Recently read ‘Starting a Business at 24 is Not Easy,’ on the Huffington Post about how Leslie Bradshaw and Jessie Thomas launched their data visualization firm JESS3 six years ago when they were in their 20s.
As I read about their journey, I was reminded of my own.
On January 1, 2013, I’ll be celebrating the second anniversary of House of Success. It’s been an intense rollercoaster of emotions, trials, triumphs and lessons.
I get asked a lot on Twitter about what it’s like being a young entrepreneur, so I thought it would be appropriate to share a list of things I’ve learned so far…
20 Things to Know about Starting a Business in your 20s
1. Action Creates Inspiration
It’s so easy to get caught up in the notion that we should sit around and wait for the world or our minds to tell us what our next move should be. But when you run a business that forces you to always be on, there’s no time to wait around. I’ve found that the best way to get inspired is by doing.
2. Stay True to Yourself
Change is a beautiful thing when it’s organic; a natural progression. Try not to latch onto every trend or wave. Even though the world around us is constantly changing, you have to resist the urge to constantly change with it. Stay true to who you are.
3. Know What to Ignore
At any given moment, there are a million things vying for my attention. The old me would have tried to spread myself too thin, trying to acknowledge or respond to every request. The key is to prioritize and only focus on those things that move you in the direction of your dreams.
4. Pivot, But Don’t Give up
Mistakes or missteps are inevitable when you’re taking risks. In my personal moments of error, I felt like completely throwing in the towel. But I didn’t. I extracted lessons from my mistakes and used them to guide me in a new direction.
5. You Don’t Own the Client or Customer
Just because they chose you once, doesn’t mean they have to choose you again. But, if you consistently do your best work, it is easier to become the only option.
6. You Eat What You Kill
Being an entrepreneur is like being a hunter in that you only get to eat what you kill. When faced with this type of reality, you have no choice but to be resilient in the face of adversity and keep going.
7. Always Nurture Your Network
The busier I get, the harder it is for me to keep up with everybody. But instead of letting it become an afterthought, I’ve made networking a deliberate thing and have developed a really simple rule for staying in touch with the people I already know and for meeting new people on a regular basis.
8. A Laser-like Focus is an Absolute Must
There are a million distractions. I’m usually really good about staying focused, but sometimes I just have to shut everybody and everything out if I want to finish projects on time. Taking a break from the noise is always a great way to clear your head and recharge.
9. It’s Okay to Be Wrong
This is really one of the best lessons I’ve learned in a long time! I used to think that making a mistake was one of the worse offenses in the world. But now I realize that if you’re not making any mistakes, you’re probably not taking any risks either.
10. Relentlessly Pursue Your Dreams
Nothing in life is going to be handed to you. Ever. So it’s up to you to go out there everyday and fight for the things that you believe in. The finish line isn’t going to meet you half way. Keep going. [Watch: Will Smith Shares His Secrets to Success]
11. Be Willing to Sacrifice Everything
Before I quit my job, I had to ask myself a few questions. They were: Are you willing to sacrifice who you are right now, for who you want to become? and Do you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe? [Watch: Secret to Success by Eric Thomas]
12. Your Personal Brand is Always Evolving
As you take risks and make mistakes, you’ll discover who you really are and the work that you were meant to do. Looking back, I now realize that whenever I felt like I was in a rut, I was really in a state of transition. I was on my way to becoming a better version of myself, but in order to get to that next stage, I had to first acknowledge that it existed.
13. Don’t Dwell on Bad News
Nothing good can come from dwelling on bad news. Acknowledge it. Extract the lesson. And, move on.
14. Keep the Faith
No matter what is going on around you, you have to keep the faith. If you believe in your heart that you’re working toward a worthy ideal. Please, please, please keep going.
15. It’s Already Done
One of the things my grandmother always tells me is that “everything happens in divine, right and correct order.” It basically means that everything happens for a reason and it happens on time. Knowing this makes life’s obstacles easier to get over because I know that there’s something amazing waiting for me on the other side.
16. Take Risks
I started to take more risks once I realized that I didn’t have as much to lose as I thought I did.
17. Being a Perfectionist is Actually a Bad Thing
Being a perfectionist and saying that I was “afraid of failure” used to be a badge of honor for me. But I quickly discovered that being afraid of failure means that you’re not willing to take risks. And not taking risks means that you’ll never accomplish great things.
18. Don’t Work for the Rejection Committee
Never play a partner to your own invisibility. And stop talking yourself out of opportunities before you even take the first step.
19. Always follow-up. Always follow-thru.
When you’re at the bottom of the totem pole, getting people to want to work with you can be difficult. But, if you are always proactive and diligent in your pursuit, you may be able to change some minds. I’ve lost count of the times people have told me to my face that if I had left it up to them we probably wouldn’t be working together because something ‘slipped their mind.’ If you want someone to make you a priority…keep showing up.
20. Every detail is a universe
I came across this gem while watching a short documentary about the restauranteur Mr. Chow. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head yet or figure out how to apply it to my own life, but I love it. [Watch: Mr. Chow's Symphony]
Have you recently started your own business? What is the one big thing you’ve learned so far? Share it in the comments!