It’s a well-known fact that having a successful mentor in your industry is going to fast-track your success. Their insider knowledge, years of experience, and wisdom from failures is guaranteed to slash your learning curve in half. Why endure the adversity of making trivial mistakes when you can learn from others to avoid making them?
And as you’ve probably gathered, mentors are not cheap. Highly successful people are bound to be very busy, so their time is worth a lot. Although I do recommend investing in a mentor as soon as you can afford to and are ready (after all, the best investment you can make in in yourself – the ROI of experience is priceless), the next best thing is to do the research yourself.
You’ll be surprised at how much value highly successful people give away through books, podcasts, blogs, and social media. You can practically get your MBA along with years of experience through the internet nowadays (an exaggeration, but mostly true). In fact, the internet is going the be far more current than any degree; in the technology era adaptability is vital to making progress so I wouldn’t be surprised if the current university system becomes irrelevant by the end this century.
You get the point. Learning from mentors is far more valuable than any degree if you’re an entrepreneur, and if you can do it for free, then great. So, taken from our book The Vault, here’s 5 things successful people wish they knew when starting out. Better to start your journey with other people’s experience than none of your own.
Focus on learning, not earning.
Tim Ferriss, serial online entrepreneur and author of The Four Hour Work Week, says you should be spending your early adulthood acquiring skills and not worrying about money:
“What would you rather have: $20,000 more per year in your 20s, leading to making $100,000 to $200,000 a year in your 30s, or a lower-paying job from 20 to 25 – but one like a real-world MBA you’re paid for – leading to making millions in your 30s? It often comes down to prioritizing skill acquisition over immediate, post-college earning… The only true job security is a superior skill set.”
He’s saying that your perspective on financial success should be long term. If you’re young, you’ve got many, many years ahead of you to build your empire so you shouldn’t get caught up focusing on making short term money to get a sense of power and authority. Look, everyone wants to get rich, but only those who want to get rich for the right reasons are going to be in it for the long run.
Here’s an extreme example of this:
A young 18-year-old wants to buy designer clothes, drive nice cars and splash out at the club so he gets into drug dealing for short term cash. He makes a ton of money and is seen as a cool guy by his peers. But he gets arrested soon after and ends up spending the next few years in jail only to come out and be out of work, so he spends the rest of his life struggling, or getting back into crime.
One of his friends, not caught up in the race to get power and authority and be seen as cool, gets a low-paid job working closely with a highly successful businessman. He doesn’t earn much, wears average clothes and drives a beat up old car. But he knows he’s acquiring priceless knowledge for when he goes on to set up his own business.
By the time the first guy gets out of jail, this guy is on his way to becoming financially free and is growing his business faster than ever. It may have taken 5 or so years of living below his means and working 60-80 hour weeks, but he’s come out on top because he looked at the long term gains rather than short term pleasures.
In a nutshell: stop focusing on results, focus on change. Change in regards to your mind-set, your experience and your knowledge. The results will follow.
Risk Over Regret.
Tim Westergren, co-founder of Pandora Radio, believes you’re better off following your gut instinct than fearing failure and regretting it down the road. Calculated risk can be vital to growth. Here’s what he has to say:
“We’re so programmed to walk well-trodden paths. But, we live life only once. So, rather than avoiding the risk of trying, avoid the risk of not trying.”
Avoiding the risk of trying is keeping you in your comfort zone. And you know where growth starts? The edge of your comfort zone. Getting out of it by taking risks is a mandatory part of success.
No self-made millionaire/billionaire ever started a business without the risk of losing everything. No-one would ever innovate if everyone just stuck with what already worked. And innovation is what pushes the human race forward. So there you go, risk is a direct source of growth. You don’t want to come to the end of your life focusing on the what-ifs, do you?
Put aside more money than you think you can.
Lewis Howes, author, entrepreneur and football player, states the best way to start your journey to financial freedom is to start building up your savings and investment pots early on, and ramp it up over time:
“Money comes to you when you are ready for it. Start creating auto payments to your savings and investments early on, even if it’s $10 a month – and then, each year increase the auto payments to something that feels uncomfortable, and stick with it.”
This may seem obvious, but entrepreneurs tend to forget their savings when they are lazer focused on their start-ups. This can be fatal in terms of cash flow and in emergency situations. I’m proof of this: I used to pay any money I made into my business and needless to say, I got into a few sticky spots to the point where I had 0 personal cash for a few days or even weeks at a time.
The reality is, cash flow is vital and even though it may seem stupid to put money away when you can be investing it directly into your business, paying yourself first is vital. David Bach, 9X New York Times bestselling author, explains why:
“And when it comes to the money, I would tell my younger self to pay yourself first – automatically – because the miracle of compound interest really does work, and when you’re in your late 40s you’ll be a multimillionaire because of it.”
Taking risks is vital, but keeping all your money in one place is fatal. Start paying yourself now.
Your network is your net worth.
Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup Company, is determined that relationships are more important than your own ability:
“And above all, network, because networking is working. Your ability will only take you so far. Your relationships will take you the rest of the way.”
This reminds me of a point Stephen Covey’s made in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He explained that interdependency is far more important than independency. Although it may feel like leveraging other people’s skills and the opportunities they bring is being dependent, it’s actually using your own initiative and human resources skills to push yourself forward.
So don’t let your pride become stubbornness. The world’s most successful people are the ones who are the best leaders, meaning they have teams that support them and work together to be far more effective than one individual.
Steve Jobs famously said “great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.” If a billionaire’s advice isn’t enough to inspire you, then I don’t know what is. (Steve Jobs may have been a fear-based leader, which I don’t agree with, but this is certainly a sound bit of advice.)
Adaptability is key.
Eric Koester, entrepreneur and investor, believes forward thinking and adaptability are key to dominating above the competition; embrace change because it will either make you or break you:
“The company you are running is inevitably about 10,000% different than the original idea or concept you began with. It’s because the best entrepreneurs and business owners are Darwinian in that they adapt to the changing market conditions, or they die. Expect change and embrace the process; every company changes, but it’s mostly how you adapt to that change that determines success.”
This piece of advice is something I learnt through the book Who Moved My Cheese. The moral of the book is that change is inevitable, and you should embrace it because the ones who do are the ones who win. Average players either let it happen and stay blissfully ignorant to it, or do the bare minimum to keep up.
We don’t want to keep up, we want to come out on top. As Koester states, the best business owners are Darwinian; they adapt, or they die. It’s survival of the fittest, a case of natural selection. Lead, or follow. Your choice.