Entrepreneurship Misconceptions

4 Important Lessons I Learned From Jumping into Entrepreneurship Head-On

A lot of people start feeling super-awkward about themselves when they contemplate starting their own business…y’know, a tingley-feeling of “should I really be doing this?”  ”Will I uber-fail and people will think I’m an idiot?”

I worried about all of those things…but decided “to hell with it, YOLO!”, and gave up the idea of pursuing a “normal” career; opting to jump head-first into entrepreneurship after I graduated from college.

(I promise I don’t say YOLO in real life).

And I sit here 10 months later…reflecting back to all of the things I’ve done…

…some of them have been ingenious…

…most of them have been downright stupid, and can only be chalked up to a “learning experience”

So I decided to take my experiences…the good, the bad, and the shitty…and distill them into this super-long, heart-spilling missive.

TLDR??..if you’re serious about starting on your own, and don’t want to spend months making mistakes, take this opportunity to learn from my mistakes, and do better yourself:

[click to continue…]

The Stupidly Easy Way to Figure Out if Entrepreneurship Is For You

I wrote an article about finding out “how to figure out if entrepreneurship is for you” because a lot of people ask me that.  In fact, just Google it, and about 4 million articles pop up.

I understand why people ask this.  It’s a seemingly innocuous and completely valid question.

But there’s a simple problem:

The question is completely misleading.  And frankly, I fear for those who ask this question, because most of the answers I’ve seen are complete crap and could easily guide people into making terrible decisions for themselves.  Allow me to explain:

Let’s take a poll, shall we?

As I mentioned above, I Googled “how to figure out if entrepreneurship is for you”, and I picked one of the articles at random.  This one-pager boils down the question of entrepreneurship to a few key points.  For example:

  • are you “unfazed” by risk?
  • Are you a “decision maker”?
  • Is it your “dream business” and your “passion”?

There’s one small problem:

Who the hell cares? [click to continue…]

Why you’re dumb if you don’t have mentors

 One of the dumbest things you can do is to go it alone when you start your business.

No, I’m not necessarily talking about business partners (though your life is so much easier if you can find good business partners).

I’m talking about mentors.  People that willingly give their time and expertise to help you avoid making a barrage of dumbass mistakes, and help you spend your energy doing only value-added things.

I’ve always included finding mentors in the top list of things you can do now to be an entrepreneur.

Here’s why:

You’re not that smart….

…in fact, you’re probably destructively dumb.

Don’t take it the wrong way: I’m not too smart either, and have been destructively dumb way too many times in my ventures…

So what do I mean by destructively dumb?

Mentors: more than just icing on the cake (they’re more like the cake itself)

But if the cake has no icing to begin with, the metaphor fails.

But if the cake has no icing to begin with, the metaphor fails.

[click to continue…]

Is Lifestyle Design a Bunch of Crap?

If you could live your life on a hammock by the beach, would you do it?

One of the biggest fads as of recent (last 5 or so years) is the concept of “lifestyle design”.  Popularized by Tim Ferriss in his book “The Four Hour Work Week“, lifestyle design could be described in a lofty, “I want to sell you my book” way as:

…those who abandon the deferred-life plan and create luxury lfiestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility.  -Tim Ferriss

I had to read that sentence 5 times to figure out what the hell it actually meant.

I think an actually-useful, non-inflated definition of lifestyle design goes something like this:

Lifestyle design is the ability to craft your schedule in a way that you can essentially spend time doing things you want, without having a large series of obligations around work or other things you’d prefer not to do.

Basically, you “design” your life so that you can do what you want most of the time, get paid passive income for doing nothing, and have a grand old time each and every day, usually (but not exclusively) while spending your days in a hammock on the beach with a Corona at your side. [click to continue…]

2013- The Year of Focus and Getting Started

It’s December 31, 2013…

You’re sitting with friends, anxiously waiting for the ball to drop.

You’re laughing over a bottle of champagne, and your mind flips back to today…January 3, 2013…

Because you become philosophical when you drink, you’ll remember that you read an article on Decoding Startups pointing out that the way to accomplish success in life—whether it be in entrepreneurship, love, personal finance, losing weight, or anything—is through setting goals, and being in it for the long term.

What will life be like for the December 31 2013 you?

What will you have done?

Will you have followed through on your goals?

Will you have even set them?

Will you be sharing with your friends how your meticulously planned business venture paid off?

Or will you be complaining with your pals about how much your job sucks; and that you’d like to do something else, but can’t “figure out how”?

Will your 2013 be your year of accomplishment? 

Ramit Sethi, my favorite blogger who writes on I Will Teach You To Be Rich, calls 2013 the “year of taking control”…the year of actively seeking to understand ourselves and the world better–the “game being played around us” as Ramit says–and taking meaningful effort and undergoing meaningful change to accomplish great things.

For me–and likely for you too–that meaningful change comes through entrepreneurship.

And I want the you of December 31, 2013 to be proud: proud of your amazing accomplishments; proud of the execution of a new business venture; proud that you had the opportunity to learn amazing things through failure and success alike.

How is the January 3rd you going to make the December 31st you proud and successful?

I introduce you to the Year of Focus and the Year of Getting Started

[click to continue…]

Call Your Own Bluff

If you knew most of your problems were self-created, would you do something about it?

I was back in Phoenix over Thanksgiving having dinner with a longtime friend.

My friend is an electrical engineer, and one of the smartest guys I know.  He makes his living doing the legal version of what Enron did…trading energy derivatives.  Back in 8th grade, he said to me “You know, I think I’m smarter than you”.  I was pretty pissed, but I knew it was true.

We chatted a bit about work, starting with his job (which he eagerly reminds me how much he hates every time we talk), and then my startup stuff.

“R.C.”, he said…

“I really wish I was doing what you are.”

As you know from having read here before, one thing that brings my blood to a low simmer faster than anything else–the thing that I hate the most–even more than the thought of being pulled apart alive by a medeival torture device in the basement of a rat-infested castle dungeon–is excuses.  The destructive, debilitating ”pooh pooh” reasons that otherwise-smart people give themselves to justify taking zero action in pursuit of embracing and executing entrepreneurship.

The Tragedy of the Gut Reaction

My friend’s gut reaction–to actually convince himself that despite his intelligence, his connections and the money he’d saved through a having a high-paying job, he had no chance of entrepreneurship success–came through years of enculturation: from family, through school, through his peer group…through anybody who was vocal about their worries.  This bombastic group of overly-conservative worrywarts pulled his mind away from what his heart knew he wanted to do.

And it was destroying his happiness; worse, it was keeping him from getting what he wanted out of life. [click to continue…]

What Gossip Girl taught me about entrepreneurship

What can a primetime TV show about the drama-infused social lives of 20 year olds living in the Upper East Side whose great-great grandparents had so much money that they don’t need jobs teach about success in entrepreneurship?

Not even a very nice car...

Not even a very nice car…

Enter gossip Girl: a revealing glance into the seemingly-glitzy, yet actually completely eff’d-up lives of people who have nothing but time on their hands and money in their wallets.  And what do they do with time when they’re not shopping for the perfect Patek Philippe to match their exactingly-chosen two-button, peak-lapel Canali suit, paired boldly with Salvatore Ferragamo Corrado shoes, Hermes Arc en ceil tie, Tiffany Metropolis cufflinks, and Ralph Lauren Purple Label Aston Gingham shirt?

Systematically fucking each other over, that’s what.

Ceaseless love triangles (I think there were a few love quadrilaterals), occasionally with someone from–gasp!–Brooklyn!…

…faux, fluid friendships formed around manipulation and chicanery…

…all for the sake of being the “it” girl…the “queen bee”…or using their trust funds to start companies with the purpose of proving to the world that they can “do it all on their own”.  …wut?…

…all neatly compacted into 1-hour segments that I like to watch on Netflix when I’m bored.

I hadn’t watched Gossip Girl for about a year, until it popped up as a recommended video on Netflix.

“Do I want to get myself back into this?”, I pondered…”‘cuz you know when you start, you’re not gonna stop watching until the very end.”

“Fuck it”, said I, and I took the plunge.

Sidenote- please do not think poorly of me, a 23 year old guy, for watching Gossip Girl. [click to continue…]

Why not having a “good business idea” doesn’t matter at all (and what actually does matter)

Avoiding entrepreneurship because you don’t have a good startup idea?

I reached out to some of my new subscribers over the weekend, and asked them what their biggest obstacle to entrepreneurship was.

The answer I got the most: “I don’t have a good business idea.”

Whenever I hear people tell me they “can’t be entrepreneurs” because they “can’t come up with a good business idea”, I want to instantly go jiu jitsu on their ass and karate kick them across the room.  (Yes, entrepreneurship does bring out my usually-latent violent side).

Why do I go super saiyan on these poor, unsuspecting would-be entrepreneurs?  Is it because I watched too much Dragonball Z as a kid?  Do I just have issues that require professional help?  Or could it be because…

“Having a good idea” isn’t even a prerequisite to successfully starting a company! [click to continue…]

Crush your Excuses

Get Your Excuse Crushed Here

Oh man, you’re in for it now.

I just got off the phone with an acquaintance who is interested in entrepreneurship, and he asked me how I got started.

As I kept explaining what I’d did, the same old excuses started coming up on his end:

“Well, you didn’t have debt when you started your venture; I’ve got to take care of that.”

“I’m just going to get started slowly and not jump in head-first”

Etc.

Ladies and gentlemen, you know how I feel about making excuses for not getting involved in startups.

If you’ve read even one of my articles, you’ve seen the mountains of wonderful resources I’ve pointed out…both in this blog, and from writers / thought leaders all over the world.

And one thing should be clear to you by now:

Ultimately, it’s you who has to make the decision to start a company.

Stop blaming externalities; there will always be some.  Stop being afraid; fear is always there, and I can’t think of anything more scary than tying my income onto working for someone else–a company over which I have no control to ensure operates successfully and makes returns.

But today, I unveil something new and magical that will help you squeeze out and crush all of those little excuses that keep you from launching.

I call it:

The Excuse Crusher

Fighting Fear with Facts

The best way to dominate fear is with fact, and that’s what I’ve done with The Excuse Crusher.

The Excuse Crusher is a compilation of the “Greatest Hits” of excuses I’ve heard from people about why starting a business is a bad idea.

Then, using my super-human powers, I CRUSH those excuses by providing facts and specific examples that put those whiney excuses back into their place.

Keep this one close by guys.  Whenever you’re doubting yourself, just check out The Excuse Crusher, crush your excuse, and instantly feel better and more confident.

Get Your Excuse Crushed Here

Excuse Crusher

The Excuse CRUSHER

Combating fear of entrepreneurship with facts.

What’s The Excuse Crusher?Tired of making excuses for why you can’t start a company?  Simply select your excuse below, and get the facts for why your excuse is just that…an excuse.

[tabs slidertype="left tabs"] [tabcontainer] [tabtext]1. “I can’t come up with a good business idea.”[/tabtext] [tabtext]2. “I don’t have enough time to start a business.”[/tabtext] [tabtext]3. “I don’t have any money.”[/tabtext] [tabtext]4. “X% of businesses fail each year.”[/tabtext] [tabtext]5. “I don’t know how to program.”[/tabtext] [tabtext]6. “It’s way too risky…”[/tabtext] [tabtext]7. “I have no idea how to start a business.”[/tabtext]  [tabtext]Tired of making excuses?[/tabtext] [/tabcontainer] [tabcontent] [tab]

“I can’t come up with a good business idea.”

2 wrong things are implied: 1.) coming up with a business idea is really hard, and 2.) a great idea is necessary before trying to start a business.

Both of those are demonstrably wrong.

1.) Good ideas are really easy to come up with.

The trick?  Ask potential customers what their problems are.  Ask them what they’d spend money on to fix.  You come up with ideas by solving other people’s problems.  See a great analysis of this here (called “idea extraction”).

Also, check out my article on LifeHack about coming up with ideas.

2.) Your idea will change as your business develops, so it’s pointless to sweat over your initial idea being perfect.

It’s called a pivotand it happens with all businesses.  You meet more people, and realize part of your idea needs to change.

If you think I’m making this up, go ask Reddit.  They started as a tool to let people order food from their cell phones.  Today they’re a social bookmarking website.  Those things have nothing in common.

TAKEAWAY:  Not having a “great idea” up front is perfectly fine.  I can’t think of a single successful company that started and ended with the exact same idea (I can think of a few mediocre ones though).  What’s more important is how you’ll react to improve your idea as you talk with potential customers.

Excuse just got crushed?  Share the good news with your friends!


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“I don’t have enough time to start a business.”

I could just respond “you’ll make time for what you care about”, and that would be perfectly valid.  But also:

1.) There’s a ton of resources available to help you learn about startups and entrepreneurship in a short period of time.

An example of a quick way to learn about startups is Startup Weekend.  You learn the basics of customer validation over a weekend; if your team wins, you get prizes.  Anyone can spare a weekend.  Just go read books, attend Meetup events, etc.

2.) plenty of successful businesses were started in the midst of other things (full time work, for example).

Think of Dropbox for example, whose founder worked on the code for months before submitting the company to an incubator.  There’s not necessarily this “big rush” to get things done (at least at first, while you’re feeling out the market).  Be a smart, competent adult, use basic time management, and scale your efforts up and down as needed.

TAKEAWAY: Ultimately you have to be motivated enough to make time for yourself; that’s an internal decision, and nothing I could write can help you there.

But when you do decide to devote the time to it, know it’s really easy to use your time well to learn and grow quickly.

Excuse just got crushed?  Share the good news with your friends!


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“I don’t have any money.”

This is the 2nd-worst excuse on the list.

1.) There’s tons of ways to raise money for your startup.

Gone are the days of needing to use your life’s savings and borrowing a bajillion dollars from the bank.

The country, and particularly state and local communities, are in the midst of a massive economic development push to encourage entrepreneurship.

These guys are just begging you to take their money and start a business.  Examples: SBA grants, Hartford LaunchScale, and the Connecticut Startup EcoSystem.

2.) You probably don’t need any money at first, so it doesn’t matter.

Like this blog (which could be called a startup): it costs only $8 per month for hosting.  I host my other startups’ website on the same server.  Even if what you’re doing isn’t a website, most of your initial work focuses on finding potential customers and validating your idea with them; not on spending money randomly.

TAKEAWAY:

You’ll need money eventually, but it’s certainly not needed to start your venture.

Excuse just got crushed?  Share the good news with your friends!


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“X% of businesses fail each year.”

1.) Businesses fail for a reason, not because of a statistic.

We lean on statistics because it’s easier to generalize than to hold ourselves accountable.

If your company fails, it’s most likely because you did something wrong, not because the Entrepreneurship God made your startup fail.

Why do you think that the best accelerators in the world pay more attention to the team than the idea?  Because the people are what makes businesses successful, not the idea, or the economy, or whatever.

2.) Failure isn’t bad.

Basically every important lesson I’ve learned in business I learned through failing.  For example, with my previous blog, I did everything wrong.  After 6 months, I only had 40 subscribers.

But as I write Decoding Startups, I would have had no idea how to write better content…had it not been for being less-than-successful with my first effort.

Stop thinking you are so smart that you won’t fail, and stop worrying about it so much, because you will fail on some level.  Accept it and learn from it.

TAKEAWAY:

You’ll fail in some respects, and you’ll succeed in others, as long as you keep working, continue to learn, and don’t take unnecessary risk.

Excuse just got crushed?  Share the good news with your friends!


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“I don’t know how to program.”

Neither do I, yet I’m the President of a startup that builds a website, and has 5 programmers working for it.

The business side of a startup is far more important than just “knowing how to code”.

Why?  Because the business side is where the risk is.

Think about it: for your venture, there’s probably a 100% chance it can be coded.  There’s no risk that the technology doesn’t exist to make a website.

But how about customers?  How do you know people will use it?  It’s certainly less than a 100% chance that people will use it.

It’s a good idea to learn a little HTML and how to use WordPress so you can put together good looking front-end websites that explain your idea.  But don’t waste your time on the harder stuff.

TAKEAWAY:

Focus your efforts on mastering your own skillset and providing value to your company in that way, as opposed to trying to “learn coding” (which will be impossible to pick up in anything less than years of practice.”

Excuse just got crushed?  Share the good news with your friends!


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“It’s way too risky…”

No, it’s not.

Starting your own company is a skillset.  It’s not magic; it’s not luck.  It’s a process that you can learn, master and execute.

That’s why things like incubators, accelerators, and Startup Weekend exist; to teach you how to start a company.

Just the same way you’re probably good at school or good at your job: you got that way through experience.  Do the same with companies.

In today’s cheap-web-development and pro-entrepreneurship culture, it’s easy to try, screw up, and have no negative impact on yourself (my second startup failed, and the only loss was $50: check out my article on Under30CEO where I wrote about that experience).

TAKEAWAY:

Instead of looking for reasons it’s “too risky”, instead look for ways to get your feet wet and learn the skillset of starting a company.

Excuse just got crushed?  Share the good news with your friends!


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“I have no idea how to start a business.”

And we’ve arrived at the worst excuse on the list.

Boy am I excited to CRUSH this one!

Entrepreneurship is a skillset.  Just like with everything else in life, you learn through experience and through others.

No one knows how to start a business…until they try to start a business.

I had no clue when I started.  And there’s plenty of things I still have yet to learn.

There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes and being wrong.

And the resources that exist to help are numerous: read my blog articles to see what’s out there.

You just have to want success badly enough, and make a proactive effort to learn.  It’ll pay off in the long run.

TAKEAWAY: Just do it.

Excuse just got crushed?  Share the good news with your friends!


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Tired of Making Excuses?

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Excuse just got crushed?  Share the good news with your friends!


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What’s The Excuse Crusher?
Excuse just got crushed?  Share the good news with your friends!


I know karate, I know jiujitsu…

Got any other excuses you want crushed?  Write them in the comments below?

Did this help you crush your excuses and start your company?  Let us know below too!