I had the pleasure of listening to Emerson Spartz speak at the Catapult Chicago offices last week about founding MuggleNet, the most popular Harry Potter fan site in the world, at the age of 12, and how you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to be a wildly successful innovator.

Now, it’s safe to say Emerson is simply of a different breed. He convinced his parents to let him home-school himself and took complete control of his own education by speed reading four biographies of successful people every day and committing himself to the emerging field of website development.

And by the time he turned 18, he’d built MuggleNet into a thriving community, made a ton of money, and even interviewed J.K. Rowling herself!

While listening to his story in a crowded room of entrepreneurs, I took note of his most thought provoking assertions.

“Research endlessly; learn from other people’s mistakes.”
“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”
“Persuasion Theory and Network Science demystify why people share what they do.”
“You’ve gotta be around people who challenge you.”
“Be a pathological optimist.”

My favorite part about these insights is that they remind me so much of the MentorMob community members who have helped thousands of people learn across the globe by building and sharing Learning Playlists.

It’s good to be reminded that there is no easy shortcut to success. The future belongs to the people who show up and work hard.

Are you in?