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No Magic Needed: 3 Success Hacks From The Boy Who Lived

You don’t need a magic wand or an enchanted broom to fly your way to the top

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BY Tricia V. Morente - 30 Jun 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

On the 26th of June 2017, a seemingly ordinary day like any other, muggles on the Internet went on a spell-casting frenzy.

Whether for purely tribute-intended purposes or resentment at still not having received their acceptance letter from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, many an update on Facebook and Twitter were made by these muggles, all of which were magically enhanced by the mention of Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived and defeated Lord Vold—oops—You Know Who exactly 20 years ago.

Two full decades and a few days later, the Harry Potter series penned by J.K. Rowling remains one of the much-loved bestsellers by readers cutting across different generations.

Beyond being a publishing success—and by “success” we mean “massive” as the 450 million copies of the seven books sold as of 2016, reported in this Fortune article, had thus far generated an estimated $7.7 billion revenue—Harry Potter is a testament to Rowling’s indomitable entrepreneurial spirit.

And she did it all without magic. Her secret to business fame and fortune? Turns out a lot of them are hidden within the books.

Here are three of them:

1. Smells Like Team Spirit

All throughout the seven books, here’s the main factor that drove Harry toward every small victory and eventually the grand kahuna that was the Dark Lord’s defeat: he had a good team. Harry was the leader and visionary; Hermione was the brains that moved all the plans forward, sometimes playing Devil’s Advocate to Harry’s risk-taking ways; and Ron had the interpersonal skills that helped bring people to their cause.

As a start-up, one of the things you’ll eventually realize is that you can’t hack it alone. “On the outset, it’s very important to get the right set of people who are subscribed to your vision. It took a good eight months for us to get the right people together, it’s a long, drawn-out process, and there were frustrations along the way, but it’s crucial because your pioneer team will be the one shaping your company eventually,” says Aditya Haripurkar, founder and CEO of mobile payments start-up HitPay.

It’s also quite lonely at the top, especially during the inevitable times you need to make those difficult business decisions. Says Paul Rivera of job matching platform Kalibrr, “As CEO you don’t want to be in an echo chamber where people are afraid to challenge or give you their honest opinion.” Don’t be Voldemort, in other words. Rivera adds: “I think I was ultimately able to make those painful decisions, and in a timely manner, because I had talented people giving me honest advice.”

2. It’s Not All About The Money

One of the stupidest things a start-up can do is, the moment their business starts earning profits or come across a generous amount of funding, they spend it on things that aren’t really necessary (Read: a fancy paper shredder is one of them).

Take a lesson out of Harry Potter and the substantial inheritance James and Lily Potter left behind. After growing up poor and living under the stairs with the Dursleys for a great deal of his life, he could’ve splurged after that eye-popping first look at his Gringotts bank account, but he didn’t.

“Some founders will look at funding as the objective rather than as a means to an end. Your objective is to build the business, not to raise money,” shares Rivera.

3. Never Fall Prey To Your Circumstances

Throughout all seven books, Harry had to endure multiple near-death encounters with Lord Voldemort, mourn the deaths of loved ones, lose his bones in a Quidditch match (thanks to a well-meaning but incompetent Gilderoy Lockhart), and have confrontations not only with his arch-nemesis Draco Malfoy but his best friend Ron Weasley. And yet he never gave up.

As a start-up, you’re going to have your fair share of battles. If you’re doing a start-up because you think it might be a cool thing to do, then forget it. Pavel Bains, the CEO of blockchain start-up Bluzelle, has it on point: “Being in a start-up is a grind. If you’ve never done anything in your life before where you had to grind through something and just suffer, then this isn’t for you. Are you actually mentally ready? If you’ve faced challenges before and shied away from them, this isn’t for you.”

A tool that should be in your arsenal? Resilience. Take it from the epitome of resilience herself, J.K. Rowling. It took overcoming a lot of failures, and even poverty, before Rowling finally managed to publish the first Harry Potter book on June 26, 1997. Instead of letting herself be beaten down by her circumstances, she persevered. “Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies,” she said at her 2008 commencement speech at Harvard.