10 Rules for Entrepreneurs: Stay Humble, Success is Fleeting

by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 22, 2011

Last week I posted 10 Rules for Entrepreneurs, a list of the top 10 lessons I’ve learned in business that have led to success. In the weeks to come I’ll elaborate further, providing an in-depth look at several of these key learnings from my own experiences as an entrepreneur.

Working backwards on my list, I’d like to talk about #9, “Stay humble, success is fleeting.”   

When I was starting my entrepreneurial career in Boston, the biggest and most successful tech company in New England was Digital Equipment Corp, or DEC, which later became a part of Compaq and then Hewlett-Packard.  It was the world’s largest mini-computer manufacturer with revenues of over $14 billion.  In 1986, Fortune Magazine proclaimed DEC CEO Ken Olsen “America’s most successful entrepreneur.”  Famously (though somewhat taken out of context perhaps), Olsen stated , “The personal computer will fall flat on its face in business.”  By 1992, DEC was a shadow of its former self, and in July 1992, Olsen resigned.  Olsen, once one of the giants of the computer industry, was ridiculed for completely missing the PC revolution.  

Just remember, today’s heroes may be tomorrow’s goats.  One thing I can say about Olsen is that nobody gloated over his downfall because, true to his New England roots, he remained a modest man; he did not indulge in fancy trappings or bling and never seemed to boast of his wealth. This isn’t something you can necessarily say for all titans of industry, but it is a good lesson for all of us when we’re on the way up.  


-Dave Friend, Carbonite CEO