This past year I’ve been engulfed in entrepreneurship. Yes, I’ve been an entrepreneur since the day I graduated college… but this past year has felt more entrepreneurial for me than any other year in my life.
I’ve learned a lot this past year.
What not to do (still learning). What to do (still learning massively). How to actually start a real company that can scale and be valuable some day (not just a little “income stream”). How to spot the “fake entrepreneurs” and like Mark Cuban says… the “wantrepreneurs” (they’re everywhere). How to build massive mission and purpose into a business like I’ve never known before.
So, I’m sitting down in Chicago in my hotel before I fly back home and want to throw out 9 thoughts on being an entrepreneur. Not “what you should do” stuff… because what I should do has nothing to do with what YOU should do. Don’t copy me, it won’t work. One thing I’ve found is you have to find your own way (yes, mentors help you hopefully find that way faster, but you’ll still make your mistakes along the way… trust me… even ones you swore you’d never make.
Entrepreneurs aren’t made. As Gary V. says… “it’s in your DNA”. I used to have this idyllic dream that “there’s an entrepreneur in everyone”. I’ve found thats a load of crap. You may not be cut out to be an entrepreneur. A day job may be what you’re cut out for. And there’s nothing wrong with that. What EVERYONE is born for I believe is doing something they love… but most people stick themselves with jobs and day to day existences that they hate. If you’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur… get a job at a great place… do your job better than anyone… be passionate about it… and things will work out.
It’s always harder than you think… even when it “feels” easier. You see the big stories on TV or in the news of the huge successes in business. Facebook… Instagram selling for a billion… on and on. Those are stories that the media picks and chooses the “sexy” parts of the story… because that’s what people want to hear. Then the world goes out, has an idea, creates a “startup”, maybe raises some money, and realizes this “entrepreneur thing” is way harder than they thought when they actually have to make money to pay the bills. No one ever sees the behind the scenes of the success stories. The 19 hour workdays the first 6 months trying to get a killer product out before the market passes you by, the scraping by eating canned chili and grilled cheese 3 nights a week because your bills outweigh your income (ask me how I know that one), the marketing campaign that doesn’t go as you planned the first time, organizing your day (and life) when you have full freedom and flexibility (way harder than I thought). Take what you think it’ll take to start a company, times that by 10, and you’re closer to reality.
Legacy trumps profits. My first few years as an “entrepreneur” was about profits. That sucks. No fun. It’s a drain on your soul and a waste of your potential. Now legacy comes first over profits for me. I want what I create and the impact I make to last… to affect hundreds of thousands or even millions of people in a positive way… for people 50 years from now to look back and say… “Man, that guy made shit happen”.
Competition is a copout. Buck up and work harder and smarter… that’ll trump competition 9 days out of 10.
Entrepreneurs are attracted to a mission. It’s built into us at our core. Give us a problem to solve… and we wanna solve it, make it make money, and improve the damn thing before know it. If you want to make a truly HUGE impact as an entrepreneur… attract other entrepreneurs to YOUR mission and have a community of entrepreneurs work their asses off to make that mission a reality. We’re doing it right now in my small town. If you’re in Oregon and are reading this… give us 5 years and see what Roseburg is like then. It ain’t by accident or happenstance guys… I created a vision… our community turned it onto a mission… and shit is happening like people never thought it would here.
I don’t care what people think I can or can’t do. I heard a quote once that went something like… “when people say you can’t do something… it’s actually their subconscious saying THEY can’t do it”. I used to care what other people thought. I used to not like to ruffle feathers. You’ve gotta ruffle some feathers and bear some scrutiny… and do what most people think you can’t do or you’re wasting your time.
Passion isn’t something you find. I tried to look for years. Never found it. Like the cliche goes… sometimes important stuff like passion, love, and purpose just finds you. And it may find you when you’ve given up on it or when you already think “you’ve got it”. When I forced the issue to think about what my passions and purpose are… I made up a fake one because I “knew I had to have a purpose in life… right?”. Fake purpose is draining and sucks. If you aren’t thinking about whatever it is 24/7 and sacrificing things that may make you a profit today in exchange for living that purpose… it’s probably not your purpose. Go out there and do shit. And lots of it… take on different projects, meet lots of interesting people, visit places you’d never think of visiting, find a big problem that few are tackling that you know you can help make a dent in… that passion and purpose will hit you and say… “here, THIS is what you’re here for”. Slogging away at your desk or job trying to think of your passion ain’t gonna cut the mustard (as my college baseball coach would say).
I’m not entitled to anything. Neither are you. Stop thinking you are… it’s killing your happiness, success, and putting people off around you. Feeling entitled is just shortchanging yourself for your true potential.
If you don’t want to put in the work to be a GREAT marketer, either don’t be an entrepreneur or stop whining about the economy. Or I guess another option is to hire a great marketer… but you’ve got to make enough money first in order to hire one… and to make money you have to learn to market. Weird the way that works eh?
It’s on you. What you ask? Everything. Using your time well. Making the right decisions (or even having the balls to make a decision at all). Whether your company does well or fails. It’s on you to make things happen.
I collect smart minds, not fast cars. The most valuable thing in life (behind our health) is relationships we hold. I like to connect and collect smart people. Stuff is cool for a second… then it gets in the way and clutters up your life. Smart, passionate, driven people can stick with you forever. I like to fill my life with great people not fancy stuff.