As we grow into adulthood, we have to learn a multitude of lessons in order to be successful, well-adjusted human beings. Don’t hit your big brother or he’ll probably slug you back harder. Check. Don’t eat an entire cake for dinner or you’ll probably have a stomachache. Check. Look before you cross the street or you’ll probably get hit by a car. Check.
Our lessons obviously mature as we mature, but if we’re smart, we never stop learning. We probably learn thousands of lessons in our lifetime — and if you’re an entrepreneur, you can go ahead and double that number.
When you’re innovating a new idea or starting a business, you will not have all the answers. It’s impossible. We constantly have to learn in real time, while making mistakes left and right. The road to success is a long and arduous process — but we can speed it along by learning from the experience of other entrepreneurs who have come before us (or are working alongside us).
Here are five life lessons you’re inevitably going to learn as an entrepreneur — better sooner rather than later.
1. Deciding in the heat of the moment is a bad idea.
Whether you’re just starting your business or you’ve grown it into a billion-dollar company, you’re always going to have to make high-stakes decisions; when you really care about your work, it’s easy to let emotions get the better of you.
“Entrepreneurs are very passionate people and it’s easy to make a decision when you’re riding high or running low. Do yourself a favor — don’t,” says Tom Villante, CEO of YapStone, a prominent fintech company.
As the leader, Tom had to learn to weigh all the variables before giving an answer. “Emotional decisions tend to yield undesirable outcomes. Logic takes a backseat, and the risk you’re willing to take may be too much. If you’re hyped up, chances are you need to take time to check your emotions, gather the facts and then make the best decision possible.”
Take note, folks. Keep your emotions in check and only make decisions when you are able to be at your most logical.
2. Failure has more benefits than you think.
As entrepreneurs, we’re constantly hearing the phrase “embrace failure.” And it usually is followed by the sentiment that we’re all human, everyone makes mistakes, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over it. But failure actually has more benefits than simply feeling better about our shortcomings.
That’s right. Not only does failure present an opportunity to learn from your mistakes – it is acknowledged by business professionals that those mistakes will lead to better choices the second time around. It’s quite possible you’ll have an easier time getting the ball rolling on a new project after you have failed.
3. The fear will probably never go away.
Fear is one of the main reasons why so many people do not become entrepreneurs. It’s scary. You’ve probably read countless statistics about how 90 percent of startups fail; that fact alone has caused many to run for the hills. But if you’re truly passionate about doing what you love, you’ll find a way to cope.
“Fear should be on the back burner of your day-to-day reality,” says Alejandro Chaban, Founder of Yes You Can! “It is impossible to tell someone to forget fear. Don’t forget it, just tame it.”
Fear gets in the way of our progress. It stops us from making decisions or from doing the things that could really elevate our businesses. Worst of all, it also messes with our confidence. Going into a pitch meeting is tricky enough, but going into a pitch meeting without confidence? Near enough impossible.
Perhaps Alejandro’s long career as a professional actor has given him a leg up on how to deal with entrepreneurial stage fright. He says,“Once you have tamed your fear and you forget about all the possibility of failures, only then will your confidence soar and your results will change.”
4. Don’t give it away for free.
So many startup models include gaining user acquisition before getting paid to do anything — which is often the case with apps or social platforms. The problem with this is that a business could quite easily burn through all of its capital before making any money.
When you’re defining what it is your business is going to sell, you have to first define the problem you’re solving. Then once you have a clear idea of your market, build a solution that people will actually pay for. It’s okay to start small. Mark Josephson of Bitly suggests focusing on your first ten customers. Build something ten people will pay you for. Then replicate that model for 20 people, 40 people, 100 people and so on.
“If you’re starting something, sell something,” he says. “Get paid for that something and figure out how you can sell that and make sure the math works.”
Not charging for your services is a sure fire way to burn through your capital. We all heard the story of Uber reportedly losing $1.2 billion in the first half of 2016 — which was all down to spending way more than they were making. The lesson here? Stay efficient with your budget and don’t give anything away for free.
5. Execution is actually everything.
Anyone can have a great idea. Anyone can have a great theoretical strategy. But if those two things don’t come with a first class execution plan, they will be trashed. Fast.
“Information without execution is useless,” says Donny Gamble, Founder of IdeaHacks. “Having access to the right information at the right time is absolutely useless unless you know how to actually execute on the information. “
Your execution plan has to be air tight — whether you’re working with a team of three or 3,000. Lack of communication, definition of roles and prioritization will cause even the best ideas to fizzle. Give your project the best chance possible of succeeding by making sure that your execution is planned out to the endth degree. Set a timeline, goals and benchmarks — and check in on them on a weekly (if not daily) basis.
These are just a few of the many joyous lessons you will learn and tools you will use on your entrepreneurial journey. Just remember that it is just that — a journey. As you move further along with your endeavors, never stop learning and always take a moment to share your experiences with a fellow entrepreneur. You may not realize it, but your story might have a profound impact on that person and contribute to their success. We are all in this together, after all.