Young and Free - Prerequisite for Success

Reading Comprehension with Idiomatic Expressions

Young and free
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Learn new English expressions in this short story about what it takes to be successful in a small company focuses on the use of idioms in context. You'll find idiom definitions and a short quiz on some of the expressions at the end of the story. 

Young and Free: Prerequisite for Success

Let's face it: In today's business world you need to be young and free of attachments to strike it rich. It's a dog eat dog world out there and you're going to have to work quite a lot.

Of course, not only will you have to work quite a lot, you'll need to be flexible and ready to take advantage of anything. That's where the "free" part comes in.

I've got a young friend, he's only 25, but he fits the bill perfectly. He's single and he's hungry. He's willing to start from scratch and, best of all, he isn't afraid of putting his nose to the grindstone for those 80 hour weeks. He decided to take the bull by the horns by going starting up his own business. He found a software developer who knew the internet inside out. This young man was also very ambitious. He left his safe job at the drop of a hat. They were both reaching for pie in the sky, and they were ready.

They also were lucky. They founded a startup and got into the whole social networking business in 2002. In other words, they were early birds and they were willing to sink or swim. Probably the most important ingredient in their success, was that they were willing to play things by ear.

They kept their ears to the ground, moved full steam ahead and drove hard bargains. Soon, their business was growing by leaps and bounds. Of course, they had some stumbling blocks along the way. Who doesn't? Still, they got the jump on the competition and by the year 2008 they were multi-millionaires.

This sort of success for the young and free now has copycats around the world.

Idioms Used in the Story

at the drop of a hat = immediately
by leaps and bounds = very quickly (used with improvement)
copycat = someone or a company who tries to do things like another person or company
dog eat dog = very competitive
drive a hard bargain = to make a business deal that is very advantageous for you
early bird = someone who takes early advantage of a situation
fit the bill = to have the right characteristics for something
full steam ahead = to continue with full commitment
get the jump on someone = to get the advantage over someone by starting early
have one's ears to the ground = to pay attention to rumors, news, and industry insiders
know something inside out = to have expert knowledge about something
pie in the sky = something very hard to achieve, a dream
play something by ear = to improvise in a situation, react to a situation as it occurs
put one's nose to the grindstone = to work hard and put in many hours
sink or swim = succeed or fail
start from scratch = to start from the beginning
startup = a small company that begins to do business, usually in technology
strike it rich = to become rich, often by creating a new product or service successfully
stumbling block = a difficulty or hurdle that stands in the way of success
take the bull by the horns = to confront a problem and deal with it

Expression Quiz

  1. I think Peter ______________. He's perfect for the job.
  2. It's _____________ on the project. We have no time to waste.
  3. Don't pretend you're like Kevin. Nobody likes a ___________.
  4. The business person ________________, but we had to accept her offer.
  5. I think it's best to _________ the meeting __________. We need to consider everything.
  6. He founded a ________________ in 2008 and made millions.
  7. Our business has grown _________________. We're very happy.
  8. I'm afraid I think that idea is ______________. It will never work.

Quiz Answers

  1. fits the bill
  2. full steam ahead / sink or swim
  3. copycat
  4. drove a hard bargain
  5. play the meeting by ear
  6. startup
  7. by leaps and bounds
  8. pie in the sky

More Idioms and Expressions in Context Stories

Learn more expressions using stories with one or more of these further idioms in context stories with quizzes.

It's important to learn and use idioms in context. Of course, idioms are not always easy to understand. There are idiom and expression resources that can help with definitions, but reading them in short stories can also provide context that make them come more alive.  Try reading the story one time to understand the gist without using the idiom definitions. On your second reading, use the definitions to help you understand the text while learning new idioms.