If I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase, “So I have this idea…”.
The truth is, ideas are only as good as the people who execute them–a mantra I learned first-hand from Emmy Nominated Creative Director (and mentor) Ron Gibori. Having an idea, no matter how smart or unique or interesting, isn’t enough. The difference between success and failure has very little to do with the actual idea, and far more to do with the people who bring that idea to life.
Execution is everything.
Entrepreneurship, then, tends to be a question of habits. Failure isn’t so much a gamble you’re taking on your idea, but rather the result of the way you choose to execute. Nobody sits down and comes up with a perfect idea. Nobody starts at square one with a flawless concept. In the end, success is what comes after an endless stream of pivots, adjustments, good habits, and collaborative efforts.
So, why do so many entrepreneurs fail? It’s not because of their ideas (although, come on, sometimes an idea just doesn’t have legs).
No, they fail because:
Gary Vaynerchuk has said in multiple interviews that he lacks belief in entrepreneurs that come from privileged backgrounds, or graduated from an ivy league school and now want to play the game of starting a business. And do you know what? As a kid who grew up extremely privileged, I actually agree with him. Having been raised in that sort of environment, there’s a lot to be thankful for. There’s also a lot you miss out on–the feeling of having to fight for what you want out of life being one of them. That was something I had to teach myself.
Entrepreneurship isn’t like school. It doesn’t give you clearly defined assignments, and it doesn’t give you tangible measures for success. Those are things you have to give yourself. Most entrepreneurs lose because of this reason and this reason only: they can’t define their own measures of success. And not only do they struggle to define those measures, but they are shocked by the amount of effort it actually takes to achieve them.
I came up with this phrase recently, and it sums up so perfectly this concept of balancing ambition with patience, hunger with contentment. Too often, people think it’s one or the other: you’re either grinding your face off, or you’re slacking. You’re awake or you’re asleep.
That’s just not true.
The balancing point is to be “patiently impatient.” You have to be aware that great things take time, and to be willing to walk that long road, while at the same time be impatient enough to never accept the status quo. You have to be able to celebrate the wins, yet always be pushing yourself toward the next one.
It astounds me how many people I see trying to start social media apps with absolutely no background or true in-the-trenches knowledge of social media. That logic is no different than someone deciding to open a taco restaurant simply because they love tacos. The truth is, they don’t know a thing about running a profitable restaurant.
As an entrepreneur, your question should never be, “What do people want?” Your question should be, “What do I know better than anyone else, and what is my market missing that people would want?” True knowledge of your craft will always go farther than someone who hops into an industry for the popularity factor.
Don’t chase trends. Instead, invest heavily in yourself and the things you are the best at.
Another lesson learned from my mentor, entrepreneurship is not a solo sport. And the ones that struggle the most tend to be the most hesitant to share with others–whether that’s the workload, or equity, or even their network.
Nothing great is built by yourself. Even if you maintain complete ownership over whatever it is you’re building, you are still going to need other people. You’re going to need someone to design what you’re building, or develop it, or source it, or manufacture it. And to treat others as commodities instead of valuable partners is to set yourself up for failure before you’ve even begun.
The number one cause of failed entrepreneurs has to be this–not knowing what you don’t know.
Especially if you’re strolling up into a new industry, this part of the equation isn’t just crucial; it’s a matter of life and death. You cannot approach building your business with the mentality that you’ve got it all figured out, because you don’t. Even if you have years upon years of industry experience, the moment you think you’ve got all the answers is the moment you stop listening. And when you stop listening, you stop learning, your awareness gets clouded, and you start making decisions based on assumptions.
Always be on the lookout for what you don’t know, yet. And the moment you find something, do not take the posture that you are above it. Take a seat. Humble yourself. You’ll grow and learn faster that way.
Where do people go off-course? The moment they try to do what isn’t their primary skill set, simply because they can.
For example: the Founder with no creative background who suddenly wants to give creative input.
Staying your lane is a skill in itself. It means being willing to step aside and let someone more knowledgable or experienced drive the car, so that you can maintain your own responsibilities in a different domain.
As soon as an entrepreneur tries to wear every single hat, they’ve started down a treacherous path.
It has practically become a fashion statement to have your social media profile read, “CEO” or “Founder” of something that hasn’t even started generating revenue yet. That proves how many people want the title and are in love with the idea of being this forward-thinking “entrepreneur” more than they actually want to be that person in the flesh.
Because honestly, being an entrepreneur is a lot less about being recognized as one, and a lot more about bearing the responsibility of serving others. If you have people working for you, they are relying on you to take care of them. It’s you who has to put food on the table. It’s you who has to make sure everyone is happy, fulfilled even. It’s you who has to wake up every single day and direct the ship, regardless of how you’re feeling.
I will be the first to admit that just about every point on this list is a lesson I learned by watching Ron Gibori, an accomplished serial entrepreneur himself, day in and day out. And it hasn’t been until I stepped out on my own and started down the path of entrepreneurship myself that every single one of these points has gone from a thought to a raw, stomach-twisting emotion.
Anyone that thinks entrepreneurship is about being recognized as an entrepreneur, was never an entrepreneur in the first place.
Originally published on Inc.
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