“Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you.”
Tony Hsieh, (CEO; Zappos)
“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.”
Drew Houston (Co-Founder and CEO; Dropbox)
“The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.”
Walt Disney (Co-Founder; Disney)
Entrepreneurs don’t quit, they start.
It was against the rules but I did it anyway. I slammed on the gas of my shoddy Oldsmobile Cutlass and shot over the train track ramp going 80 miles per hour with my two friends in the back. It was midnight the summer after my senior year of high school and we were fulfilling a promise we made to ourselves to jump the ramp before we left for college. All four wheels of the car left the ground and we had just enough time to drop our mouths before landing square on the pavement. I still remember the freedom of being completely airborne and the relief of landing safely on the ground.
Of course this was dumb. And cool. But mostly dumb. I was half sure we’d get hit by a silent and invisible train that failed to trip the track’s safety lights and guard rails. We drove up to the track just before jumping it and rolled down the windows to listen. After backing up a few hundred yards, I got ready to hit the gas. I paused for a split second and made eye contact with my friends in the back. It was dead silent. Time froze. My mind slowed and started to wind down. I almost came to my senses and canceled the jump. But then I thought about leaving for college and not seeing those guys again. A tiny trigger was pulled in my brain. Things spun back up to full speed and I pressed the pedal all the way down.
Inaction Creates Insecurity
I’m insecure and wonder what other people think of me. That’s my default state. But when I’m doing something I love I forget about other people. I forget about myself. I just see the thing. The project. Time slows down and I feel a sense of growth. I feel connected to what I’m doing as I’m doing it. In graduate school I used to feel like I was dying in the lab. Not because I didn’t like doing experiments but because I was worried about what my advisor thought of me. I was afraid he was going to try to kick me out of my PhD program. Then I graduated and started worrying about what my bosses thought of me. Did they like me? Was I going to get fired? I felt worse the more I thought about it. I performed worse too. Why?
Risk Is Freedom
Good things happen when you start doing the things you really want to do. I know this. But it’s hard. It’s much easier to fool myself into thinking that doing what I think I’m supposed to do will make me happy. When I do what I want, I feel like I’m flying through the air in a Cutlass with my mouth open in awe. When I just do what I’m supposed to do, I feel like I’m crashing it into a ditch. A ditch full of boulders. And razor blades.
Doing what you want is risky business. Most people don’t do what they want because they’re afraid of getting in trouble. They’re afraid of getting laughed at or ignored or fired. This fear makes them sit and do nothing. Or sit and do the same miserable thing over and over again. Instead of taking a risk, these people stay put and complain. They complain about their colleagues and bosses. They complain about the company they work for and their personal relationships. On and on. Still, they don’t take a risk. They just do what they’re told and cry about it. On a long enough timeline, this constant crying destroys relationships, careers, and lives.
23 Secrets Of Successful Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs are different. Entrepreneurs are people who do what they want in a way that benefits as many people as possible. They create flying through the air moments and feelings while still keeping things secure on the ground. This is because entrepreneurs think differently. They are opportunists who understand situations and people better than most. Scientific studies show that successful entrepreneurs are less likely to engage in counterfactual thinking and have higher levels of social competence. In other words, they are better at social perception adapting to new social situations, and they rarely fool themselves.
A lot of would-be-entrepreneurs never get off the ground because they mistakenly think that everything must be just right before they start their own projects. Or they think that they have to quit their day job before starting. Successful entrepreneurs know that there is no “before.” There’s just now. When is the right time? Now. When should you start? Now. Entrepreneurship will make every part of your life better, including your current work and personal relationships. It will make you happier and healthier in every way—if you do it right. Here are 23 secrets of being a successful entrepreneur without quitting your day job:
1. Don’t play dumb.
Know why you do what you do.
I wanted to be a tenured professor so bad in graduate school. Wait, let me rephrase. I wanted people to think that I wanted to be tenured professor. Because that’s what everyone else valued. This was a mistake that kept me from realizing what I was really passionate about.
The first step to being a successful entrepreneur is refusing to fool yourself. If you’re not happy, don’t pretend that you are. If you’re too afraid to start your own project, admit that you’re too afraid. The only way to get past mental roadblocks is to first identify where they are at.
2. Put yourself first.
Your health, energy, and passion are more important than everyone and everything else in your life. If you’re a mess mentally and physically—if you have no energy and no passion—you’re useless.
In college I used to stay out late with my friends until I couldn’t see straight. When I first started working after graduate school, I’d get home late and sit in front of the TV for hours until finally passing out like a deranged slob on the couch at 1AM. Then I’d wonder why I was so tired and unmotivated the next day.
The only way to be a successful entrepreneur is take extraordinary care of yourself. This means protecting your energy and only focusing on the things that excite you. How can you possibly work a day job and then come home and work on a side project if you’re not insanely passionate about the side project? You can’t. So don’t.
3. Salary is cash flow.
The average Joe gets a job, works 9-5, spends their salary on a mortgage and a car payment and a few weeks of vacation every year, and hopes to have enough money saved in the bank to retire one day. Then maybe they’ll do a little traveling. Or something. It’s sad.
This used to be my dream without realizing it. A lot of people have this dream because it’s what they’ve been fed by media and word-of-mouth advertising since birth. The truth is your salary is just cash flow for your own business.
Start seeing your day job as a fundraising opportunity for your own start up.
4. Trade space for time.
Next to your health and energy, time is your most valuable resource.
Type-A overachievers and other intelligent people often make the mistake of going after every opportunity aggressively. As a result, they often work too hard or care too much about insignificant projects and unfruitful relationships. You’ll never have time to start your own project if you’re always attacking things that don’t matter.
When it comes to meaningless tasks and pointless drama, retreat. Stop advancing in battles where there is nothing to be won. Instead, give up your ground and take back your time.
5. Start with EdMed.
Education and health are the only industries that will exist in 20 years.
In the book To Sell Is Human, author Dan Pink talks talks about how EdMed—healthcare and education—is the biggest job sector in the U.S. with more workers than manufacturing, retail, and professional and business services combined. It’s also projected to grow the most.
This is in line with a report from Marketdata Enterprises showing that Americans alone spent $11 billion in 2008 on self-improvement products and stress management programs. That’s 13.6% more than they spent in 2005. The latest forecasts show that this growth will continue through 2020, and not just in America. Countries like China and India are starting to dive deeply into the personal development industry.
A lot of newbie entrepreneurs make the mistake of having a million dollar idea, usually in the form of some get-rich-quick product. So they spend months and years making the product and then try to sell it on the Internet or somewhere else. But it doesn’t sell. Because they have no customers, no attention (see #7), and no platform (see #8).
A better strategy is to invest your time and money into teaching, especially in the beginning. Teach your fans or clients or whoever will listen how to do something better. Teach them how to be healthier or more successful in some way. Turn yourself into a thought leader. Then create a product based on the feedback you get.
Knowledge and vitality will never be commodities. Teaching is the new advertising. Successful entrepreneurs build a large part of their businesses around educating people.
6. Let sunk people and activities sink.
In economics, there are sunk costs, which are costs that have already been incurred and can’t be recovered. For a business, they’re independent of any event that might happen in the future.
In life, there are sunk people and sunk activities. Sunk people are the haters and energy-drainers that you’ve allowed in your life up until now. Sunk activities are the meaningless tasks (like watching TV and obsessively checking your email) that you’ve let fill up your life until now.
You’ll never recover these costs. All you can do is avoid them in the future. The key is to keep these sunk costs in plain site. Make a list of the things you’ve wasted your time and energy on in the past and look at it every week. Don’t hide from your mistakes. Use them to your advantage.
7. Value awareness.
There are two types of awareness you should value. Your customer’s awareness of you and your awareness of yourself.
Successful entrepreneurs know that attention is more valuable than gold. Without attention, your products and services won’t sell. Attention is why Facebook bought WhatsApp for 19 billion. Attention is why the U.S. President now gives a weekly video address.
The only thing more important than your customer’s awareness of you and your business is your awareness of yourself. Where are you putting your attention? Do you think about the things you do, or just do them? Do you think about what you think about?
Where attention goes, energy flows. Make sure your attention and your customer’s attention are on the right things.
8. Put everything into your platform.
Once you know what you stand for, you have to create something to stand on.
This means building a platform of like-minded people to support you. This is something you can easily do on nights and weekends without having to sacrifice your day job.
The key is to invest heavily into your platform. Give and give and give without expecting anything back at first. Remember, attention is more valuable than gold. Offer value any way that you can. Take whatever specialized knowledge you have and use it to teach others and to improve their mental and physical health in some way (see #5).
9. Segment your platform.
A platform is also something you can launch your products to and from. Learn from people already in your platform. Learn what they need. Then create what they need and sell it to them. But don’t try to fulfill everyone’s needs at once.
Successful entrepreneurs break their platforms into segments. This decreases the distance between them and the real-life people in their client base. Once successful entrepreneurs know who their clients are, they can create something valuable and specific for them.
10. Stop seeking approval of your colleagues.
Your job is to get your work done as well as possible, not to waste time trying to get everyone to like you. Spend your time increasing your employer’s profits during the day and your profits during the nights and weekends.
11. Stop seeking approval of other entrepreneurs
Successful entrepreneurs focus on meeting their customer’s needs, not on getting other entrepreneurs to like them.
12. Increase your options and negotiating power
Your power in life comes down to one thing: the number of options you have. Whoever has the most options, wins. This is true in every situation.
Roger Dawson, the author of Secrets Of Power Negotiation, writes that your power in any negotiation is directly proportional to the options you have. Options give you confidence and chips away the other side’s resolve. The other side can always sense if you have options.
Entrepreneurship is beneficial to everyone because it creates options. No matter who you are, the unhappiest moments of your life were those when you had the fewest and least favorable options. Starting your own project is a quick, effective, and fulfilling way to increase your options in life.
13. Forget tips and tricks (and buy buttons).
Using a red instead of an orange buy button on your website is not going to make you a millionaire. Don’t get caught up in small tactical changes to your business that will never add up to anything substantial. Instead, focus on engaging with as many customers as possible and giving them as much value as possible.
14. Spend out.
Successful entrepreneurs don’t hold back. In the book The Happiness Project, Gretchin Rubin writes that the best way to approach life and business, especially in terms of creativity, is to spend out, or to give all you have every time. Don’t think, “I should make my customers pay for this advice…” or “I don’t want to use all my best examples now…” Stop hoarding. Have an abundance mindset. Pouring out ideas is better for creativity than doling them out by the teaspoon.
15. Converge your efforts (don’t compete).
Connect everything you do to something else you do. See everyone who does what you do as affiliates, not competitors. Empires are not built by dividing your efforts. They are built by converging them.
16. Find blue oceans.
Creating a business based on someone else’s business is a horrible idea. You’ll never be better than them because you’re not them. A better strategy is to be yourself. No one has what you have to offer because no one is you.
You are a blue ocean. In the book Blue Ocean Strategy, authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne argue that lasting success comes from creating blue oceans, or untapped new market spaces ripe from growth. Blue oceans are the opposite of bloody red oceans that are rife with rivals.
The grand combination of everything you know, everything you like, and everything you are is your blue ocean. Build your platform around it and launch products to and from it.
17. Let the right project pick you.
Successful entrepreneurs don’t waste their time trying to pick the right products to sell anymore. Instead, they let the right products pick them.
Engage with your platform as much as possible to figure out their needs and then work like crazy to fulfill their needs with different products. Focus on the products that start to take off and use customer feedback to continually improve quality. The end.
18. Let the right people pick you.
For whatever reason, I used to spend a lot of time trying to get the right people to like me. I thought that’s what I was missing. I’d be happy and successful beyond my wildest dreams if I could just get the right person to like me. I was an idiot.
The right people find you. Chasing people is always a waste of time. People either like you or they don’t. You either have a similar outlook or energy or wavelength or whatever else, or you don’t. The key is to be the kind of person that you want to attract. Focus on the right things and the right people will find you.
19. Quit hiding.
There’s this part in the movie Casino directed by Martin Scorsese where Sam “Ace” Rothstein (played by Robert De Niro) starts his own late night TV show to keep the mob bosses back home from bullying him.
Ace says, “You’re right. I did want to go on TV. That way I can have a form. I can fight back. I’m known. People see me. They know they can’t [mess] around with me like they could if I was unknown.”
You might think that playing small or hiding your entrepreneurial pursuits or desires serves you in some way. But it doesn’t. The more you hide, the more you limit yourself.
Always be increasing your exposure. It’s not about being selfish or showing off. It’s about increasing options (see #12) and awareness (see #12).
20. Bend rules (not laws). Obey sequence.
All rules are temporary. They exist only until a better way of doing things comes around. This is why you should bend the rules. Because bending is testing. If a rule breaks under pressure, it shouldn’t be there to begin with. Rules are what people use to weed out lazy people and talkers from action-takers.
Sequences are permanent. They exist because the law of causality exists. Sequence, or cause-and-effect, is a fundamental law of nature. Successful entrepreneurs never ignore sequence, especially the sequence of purpose—platform—product. Your product needs to be launched from your platform, which needs to be built around your purpose. All other sequences fail. If you create your product first, either you won’t have customers to sell to (no platform) or you’ll find customers and won’t be happy (no purpose).
You can create better wheels for a cart or get rid of the cart altogether. But you can’t put the cart before the horse.
21. See the bigger system.
People don’t fail, systems fail. The only way to be successful in business is to scale as hard as you can. These means creating systems to replace everything you do. And then creating bigger systems to replace those systems. And so on. This is especially true when you have to perform well for both your day job and a side project. Without scaling, you’ll either burn out, lose your customers, or get fired.
22. Realize what you suck at.
I went to an entrepreneurship conference called the MastermindTalks recently. After the conference, a small group of attendees and I went axe throwing. After dropping the axe and almost chopping off my foot a dozen times, I started getting better. One of the other guys asked me what I did to get better and I said something like, “I’m not sure I think I’m just getting lucky…” He stopped me short and said, “Dude, you don’t do humble well so don’t even try.” We laughed. But his point stuck with me.
If you suck at something, why do it? Successful entrepreneurs know what they’re good at and what they’re not good at. Instead of working on their weaknesses, they simply leverage their strengths and find people who have the strengths they lack.
23. Work on your business, work in their business.
Employees work in their businesses. Entrepreneurs work on their businesses. Working on your business means zooming out to see where you can create better systems and add new systems (see #21).
Successful entrepreneurs think differently from average entrepreneurs and people in general. The benefits of entrepreneurship are robust. You don’t need to quit your job or make any drastic change to receive these benefits. Just start something you’re passionate about.
Have you ever started a project of your own? If so, what did it teach you?
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