

I, of course, don’t know Leo, but I doubt the lure of the Oscars was driving him.

He tasted success early. He had the fans, the adulation, the money, the box office success and even critical acclaim. One thing that kept eluding him was the Oscar.

Now he has that, too!

Hollywood can be a very unforgiving place and it’s easy to lose heart when your best isn’t recognized to be so by the powers that be. Leo’s “bad luck” at the Oscars made him a butt of jokes on the Internet.

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Guess who had the last laugh?

The only way for a person or a business to accomplish continuous improvement is to love what they do. Keep honing the craft and keep challenging yourself. Find out how you can exceed your own expectations.

Awards are flattering, but secondary.

For 2016, make it a priority to pour your best into your business. Think of all the ways in which you can refine your skills – people skills, marketing skills, social media skills, public speaking skills – whichever you feel are essential to the overall growth of your business. All of these efforts will eventually pay off.

If you aren’t getting the customers you want today, continue to focus and improve on what is important. The business will follow. Keep doing things that ultimately do make a difference. Sooner or later, your efforts will be recognized and you will be successful.

Define success on your terms

Each of us views success differently. For some, it’s winning the ultimate award. For others, it’s winning the hearts of the people or creating something memorable.

For Leo, success is making movies that continue to resonate with viewers around the world.

For me, success is exceeding the expectations of our clients by delivering an unforgettable experience. My team and I are focused on that every day of the week. We have big ambitions – we want to grow rapidly, but we wouldn’t want that to come at the cost of forgetting what is driving us.

What touched me the most about Leo’s acceptance speech was his call for us to value this planet more.

“Making The Revenant was about man’s relationship with the natural world. A world that we collectively felt in 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history. Our production team needed to go to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow; climate change is real, and it’s happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters or the big corporations, but who speak for all of humanity; and for the indigenous people of the world; for the billions and billions of underprivileged people who will be most affected by this; for our children’s children; and for all the people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed. Let us not take this planet for granted; I do not take tonight for granted.”

Leo has risen beyond his craft and become a voice for one of the biggest challenges facing the earth – climate change.

That is success for a man who is continually evolving.

How do you define success?


Pete Peranzo

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