Written by Youth Ambassador Fatima Santillan, Class of 2021, Gainesville High School

My name is Fatima Santillan, I am a junior at Gainesville High School and I have the outstanding pleasure of serving as a Youth Ambassador for 21st Century Leaders. I was given the extraordinary opportunity to interview JP James, who recently joined our Board of Directors. JP James has been a long-time volunteer of 21st Century Leaders and has been connected to the organization since he was a college student at GA Tech. During our conversation, he highlighted the peaks of his career by acknowledging his failures beforehand, and he aspires to contribute to the success of the next generation of leaders by teaching them that the first step towards success is to overcome failures and grow from setbacks.

Mr. JP James was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and his family is from India. He knew since the age of 12 that he wanted to be an entrepreneur! When he was 12 years old and the internet was just beginning to flourish, he initiated his career by going to his local library to give lessons about the functions of a computer. He was making $60,000 a year by the age of 14. At age 17, he was starting two new ventures: he began his first company and was admitted into Georgia Tech. Since then, he has initiated over a dozen companies and invested in numerous growing businesses, resulting in great successes as well as some failures, his most successful company being HIVE, which has become one of the fastest growing companies in the business world.

When asked about the greatest challenges he faced and how he overcame them, JP James had this to say:

“I have an enthusiastic personality and that allows me to be successful in the sales field. However, there were times in my career when I did not recognize the potential risks to the project and I had to deal with the aftermath of letting people down when a business wasn’t successful.”

He advises to be more transparent in the process of starting a company and he provided us with an acronym to guide young people through their path in the business world:

P: Partnership. Being able to contribute to the company as a team and working effectively as a union.

E: Execution. Being diligent in the process and meeting the goals of the team.

A: Aptitude.  The potential to do various kinds of work whether developed or undeveloped.

C: Communication. Interacting with your team to ensure that the goals are met.

H: Humility. Appreciating criticism and, above all, knowing how to delegate well.

When asked what drives him and keeps him motivated, JP James had this to say:

“Mahatma Gandhi once said, ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.'” JP James transfers this mentality to all the people he meets along his career path in the business world. JP James isn’t fond of following the rules, he sets out to break the limits that our society establishes. He believes every aspect of one’s life – whether it be family, career, or faith – shape our construct of the world and our individual values and goals and it is what drives us.

The one thing JP James wants the future generation of leaders to learn from his personal experience in the business world is the fact that it is okay to fail. He believes failure is to be learned from, to overcome it and learn from our mistakes. People who make mistakes, fail and learn from their failures are the ones who are able to adapt and overcome future obstacles. People who haven’t failed, and don’t know the feeling of it, are unable to deal with failure and challenges when they do arise. JP James gives credence to the idea of GRIT: full understanding of your purpose to do something and what drives you to achieve it.

Three leadership characteristics no one is too young to develop, according to JP James:

  1. The ability to GO: It is important to go and accept failure.
  2. Apply Learning: Learn from your experiences and failures, and apply it as quickly as possible.
  3. Partnership: Finding the adequate team that is better than you in certain areas, so as to collaborate and succeed.