The road to success is, without a doubt, unpredictable.  Figuring out your next move is challenging, and it can sometimes feel like you’re doing everything wrong.  Luckily, many people have paved the way before us, giving us a chance to learn from their achievements (and mistakes).  Here are some pieces of wisdom compiled from the stories of a few highly successful individuals who took both traditional and non-traditional routes to get to where they are today.

It’s OK to take time to figure out what you want – Suze Orman (Author, Financial Guru, & Television Host)

When she was 22, Suze Orman left her life in Illinois and headed to Berkeley, CA, where she worked as a tree trimmer and as a waitress – for eight years!  You’re probably thinking “Whoa! Eight years as a tree trimmer?! No thanks…” But, the time she spent in those labor-intensive positions gave her the experience and tools she needed to find out who she was, which led her to figure out what she wanted to do with her career.

Bottom line is, there’s no such thing as wasted time.  There are lessons to be gained in all our experiences, whether you are in your dream job already, or still trying to find what your passion is.  Sometimes we have to clear the brush away before we find the path that’s hidden underneath.

Money isn’t everything – Marc Lore (CEO of Jet.com)

After graduating from college, Lore landed his “dream job” as a financial advisor at Banker’s Trust.  For years, he worked tirelessly in a fiercely competitive environment where the “core motivational driver was personal financial gain.” One morning, he had a jolt of pain go through his chest that was so intense he fell to the floor.  And, while it wasn’t full-blown cardiac arrest, it was at that moment he knew something in his life needed to change.

Now, if making lots of money is your thing, more power to you!  The important lesson here is that we shouldn’t work ourselves to death (almost literally, in this case!) at the expense of living our lives and having experiences that will make us wealthy in a non-material sense.  Lore was working towards something he thought was right for him, and it turned out it wasn’t. Getting tuned in to what you value and working towards that version of success will almost certainly lead to a greater sense of fulfillment when you eventually achieve your goals.

Embrace the wisdom of uncertainty – Deepak Chopra (Author, Public Speaker, Practitioner of Alternative Medicine)

At the outset of his career, Deepak Chopra was sure that his life path was secure – his future in medicine was bright, and he was set to marry the woman he loved and move to the United States.  But all of that changed when he lost his medical fellowship and wound up ousted from his chosen field.

Understandably, we want to replace uncertainty with certainty, and instability with stability.  But at his lowest point, Chopra was able to embrace the notion that everything happens for a reason.  Even with a seemingly solid plan, things can go awry.  But there is a beauty in the un-knowing, and it’s possible that, when things seem to go off course, we are actually being pushed in a direction to do something greater than we had ever planned on.

Be courageous – Beth Mooney (CEO of KeyCorp)

Beth Mooney got her start in banking two years after graduating from University.  She knocked down the door of every big bank in Dallas, looking to land a job in one of their management training programs.  At the Republic Bank of Dallas, she decided she wouldn’t leave the manager’s office until he offered her a job.  Three hours later, on the condition that she would work toward an MBA, he decided he would give her a chance.

Clearly, persistence is key; but persistence requires courage.  The real world offers plenty of ups and downs, but if you believe in yourself and keep at it, you will find your path.  It couldn’t have been easy knocking down doors to get what she wanted, but anything worth having generally comes after a lot of work has been done, and a lot of fears have been faced.  And, after all, courage is feeling the fear but doing it anyway.

Get comfortable hearing the word No – Ertharin Cousin (Executive Director of the World Food Program)

Executive Director of the World Food Program, Ertharin Cousin, urges us all to get comfortable hearing the word “No.” Rejection never feels good, but unfortunately it can be a big part of the process of finding your path in life.  Instead of letting it stand in our way, we can use rejection to fuel our professional and personal growth. Sure, nobody likes to hear the word “No.” But removing the rose-colored glasses and getting real about the potential for rejection will not only soften the blow if and when that happens, but it will make your successes feel all the more deserved after putting in the work to better yourself.

Success doesn’t come pre-packaged.  It’s up to each of us as individuals to decide what that means for our lives, and how we will go about achieving it.  Whether you’re a recent grad just getting your start, or someone who is trying to make a go of it in a new industry, don’t be discouraged by what might appear as failure or loss.  Let these experiences drive you to create exactly the career you want. And who knows? You could be the next Suze Orman, or the next Steve Jobs – but better even still – the next You.