4 Lessons About Resilience from Steve Wynn of Las Vegas Strip


Mention Las Vegas and the first person that comes to mind is Steve Wynn.

At a time when no one was investing in the far-flung deserts of Las Vegas and the construction industry was experiencing a lengthy lull, Wynn took a strategic risk and built what is today the party capital of the world.

Time Magazine has named him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world for the critical role he played in making Las Vegas what it is today, and Forbes estimates his net worth to be $3.9 billion.

Overseeing a series of high-end resorts and leading a team of over 10,000 employees, spread across the world has not been a smooth sail for Wynn. Yet, even at 72 years, he shows no signs of slowing down.

Here’s what every leader can learn from the ‘King of Las Vegas’:

Focus on long-term goals without letting short term rewards impact you

Las-Vegas2During tough times, it can be easy for a leader to discount their long-term strategy in pursuit of short-term rewards. This is panicky leadership.

When you lose focus of the long haul, you are essentially putting your vision on hold or giving it up altogether.

When a Deutsche Bank analyst told Wynn that the short-term outlook for the December holidays did not look so promising, Wynn responded, “I don’t give a damn about the short-term market implications. My organization and I are paid to run hotels in good times and fair times.”

Even when faced with a crisis in your leadership position, your best way out of it is to maintain your long-term vision—this vision will keep you fighting.

Set goals higher than anyone else’s

In 1971, Wynn was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease and in 2010, he became legally blind.

One may think that Wynn’s predicament would stop him from pursuing his goals of developing luxurious resorts from downtown Las Vegas, to Macau to Hong Kong. But even with his eye sight literally gone, Wynn still has the same drive and passion to steer his company to the next frontier.

How has he been able to get past such adversities?

Wynn demonstrates a trait that most successful people share: The ability to set goals that are higher than anyone else’s.

When faced with adversity, it can be tempting for any leader to throw in the towel or compromise their goals. Yet, a strong leader deals with hardship not by bowing down to adversities but by going beyond mediocrity and setting even higher goals.

Wynn’s attitude is a lesson that resilience is about motivating yourself so you can attain what others see as impossible to attain.

A solid vision will get you through tough times

Wynn is the embodiment of a visionary leader. At just age 31, Wynn had to borrow $30,000 from a bank to add to his $20,000, which enabled him to purchase a 5% stake in the Frontier Hotel.

In 1989, when hardly anyone was putting money in the Las Vegas construction scene, Wynn invested over $600 million to build a luxury hotel, the Mirage, which was a big gamble but a major success.

Even though Las Vegas’ economic performance was dismal, Wynn was not deterred from his vision of setting up luxury hotels, something different than the other casinos that were ubiquitous in Vegas.

Wynn’s vision of expansion led him to successively build other iconic resorts including Treasure Island, Wynn, and Encore.

In an interview with Success magazine, Wynn admits that even though he has enough money, he is still driven by a passion to create ‘emotionally charged spaces’.

Visionary and successful as he is,  Wynn considers himself a student and not a master.

You need others to get you where you need to be

Wynn knows all too well that he would not have overcome the many obstacles on the path of entrepreneurship were it not for his network of friends and colleagues.

Unsurprisingly, leaders who surround themselves with a group of mentors, coaches, advisors and close acquaintances are better placed to emerge from a crisis than those who have no one to consult.

When his father died, Wynn had to pay off $350,000 in debt that he had left behind. When Wynn headed off to Las Vegas, he barely had any money to start his first business venture but friends such as Michael Milken and E. Parry Thomas were instrumental in helping Wynn secure financing for his first hotel ventures.

Others such as the influential Hong-Kong based lawyer Allan Zeman and his personal representative Linda Chen continue to play an important role in helping Wynn expand his business in Asia.

The resilience formula

Two words might aptly describe Wynn: resilient and passionate. His passion for creating luxurious spaces has birthed a dogged kind of resilience that allows him to see beyond the challenges and go after the opportunities that few would dare to pursue.

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