I remember standing on a balcony, taking a break from studying for finals with two of my closest college friends. We had the normal college-kid existential conversation, wondering why we were in university, spending our money on overpriced books and noodles, when we could be doing absolutely anything with our lives. Suffice to say, after months of contemplating whether I should or shouldn’t drop-out, this was the conversation that pushed my decision.
One of us mentioned how I had been able to win consultancy with Accenture following a start-up workshop and said, ‘Imagine if we are standing here, not knowing that we could be the next Einstein, Tesla or Musk’. From then, I zoned out. Envisioning the journey, the uncertainty and stigma that came with being a drop-out, the bitter-sweet feeling of making a bold yet risky move.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Hell, I refused to be naive as to think I would wake up and change the world. But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t that optimistic side of me that thought that perhaps just maybe I could. 6 months down the line, both have proved to be true. Here are the lessons I have learned so far.
1. You will struggle. But then you don’t have to.
It is a myth that one must toil and sweat and sacrifice their soul to the entrepreneurial gods to get any ROI. Well, it is partly true in that there ARE indeed frustrations and setbacks. However, the right frame of mind will make sure it doesn’t take a toll on you.
Have a clear vision of where you want to go and what you need to do to get there.
Whether it is accepting that there will be setbacks and bracing for them, or having a mentor to guide you through when it gets tough. It is necessary not to overlook this step.
Equip yourself with the necessary tools. This stops you from giving up in the face of the first problem, and keeps you grounded even when the floor is wiped from under your feet.
2. It is a steep learning curve.
The entrepreneurial journey will teach you so much about everything in such a short amount of time. From networking and forming meaningful relationships, to learning about your business everyday, to doing tasks outside of your domain, your threshold to learn must be abnormally high. The thing is, you will never know it all when you first start. Even Facebook didn’t know how big they could and would become.
So you have a vision. Great. Be prepared for the roller coaster that is learning how little you know about this vision.
3. Make your golden necklace
You will be told that you need to be prepared to spend sleepless nights working to make your dream a reality. You may also be told that to go into tech-preneurship you need to be a computer scientist. Heed my words. What has worked for another may not work for you.
The mechanisms that made Tim O’Reilly did not have a photocopy machine.
So if you want to go into making mobile apps. Great, you have found your gold mine. So have a thousand others. What you are going to make with this gold is up to you. There is no way you will be able to sleep at 5 am and wake at 7 am like the next guy did. There is no way you could wake up tomorrow with your 1500 bank balance and buy the same car as the millionaire. Find what works for you.
Find your gold mine, learn about the type of gold you have and Make your golden necklace.
4. Fight your inner demons.
In your journey, you will find out very quickly that there is a great need to get in touch with self. It will be written that you just have to believe in your idea enough and it will come to fruition. I do not mean to go spiritual here, but you will need to know who you are, what works for you and what doesn’t before anything. And I’m not just talking about your sleep hours. You will need to shift into a more positive mindset and fight all your inner demons.
The law of attraction says what you think is what you attract. And attracting people is a very key element of entrepreneurship.
Mommy and daddy issues, that anger from your divorce 5 years ago, your low self-esteem from your pissed pants in pre-school. All that will have to be dealt with before you can reap any results from being an entrepreneur. Lest you find yourself talking to a potential investor about how your life is so miserably desolate.
People invest in a person more than they will in a good idea. After all, they will have to spend a significant amount of time with you.
In the startup world, misery DOES NOT love company.
The knowledge that comes with overcoming that smoking addiction or whatever it is that you’re going through will be an essential foundation for knowing that you will overcome your site crashing or any other business failure (because I reckon that can be so much worse when a lot is at stake).
Seek help if you need to, shift your mindset, and change your life before you go attempt to change the worlds’.
5. Drop the quick lists. Grab a book.
See after taking the leap to become an entrepreneur, I felt I had to do what one naturally does next; spend countless hours reading lists about productivity, the entrepreneurial journey and how it should and shouldn’t be on Inc. or Entrepreneur. What I came to realize? It was all procrastination. The real magic happens in the books.
Granted, the gratification you get from feeling like you have indeed been productive by reading how Richard Branson schedules his days is inevitable.
However chances are you will not retain anything from a list.
Reflectively, thinking that you could emulate the schedule of somebody who has over 10+ corporations to his name seems foolish.
Take time to read a biography, you would get much more insight on that entrepreneurial guru’s drives and motivations and learn about the experiences that led him/her to choose that particular schedule.
Perhaps now is as good a time as any to advise you to stop reading this quick list and go buy a good book about the challenges of entrepreneurship. Trust me, you will be more fulfilled.