Summary: Becoming an entrepreneur takes most people 3 or more startups and about 5 years because entrepreneurship isn’t about any particular idea or product – it is a career change. But unlike most career changes the real lessons are from what we learn about ourselves.
Your first company will almost assuredly fail because you don’t even know what you don’t know. Thinking you now know everything, your second company will fail even worse – although probably faster. By your third company you’ll be scared s***less of failing again, will work harder than ever, will finally realize you don’t know anything – and you will succeed.
–paraphrase of a speech I heard from Mario Morino, 1999
How do I become an Entrepreneur?
It isn’t About an Idea, Product – or Even a Company – Entrepreneurship is a Lifestyle
And one that surely isn’t for everyone.
My advice is to think about entrepreneurship as a long-term career change – like becoming a lawyer, doctor, or pilot. And like any profession, it takes years to get new skills, relationships, and experience.
But unlike most career changes the barriers for becoming an entrepreneur are practically 0. Quit your job and call yourself a doctor and you’ll be labeled a crackpot. Quit your job and start a company and colleagues and friends will call you and entrepreneur.
When I reflect on my experiences of the past 15 years and those I’ve shared with startup friends like Patrick Smith, I’m struck by the wisdom of Mario Marino’s advice in the quote above. It seems to take people about 5 years and 3 startups before they start achieving success.
Those that do it faster definitely do exist, but they are the outliers – I certainly have not been one of them.
Are YOU Ready to Make Entrepreneurship a Career? Ask Yourself this Question
Imagine that you’re about to quit your day job to start a company on an idea you just can’t get out of your head. Ask yourself this question:
What will you do if your startup fails?
Will you go back and get job? Is this outcome too terrifying to imagine? Or will you start working on the next startup?
There is no right or wrong answer, but HOW YOU THINK about the answer will tell you whether or not you’re viewing your startup opportunistically – that is, a way to achieve some short-term goal – or as a career change.
Your odds of success will go up dramatically if you plan for 5 years of training.
There is So Much to Learn – Mostly About Ourselves
In the last few years the number of books, blogs, events and startup programs has exploded – and yet people are just as confused as they were 15 years ago when none of this stuff existed.
You’re overwhelmed by all of this information because it doesn’t tell you what you REALLY need to know – about you.
What are you really, truly, interested in? Who do you want to work for? What hard skills do you need that you don’t have? What key relationships do you need that you don’t have? How resilient can you be when the alternative is failure?
These answers are what you really want to know – and you’ll only find them by working hard, failing, and trying again for years.
- If you haven’t subscribed to SE yet, do it – you’re missing out on some great content. What I enjoy most about reading and writing for SE is seeing not only the different perspectives of the authors, but also how differently they interpret Ryan’s weekly question. ↩