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Sarina Russo has succeeded in the male-dominated world of business.Her Queensland-based Sarina Russo Group employs 550 people in 30 offices across three states. She owns no less than four commercial buildings in Brisbane’s CBD as well as apartments in both Brisbane and Sydney. Oh, and she drives a Porche.

Not bad for someone whose teachers privately voted least likely to succeed. Even in the early days of her career, Sarina was “let go” several times from jobs as a legal secretary.

However, there has been no silver spoon or lucky breaks, just immense self-belief and lots of hard work.

After being shown the door one too many times, Sarina started her own typing school in 1979 above a bank. Along the way, many people have told her not to aim too high from ex-bosses and to quickly dismissed bank managers.

When she entered a glittering hotel ballroom on the arm of former US President Bill Clinton a couple of years ago, she knew she had surpassed every naysayer many times over. “Massive success”, she says, truly is the best revenge.

Here are some of the strategies Sarina used to get to the top:

Persistence

When people told Sarina: “you’ll never do it”. Her response was to tell herself “I am going to do this or die.” While the words sound a bit dramatic, they translated into steely determination that helped Sarina meet every challenge.

“Work harder on yourself than your job”

Sarina first heard these words more than 20 years ago when she attended a seminar given by motivational guru Jim Rohn. She has lived by them ever since.

She works out with a personal trainer on most days, watches what she eats and is passionate about long life learning. She told CareerOne that on her journey to the top she attended “as many motivational seminars as I could find on developing self-esteem and self image …” Sarina has also put herself through business programs including a course at Harvard University in the US.

“I put my health first and have been doing that for 17 years,” says Sarina. “In a world of challenge and uncertainty it’s important to exercise, eat well and get enough sleep.”

Other tips include: “find mentors, visit stimulating places, read good books and listen to uplifting music.”