You want to start your own business. You have your idea. You have a plan in your head. You have the guts. You are ready to rumble! I love that!
But you know it’s going to be tough and you’re not sure where to start. There are a thousand unknowns and it feels too overwhelming.
I get it. I’ve been there before. In fact, I’m in the process of developing my second start-up while I’m writing this article. And it’s tough, even though I’ve done it before.
Here are the top lessons I’ve learned from my experience and my mistakes. These lessons are simple but powerful. If you don’t want to repeat my mistakes, read on and implement them in your own journey.
Here we go.
Lesson 1: STOP FOCUSING ON DUMB SH*T
I used to be a master of the opposite. I knew what I was supposed to do for the business but I kept on focusing on things which wouldn’t move the needle forward. For example, I knew I needed to find a technical specialist, but I’d focus on learning about the potential marketing approaches ... wtf!!!
When you’re looking at your business plan and the natural life of your startup, there are 1 to 3 actions you must take in each moment to move the needle forward. All the other possible actions are just dumb right now and are simply - procrastination. Maybe not in the long-run when they must be taken care of, but doing them now doesn’t help the overall growth of the business.
So, what can you do?
First, realize what these needle-moving actions are. Second, use a software (I prefer asana.com) or a whiteboard or whatever you want to visualize the actions you need to take next. In the first column, put all tasks you know you need to do at some point and put the due date for each task. In the second column, you’ll put (or move them from column 1) the needle-moving tasks that you’ll focus on (if possible, you’ll only work on these one or two tasks until you finish them). In the third column, you’ll move everything that’s done. See example image (some text is censored). If you don’t want to use a software, use whatever you like that gets the same job done (but still – use the software, it’s free).
RESULT: When you wake up and you open your laptop or phone, you’ll be reminded of the 1 or 2 tasks you need to work on. And those will be the meaningful tasks. Nothing else. You’ll be surprised how often our brain tricks us in doing the things that don’t matter. Don’t let your subconscious run your business. Take control!
Lesson 2: DON’T WAIT FOR SUCCESS TO FEEL GREAT
I’m guilty of that too. I used to wait to hit some huge milestone to feel happy. So, I’d feel crappy for months trying to get a huge partnership, and then I’d celebrate for 5 minutes when I did. Woohoo! Guess what came after the 5th minute? The next huge milestone to run after. Playing that on repeat for a couple of years didn’t do any good for my motivation and passion in the business. It nearly drove me crazy.
You want to enjoy the journey. That’s your own f*cking business!!! That’s your dream! It will be super tough, yes. But is there a way to enjoy the journey? Yes, there is. And it’s only a matter of decision. Here’s how I did it and how you can do it.
First, ask yourself this very important question: “Does stressing out help me be more productive?” You know the answer but it doesn’t hurt asking so, go ahead. Then ask yourself: “If I could stay excited and positive even when times are tough, will that help my business and will it help me grow further?” If you are not sure, I’m going to tell you – YES, it will. Some people believe that anger or stress keep them alive and productive. I used to have that belief as well. The truth is, it blurs your vision. It’s almost as if you are trying to clap with one hand behind your back.
So, how do you stay positive? You change your rules for happiness. I’d guess your rule for happiness looks like this: “I’ll be happy when I achieve X.” Instead, here’s what we’re looking for: “I’ll be happy when I’m executing my planned focused work on my needle-moving tasks today.” How do you change your rule for happiness? You just decide to change it. It’s your own game. You make up the rules.
Will this make you less hungry (I’m sure some of you are asking yourself that)? The answer - only if you decide so. I’m not very hungry when I’m stressed (literally and metaphorically). But I can “eat a horse” when I’m excited and confident. Same applies for your business.
RESULT: Well, that’s the only way to have success and fulfillment at the same time. You don’t want to be the rich, grumpy, lonely guy.
Lesson 3: DON’T FORGET YOUR OTHER PRIORITIES
If you’ve watched the airlines’ safety videos you’ll hear an important message which applies here as well. Put your oxygen mask first, before helping children.
While working on your own business, you don’t want to forget about your health and all other priorities which are important in your life. Of course, you’ll need to dedicate some more time to growing your business and take away from other activities. But when you do, try and take away from meaningless stuff like – TV, useless browsing, social media, sitting on the couch, getting drunk, etc. I’m sure you have an hour or two to squeeze from something which doesn’t really add any value to your life.
You want to keep what’s valuable to you in your life. Chances are, you won’t get filthy rich and retire in the first couple of years with your business (even though I hope you will). Also, I'm sure your aren't starting your own business just for the money but because of the thrill and because you want to add value in other people's lives. Business is a long-term game and you want to make sure you keep yourself in shape for the marathon. You need to sleep well, workout, eat well, spend time with the people you love, read. If you need to lock yourself up for a week – by all means, do. But once you come out of your planned “retreat”, go back to the structured lifestyle which includes your well-being and your community, and not just your business.
RESULT: Your business wants you to be in perfect shape (it’s like a little kid). If you are to become successful, you need to be a leader. And I’ve never seen a beat-up leader who can barely communicate.
Lesson 4: DON’T BE A KNOW-IT-ALL. ASK FOR HELP.
Guilty again! I used to think I know best and wasn’t a huge fan of feedback or asking for help. HUGE mistake!
I learned that lesson from engaging in mastermind groups. Stuff that I’ve been working on for weeks and months were being resolved in a matter of hours just because I asked for support and someone happened to know the answer from the top of his head. I’m constantly re-learning that lesson and reminding myself to ask for help now. And the results are incredible.
The only thing you need to do is look for people who’ve already been there, done that and ASK for help. Don’t assume people don’t want to help you. You’ll be surprised at how wrong you are. People want to be asked for help and want to help because that makes them feel important. You know it from your own experience and it’s the same for almost everybody else. So, when you don’t know, ASK.
RESULT: Save time. Avoid expensive mistakes.
Keep these 4 things in mind when you start your own business. These lessons are as universal as they can be. They are simple in nature and easy to apply but the results are powerful.
I wish you good luck! Let me know what you’ve learned from your experience in the comments below.
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