Jack Ma’s Top 10 Rules For Success

Jack Ma "Ma Yun"Jack Ma’s Chinese name is Ma Yun. He was born in Hangzhou, China in 1964. This was a time when China was very isolated from the rest of the world, and many Chinese families did not have much. In 1972, after US President Nixon’s visit to Hangzhou, the city became a tourist spot. Jack offered free tours in exchange for English lessons. This is where a foreigner friend gave him the nickname Jack.

In 1988, Jack Ma graduated from Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute with a Bachelor in Arts degree in English. He started a translation company, and in 1995, went to the US on a trip to help a Chinese firm recover a payment. There he was introduced to the Internet. After realizing its potential, he gathered his friends back in China and started Alibaba, an Internet site that would allow exporters to post product listings that customers could buy directly. By late 1999, the company has raised about $25 million from investors such as SoftBank of Japan and Goldman Sachs.

Alibaba Founder Jack Ma’s Top 10 Rules For Success

Forbes estimates Jack Ma’s worth to be over $40 billion, the second richest man in China. Alibaba’s IPO, the company he founded and served as CEO, has set a record as the world’s largest initial public stock offering at $25 billion. He was also named as among China’s and the world’s top business leaders, a global leader, among the most powerful businesspersons and the best CEOs. Jack is also a philanthropist and the first Chinese citizen to serve on The Nature’s Conservancy Board. From this YouTube video, these are Jack’s 10 rules for success.

1. Get Used To Rejection

Jack Ma failed his college entrance examination twice before getting accepted on the third try. After graduating, he applied for jobs and got rejected 30 times, including by the police. When he applied at KFC among 24 applicants, 23 were accepted except him. During the World Economic Forum in 2016, he shared that he has applied to Harvard 10 times and has been rejected every time.

2. Keep Your Dream Alive

In a conference, Jack shared the secret code for Alibaba’s success. Just like the fictional character Ali Baba, he was able to enter a secret cave with the code “Open Sesame.” In a similar way, the people working at Alibaba’s secret code is ‘Keep your dream alive.’ They kept this in their mind and heart, knowing that it may come true some day. And it did.

3. Focus On Culture

In an Interview with Charlie Rose, Jack Ma explained that the core competence of Alibaba is culture. Technology is an important tool. However, growing from 18 people to more than 20,000 young employees, they focused on the company’s mission, values and a culture of helping the company. This culture of building a great company instead of just making money is a key to success.

4. Ignore The #Littleman

When he was starting Alipay, some people were telling him that it was not a good idea at all. Someone told him it was a stupid idea. He simply ignored the negative comments and the naysayers and continue with it. Now, Alipay has over 500 million users who are enjoying a secure way of paying online and mobile purchases.

5. Get Inspired

Jack Ma shared that he has learned many things from the movies like The Bodyguard, The Godfather, and Forrest Gump. He mentioned that he was inspired by how actors deliver their lines, how singers deliver powerful performances. He realized that when people act naturally and speak from the heart, they create great impact, and that is how he tries to inspire others, by being himself.

6. Stay Focused

Jack was asked by a reporter about business ideas he has said no to. As a CEO, he stated that he is saying no to many business ideas being peddled to him on a daily basis. However, if a business opportunity comes which is aligned with the company’s mission of making doing business easier, he would consider. But if someone comes to him simply stating that an opportunity will make a lot of money, he would tell them that he is not interested.

7. Have A Good Name

He shared that he chose the name Alibaba for several reasons. One, since the Internet is global, they should have a name that is familiar around the world. He asked people on the streets when he was in San Francisco, and they all knew who Ali Baba was. Also, it starts with the letter ‘A’, which alphabetically would always appear on top.

8. Customers Are #1

Jack Ma shared that his philosophy of putting customers first, employees second, and shareholders third is the right belief. It is the customers that provide revenue for the company, and it is the employees that drive innovation. He recalled that some people who asked him for shares before the IPO, who told him that they would be long-term stockholders, were also the first to sell when hard times came. However, the customers stayed, as well as the employees.

9. Don’t Complain, Look For Opportunities

Jack told an audience that he believes that when people complain, there lies an opportunity. When people complain about some issues, some try to change the situation for the better. When they change things, they also change themselves for the better. And so, he advises young people that instead of complaining, look for opportunities.

10. Have Passion

In his original sales pitch when starting Alibaba, he explained that they are competing globally, not against Chinese websites, but sites made by companies in Silicon Valley. He encouraged his associates to have a startup attitude, not the usual 8-to-5 work attitude. He believes that they are equal and as strong as the Americans when it comes to information systems and software. He also assured them that although the Internet is a bubble, the dream of the Internet will not burst. But they have to painfully pay for the dream for the next 3 to 5 years. He told them that IPO is the goal and that they should keep their focus on it.


Jack Ma is a very successful and influential person with a humble beginning. His resiliency against rejection, his hard work, and strong cultural beliefs has catapulted him to soaring heights. Mainly, he saw the opportunities and has the confidence in himself and in his team. He started with the end in mind, kept the dream alive, and stayed true to his vision. These are rules that will help many more people to become successful.

Jose Maria Delos Santos

Jose is a subject matter expert and member of the writing team for Project-Management.com and Bridge24. He has written hundreds of articles including project management software reviews, books reviews, training site reviews, and general articles related to the project management industry.