There is no shortage of blog posts offering entrepreneurial life lessons.
Most will educate and inspire you.
But here at IncomeDiary, we want to offer you, our dear reader, something different.
A series of “not the usual” entrepreneurial life lessons…
And these life lessons are not just applicable to entrepreneurial life but to everyone’s life, no matter what your career or profession.
23 Entrepreneurial Life Lessons Everyone Should Learn
What makes you successful or not?
What separates a successful entrepreneur from a failure?
There are no simple answers to those questions.
However, we can look to those who have had the most success and distill valuable life lessons that you can apply to your life and career.
#1 is my favorite, #2 is something I wish I had known as a young man, and #17 is (probably) the one we most need to remember when we achieve success.
#1 Never test the depth of the river with both feet
It is best to stick one foot in the river and then if it is too deep, you have the one on dry land to keep you from falling in and drowning.
Mr. Warren Buffett is credited with this quote, but you will have come across variations such as…
“Do not put all your eggs in one basket”.
You see a new opportunity and you get excited. And this is great!
Just make sure to not invest all the money you have.
Business is volatile. People are unpredictable. And you may even reconsider your priorities in the future. The world never stops changing.
Simply put – don’t trust a single game plan when investing in anything.
Don’t go all in!
Ok, I know you have read the stories of the entrepreneurs who went all in and WON – but they are the exception, not the rule.
Maybe you will go all in, and that is fine, but just remember one of the most successful investors on the planet made this quote!
The same applies to everyday life. When you need to take a risk, ensure your safety. Have a backup in case something goes wrong. You can stick one foot in the river and if it is too deep, you have the one on dry land to keep you from falling in and drowning.
#2 If you buy things you do not need, soon you will sell things you need.
Another quote credited to Warren Buffett.
A lot of us are guilty of accumulating unnecessary stuff.
Designer shoes, expensive watches, and expensive cars bought on credit!
I have to admit, when I was young and first started making decent money, I was quite reckless in my approach to spending my newfound wealth. Imagine if rather than spending money on “stuff” I didn’t need, I had invested that money in building wealth?
You must gain control over your money, or the lack of it will forever control you.
– Dave Ramsey
We live in a world full of temptation. Marketing teams spend billions to form new desires in our minds. Every time you buy an expensive gadget, a new one comes out. Every time you get a new car, you will see people around driving better cars. This game is never-ending.
If you want to achieve your business and personal goals, you need to set your priorities. So when the opportunity comes up, you are ready.
This also applies to everyday life. Even if you don’t have plans to build a business, you still have priorities. Perhaps the money is better spent on family and friends, education, or hobbies that truly inspire you.
Think of money as an equivalent of your time.
The price you are about to pay for a new thing is the amount of life that you trade for it.
Is it worth it?
#3 Be The Recognised Expert In Your Niche.
Equip yourself with the best knowledge.
When launching a business, you need to make informed decisions.
Study the market.
If you’re trying to create a company, it’s like baking a cake. You have all the ingredients in the right proportion.
~ Elon Musk, SpaceX, and Tesla
Learn about your competitors.
Evaluate your idea.
Find the best business strategies.
This way you can better manage your team and your expenses – the ingredients of your business cake.
You know the proportions. You don’t overpay your providers. And you will set the most competitive prices.
You will also appear more professional to clients and partners.
Entrepreneurial Life Lesson #4 DREAM BIG!
If You Are Going To Dream, You May As Well DREAM BIG!
By trying to be realistic, some entrepreneurs turn a what-could-be-unique product into just another solution.
Don’t curb your creativity. It may be easier to start a completely new product and build demand for it. This way, you will be the market leader.
I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. Since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition.
~ Larry Page, Google
When the first iPhone came out, there was nothing similar in the market. People didn’t even have such expectations from a phone. It was a calling device. Not a pocket-size personal computer. Today, almost everyone owns a smartphone. And Apple is still leading the market.
Google started off as a search engine. But it gradually replaced the competitors with super-smart apps, like share documents, maps with recommendations, a camera app that boosts your phone’s possibilities.
They also introduced their AI-powered personal assistant that manages simple tasks for us. They even have smart gadgets built specifically for Google users.
Entrepreneurial Life Lesson #5 Be Valuable
Your Goal Is To Be Valuable
Most people set their goals “to be successful” – but once you’re are valuable, instead of chasing success, it will be attracted to you.
And on the subject of being valuable, remember this…
Be valuable, not available
The less available you are, the more valuable you become. This is an especially important lesson for consultants.
#6 Business is not a scientific field of study. It’s a skill.
You can never learn to drive a car by reading about it. You might learn all the road signs. Even pass an exam. But this won’t make you a skilled driver.
Business is something you learn by doing. Just like driving.
Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it, the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.
– Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post Media Group
#7 STREET SMART always beats CLASSROOM SMART
Here is a provocative saying attributed to Elon Musk. (No surprise there!)
Drug Dealers Know More About Running a Business than 95% of College Professors
It may sound controversial, but we have to agree a business practitioner (even if the business is illegal) knows more than a business theorist.
Naturally, you will experience fear when starting something new. This is totally ok. Stepping into the unknown is scary. What is not ok is to let your fears hold you back.
Fortune favors the bold.
Fear is nothing but an emotion. And it is in your power to control and choose your emotions. This may be difficult at first. But the more you practice stepping outside your comfort zone, the easier it gets.
Start by taking baby steps and gradually grow your bravery muscles.
#8 Honesty is a very expensive gift, don’t expect it from cheap people
Another quote from Mr. Warren Buffett.
Being an honest person requires great courage, therefore don’t expect it from everyone.
As human beings, we feel the need to trust people around us. This is natural. In a challenging situation, we want to have someone to rely on. And we often believe people around us. Especially when we are told what we want to hear.
Unfortunately, not everyone is honest. Some might deceive you on purpose, looking for their own benefit. Others have a strong desire to be liked, and simply say what sounds nice. Some are afraid, to tell the truth.
To be an honest person requires great courage, therefore don’t expect it from everyone.
This is especially important in business. You need to choose partners wisely and be careful with commercial secrets.
Building a reputation as an honest broker and a person of their word allows you to build better relationships.
Competitors will admire you, customers will recommend you and life all round will be more rewarding.
But this also works for personal life. Be careful about who you share your ideas and feelings with. They might use this information against you.
#9 No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time.
No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t have a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.
Yet another quote attributed to
#10 It’s better to hang out with people better than you.
Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you will drift in that direction. Join a Mastermind.
#11 Never depend on a single source of income.
Invest wisely to create multiple streams of income.
#12 Action beats anxiety. Motion beats meditation. Work beats worry.
This is a quote from my dear friend Craig Ballantyne.
Action solves so many (all?) of life’s challenges. Anytime you feel worried or anxious, this is the perfect quote to remember.
And especially remember…
Work beats worry!
The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
– Walt Disney, Disney
There is no better time to start than now.
#13 Don’t wait for the perfect conditions – create them
Once you have the idea, start working on it immediately.
Don’t procrastinate. Don’t let it be said that you…
Took you all of two minutes to get working, plus an hour of perfectionist fiddling to create a pretty map.
You don’t wait for the perfect conditions; you create them.
You will never be 100% prepared.
Of course, preparation is important. But only because you need to make an informed decision. Something will always go wrong and you will have to resolve the issues on the spot. Life is unpredictable.
And of course, daydreaming will never get you anywhere. You can spend months and years imagining your perfect project. Until one day you realize someone else has already made it happen.
Don’t let being a “Perfect Polly” or an “Obsessive Oliver” impede your success.
Entrepreneurial Life Lesson #14 Start With A Small Step
Related to the above.
Large complicated projects may look scary, but don’t risk falling into procrastination.
I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress.
Split the giant project into smaller tasks. Do one thing at a time. The most complicated project can be done if you divide it into smaller bits.
And start with the easier tasks first. Once you start, the picture will be more clear. The difficult tasks will not seem so complicated. Besides, when you resolve a simple issue, it will give you the confidence to move on!
#15 Control what you can, cope with what you can’t and concentrate on what counts
Yet more words of wisdom from my friend Craig Ballantyne
Business is all about balance. And so is life.
Taking responsibility and being proactive are necessary. But wasting time and resources on something that is simply impossible is stupid.
When making choices in business and in life, it is important to evaluate your chances.
You can control how you spend money. You can distribute the expenses as you believe right. Maybe increase marketing expenses. Or cut costs on printed materials. You can choose your team and your partners. These are the aspects of your business that you need to control. Don’t let them fall through and don’t blame others if they are not working. You are in charge.
But you cannot control government regulations, for example. Or natural disasters. (Or COVID 19) All you can do is cope with them. Mitigate the risks and prepare for the worst.
And set your priorities.
Concentrate on the most important things first!
#16 Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
Stay calm and carry on. Do what you believe is right. And the results will come!
Often, when success doesn’t come at first, entrepreneurs experience anxiety. They feel an urge to change something. Perhaps change direction completely or give up.
Of course, there will be times when giving up or changing direction is the right thing to do. Even successful entrepreneurs sometimes underestimate the challenges in launching a new product – or overestimate how good their idea is. The marketplace will let you know soon enough – the point we are making here is to not give up at the first challenge.
Maybe what you need to do is adjust your business plan and approach the market differently.
I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from non-successful ones is pure perseverance.
– Steve Jobs
Entrepreneurial Life Lesson #17 Hack Away The Unessential
Bruce Lee once said:
It is not daily increase but daily decrease, hack away the unessential.
Find where you can cut the nonessentials in your life.
Then DO IT!
Avoid the superficial, penetrate the complex, go to the heart of the problem, and pinpoint the key factors.
Sometimes, when you add so many “features” or “add-ons” to something, you lose focus and clarity. You can get off track of your task or mission when “shiny objects” distract you.
Do not beat around the bush. Do not take winding detours. Follow a straight line to the objective; simplicity is the shortest distance between two points.
A successful life is a simple life, without clutter and unnecessary distraction.
Sometimes, when we experience success, we think we will become more successful by adding features and complicating what we do. But removing “friction” and complications in your product or offering is more likely to increase your success and customer satisfaction.
As I mentioned earlier, this is one of my favorite Entrepreneurial Life Lessons – one that I wish I had learned sooner.
#18 Do not be embarrassed by your failures
Never let negative experiences hold you back. The most successful people in this world have reached these heights by falling and getting up. Everyone makes mistakes. Things rarely go as planned. This is a part of life.
Do not be embarrassed by your failures. Learn from them and start again.
View every failure as a lesson.
Learn from it and keep trying.
#18 Stay focused
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were once asked at dinner what was the most important factor in their success. Both of them gave the same one-word answer: FOCUS!
Success in business, and other aspects of life, requires strong effort and determination. You need to be completely absorbed by your idea. To pay no attention to distractions. It must almost be like an obsession.
You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.
If temptations pull you away from your goal, you will never achieve it.
Imagine going from point A to point B. If you go straight, you will definitely get there faster. But if you wander around, it will take you forever to reach the destination. In fact, you may end up somewhere like point C.
It is highly important to stay focused throughout your life. Even if this makes you uncomfortable. Many people feel guilty saying “no”. So instead of pursuing their own dreams, they follow other people’s plans. Stay true to yourself. And let nothing distract you from your goal.
#19 Choose your tribe
The people you hang around with today determine your personality tomorrow.
It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you will drift in that direction.
Choose people you look up to. Those who have already accomplished what you are striving for. If you spend time with them, you will gradually learn their mindset. This, in turn, will change the decisions you make.
The opposite is also true. If you surround yourself with passive people who just want to complain all the time, soon you will do the same. You will slide into victim thinking, and will never even try to achieve anything.
Surround yourself with active, ambitious people. With them, you are twice as likely to work hard and achieve top results.
Life’s too short to hang out with people who aren’t resourceful.
– Jeff Bezos
#20 Build your business around your life and not your life around your business
When thinking about your priorities, think not only about business. In fact, the business shouldn’t be your number one priority. When you plan your week, schedule family events, dates, meetings with friends first. Don’t forget your hobbies and time for yourself. Something that inspires you. Then plan your business meetings and tasks around that. While your business is important, you also want to live a happy life as an entrepreneur.
This is a great solution if you find yourself working 60 hours a week and still not achieving results. Remember, most tasks take all the time you can spend on them. But if you need to squeeze your 60-hour working week into 35 hours, you will be more efficient.
#21 The Future Can Be Better Than The Present
Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so.
As entrepreneurs, we believe we can help create a better world. That our products and solutions will enrich our customer’s lives.
And we have the skills and talent to make it so.
#22 Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.
Successful people keep learning…
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.
– Henry Ford
#23 You Are Not So Smart
Don’t let your ego trick you into thinking you cannot make mistakes. Be aware of the logical fallacies and cognitive biases that we as humans have, and are often blind to.
This may seem an odd way to finish a Post on essential entrepreneurial life lessons. But it is an essential point to make. It is also the reason that successful people are lifelong learners. They are open to changing their mind – in the light of new information.
On this subject let’s make a book recommendation: You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself
Successful people question their thinking and challenge themselves.
You should too!
Barry Dunlop is a lifelong Entrepreneur, Business Coach, and Sales Turnaround Expert who is passionate about helping business owners grow their businesses and enjoy a better life while doing it. Connect with Barry on LinkedIn
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