Leonardo looked up at his mother as she firmly held his hand. He then looked at the large building in front of him that would become his home.
He was seven years old and had watched his mother struggle to take care of him and his siblings. It was his earliest memory — and one that never changed.
Leonardo’s father had died five months before he was born. He was the youngest of six children. And he was hungry. His mother tried her hardest to provide for him, but in the end, she felt like she couldn’t.
As they walked up the steps to the orphanage, Leonardo could see the faces of the nuns who would end up raising him. He could feel the sweat pooling between his mother’s hand and his own.
He wasn’t sure what was happening, but he could feel the sadness looming around them heavier than the clouds above.
His mother kneeled down, tears streaming down her cheeks.
She kissed her son and then she left him.
That one defining moment in Leonardo’s life could have gone one of two ways.
He could have lost hope and lost all faith in humanity. Or he could put all his energy into something bigger.
Leonardo Del Vecchio chose the latter.
The years rolled by in the orphanage and eventually Leonardo was old enough to get a job. It was a day he had been waiting on.
He wanted the independence. He wanted the work. He wanted the money.
At first, Leonardo was an apprentice. The experience and the knowledge he gained would be monumental to his success.
It wasn’t easy work, but he kept going back day after day. Even when he lost part of his index finger in an accident. He still returned to work.
And it didn’t take long for him to pick up on the skills of a dye maker.
His desire to learn more and more was evident from the day he walked into the Milanese shop.
By 15, he was making money and taking night classes at the Brera Fine Arts Academy.
He studied design. He didn’t know he would use it later.
He was just doing what his boss suggested.
Part of his new job was to make parts for eyeglasses. He found the work fascinating, and he was good at it.
So good, that he was offered a job near Venice, the place known for making eyeglasses. Leonardo jumped on the opportunity and made the nearly 200 mile trek toward his future.
He learned the ins and outs of the eyeglass business. There was a lot to learn. And it all came at him at supersonic speed.
At 23, he decided to open up his own shop. But with a twist.
He didn’t want to just make boring eyeglasses. He wanted to revolutionize the industry.
He had this crazy dream to bring the world of fashion to spectacles.
So he approached Giorgio Armani with his idea to pair one-of-a-kind glasses with their brand.
The idea took off. And soon, he had numerous fashion icons behind him.
Within three years, he founded Luxottica.
He started making eyeglasses specific to the manufacturers he was servicing. He was 26 and he couldn’t believe his little dream was moving so quickly.
Every year, it grew — more and more.
It wasn’t long before his company became the world’s largest manufacturer and retailer of prescription glasses and sunglasses.
His glasses were being sold all over the world.
He not only had manufacturing deals with famous luxury brands including Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Tiffany, Prada, Versace, Sergio Tacchini, Anne Klein, Versus, Polo, and Chaps, he also owned famous brands such as LensCrafters, Vogue, Sunglass Hut, and Ray-Ban.
But he still had one regret.
“My only regret is when I see someone on the street wearing glasses that we didn’t make…because I want our glasses to be on everyone’s face.”
More than 56 years later, he came close to making that dream happen, when his company merged with France’s multinational company, Essilor. Together they formed the world’s largest producer and retailer of sunglasses and prescription glasses.
They now have over 7,800 shops in over 150 countries.
And the group, Luxottica Essilor, has over 80,000 employees throughout the world.
Although Leonardo just celebrated his 83rd birthday and is listed number 2 on Italy’s wealthiest people list, he still likes to have a hand in the day-to-day operations and has taken his time in retiring.
His net worth is estimated at over $21 billion.
From less than humble beginnings, Leonardo has insisted on working hard. And his driving factor has always been fear.
Not fear of being poor, but fear of having to depend on other people for his survival. Fear of having to rely on others to take care of him.
It’s a fear that no longer plagues him, but one that you can relate to.
We all have that thing. That one fear that either pushes us or causes us to retreat.
What’s your fear? What’s the one thing you are so scared of that it is pushing you to greatness?
Maybe being afraid to not succeed is a fear you need to feel.