Standouts in the world of online entrepreneurship — and especially influencer marketing — are few and far between. Thousands of names vie for attention. But separating the genuine article, someone with both personal passion and the ability to build brands, from the pretenders is exhausting.

Zach Benson is one of those standouts. A TEDx speaker, social-media trainer for international brands like The Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, and ViceRoy, and past participant on “So You Think You Can Dance,” Benson doesn’t just manage his own Instagram network of millions; he’s also the founder of Assistagram, where he’s guiding other influencers and Fortune 500 companies into social-media success.

Lastly, he is the founder of 6 Figure Dancer Academy, where he teaches other dancers the exact step-by-step system that he used to create a profitable 6-figure dancing business, traveling the world.

What you probably don’t know is that Benson’s childhood resembled something far closer to outright failure than the kind of wins he has experienced today.

At only 4 months old, Benson, who was born in South Korea, was adopted by his parents in the States, where he was taken home to Des Moines, Iowa. Benson was one of the very few Asian kids in his school.

Benson was bullied and abused by his peers in school due to his ethnicity.

“I remember at soccer games, kids were using racial slurs, or at elementary school kids called me China boy,” Benson said.

On top of looking different, he sounded different too. Benson was diagnosed with a speech impediment and was placed in speech therapy classes.

“I couldn’t say the letter R. Kids would tease and make fun of me so I hated public speaking, my hands would get super sweaty and my stomach felt weird when I was asked to read. So I just didn’t say a lot or talk to other people.”

To top it off, Benson was diagnosed with ADHD and consistently found himself getting in trouble at school.

“I was constantly being sent to the principal’s office for being disruptive in class. I had a hard time paying attention and focusing. I got really bad grades with a school GPA of 1.6. My parents thought I was going to be a juvenile delinquent.” Benson said.

With this type of background and behaviour, many people would assume that these were the characteristics of somebody who was headed down a dark road. Many of us have never had to face daily battles against racism, learning impairments, or even the inability to talk properly, but a combination of all three seems unthinkable.

Like anything, though, change is a series of small steps, starting with one foot in front of the other. Benson told me how he implemented this in his own life.

Be Patiently Persistent

You’ve heard this conventional wisdom from everyone from your mother to your lecturer and every other motivational speaker, but Benson explains why this is a crucial lesson to learn early on in life:

When you really go for your dreams you are gonna have doubters and haters and people that you are close to say things and try and stop you from going for it and shutting you down.

Listen to them respectfully, but don’t let their negative words stop you from going for it.

When you really go for your dream, it’s hard work. Sometimes it will take 10 years or more,” said Benson.

For a man who was bullied, judged, and ostracised, it would seem human to simply give up, but Benson did not. Instead, he focused on moving the meter forward every day.

With this type of mentality, it makes it easier to silence that voice in your head that whispers all of your shortcomings to you. By being persistent and showing up every day to work towards your goals, you can overcome some incredible obstacles like Benson has. There is no barrier to your success.

Ask Yourself These Questions

“Should I do it?

Can I do it?

Do I want to do it?

These are three critical questions I always ask myself. What I learned early on is that by producing answers to these questions as soon as possible, it would stop the hesitation phase that usually lets opportunities slip by,” said Benson.

For Benson, success is in the execution of the ideas and not in the ideation. “There are many of us who wait for the right moment when in reality that moment does not exist,” Benson said.

We feel that if we wait long enough, everything is just going to be perfect. Well, waiting means sitting and hoping. Accomplishing means getting up and chasing what is yours. Be curious in life and be open to venture off the perfect path and discover what is not visible to most.

By supplying yourself with answers to these three questions and immediately acting upon opportunities, you set yourself apart from almost all of your competitors and peers who spend their time wishing for the right moment.

Should I do it?

Can I do it?

Do I want to do it?

These questions allow Benson to keep his internal compass focused so that even if he ventures off in a new direction, it aligns with who he is. Benson has shown us that whatever impairment you have in front of you can always be overturned with consistent progress and the ability to take action.

“The past is the past, the only thing you can do is learn from your mistakes. In my experience, it’s the ones that make the most mistakes and actually learn from them that grow the fastest,” said Benson.

Make mistakes, learn, and suck it up.  

Yes, life is hard. You must confront the brutal facts of reality that life is hard but things will get better in the future if you keep working and developing yourself and comparing yourself to your best self, you will become the person you want to be in future,” says Benson.

This is the type of advice we all need to hear at some point in time.

To follow more of Zach’s incredible journey and what he stands for you can visit his personal site, Assistagram, and connect with him on FacebookOpinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Kale Panoho

Kale Panoho is a digital marketer, personal trainer and growth hacker in the startup and health industry. After leaving his role in a rapidly growing start up, he has merged his sales and management experience to launch a shared business, Central Fitness. Graduating from Otago Polytechnic in exercise prescription and currently studying biochemistry at the University of Otago he is using these experiences to consult with startups and clients in the health and fitness space.