There’s no shortage of advice for startups.
Some of the advice is great, most is average, and the rest are nothing more than regurgitated pieces of nonsense.
There’s also no shortage of people out there giving advice about startups, me included.
Sometimes I get frustrated when I read “advice” for entrepreneurs. Some of it makes me wonder if those who give the advice have ever been near a startup in their life. What frustrates me most is that there are people like you and me who read their advice and might even follow their advice.
It’s not always easy to know better than to believe in what we read.
Here are three pieces of bad advice that I want to clear up, because you deserve good advice.
Myth #1: You have to find your “why” before you start.
“Finding your why” is a concept that a brilliant guy named Simon Sinek made popular through his TED talk several years ago.
The idea is that people don’t buy what you do as much as they buy why you do it. To add on, people who are driven by their “why” are more likely to accomplish what they set out to do.
I absolutely agree with Simon Sinek. Your “why” is a very powerful thing. I know mine, and they’re written on blue sticky notes that hang from my bedroom door.
But like most fantastic insights, Sinek’s has been distorted.
A popular piece of advice out there for people looking to start a business is that you need to “start with why,” which has been conveniently been borrowed by advice-givers everywhere from the title of Sinek’s awesome book, Start with Why.
While I think it’s good to consistently return to our why, we don’t have to wait on our “why” to start building something amazing.
If you are fortunate enough to have a why to start with, then run with it! If you don’t have your why, don’t let that prevent you from starting something. Sometimes starting something is the best route to finding your why.
Think of your “why” as fuel to your fire, not the match you need to start the fire in the first place.
Myth #2(a): Making money is hard, so buy my online course!
I used to loan money to one of my business partners.
He wasn’t a business partner at the time I was loaning him money. He was just a friend on some tough times. His car broke down one day, so I gave him some money to help him out. His car wasn’t the only thing that broke that day.
He’s tough, but I could tell that he felt like nothing because I had to give him money.
That’s when we decided to go into business together. He knows seven code languages, after all. That’s valuable. I, on the other hand, know exactly zero code languages, but I know how to build businesses and sell things.
We were perfect for each other.
In one week, we secured three contracts to build websites in a unique—and fun—way that made us stand out against the endless number of other website developers out there.
Making money isn’t hard. Building a business is the tough part.
The best part about the entire process is that we did what entrepreneurs are supposed to do: learn by doing. We didn’t have to buy an online course on how to become entrepreneurs.
You don’t have to either.
Myth #2(b): Making money is as easy as 1-2-3, so download my ebook to see how!
I hinted at this above, but it’s worth reiterating my point: no course or ebook will teach you how to be an entrepreneur.
Being an entrepreneur is the absolute best way to learn how to be an entrepreneur.
Don’t buy into the marketing that claims you have to spend an incredible amount of money on a course, coach, book, or conference to learn how to become an entrepreneur.
Now that I’ve pissed off all of my friends who create courses, coach, write books, and run conferences about entrepreneurship, let me clear up something that’s crucial to understand: These things aren’t evil. I’m actually a huge proponent of learning through these channels, especially if you have to learn a very specific skill.
I’m writing this piece while on a flight to China.
On my to-do list for this flight is to start working on my email course about branding. I’ve hired excellent business coaches in the past, and I’ve even been hired to coach. One step into my apartment would prove that I’m a business bookworm. And one of my businesses is completely focused on the business conference industry.
You might think by this point that I’m a fat old hypocrite. I’m not.
What I need you to believe is that there is a time and place for these paid learning experiences. The time and place is not when you’re first starting out.
I want to encourage you to be as resourceful as you can be when you’re first starting out.
Rent books from the library. Use public resources. Listen to smart people who give away fantastic advice for free on a regular basis. (Gary Vaynerchuk, James Altucher, or Seth Godin are a few of my favorites.) Earn advice from mentors. Work inside of the industry you want to change, and observe it like a hawk.
The time will come when paying for advice is a perfect option for you and your business. That advice could multiply your results. But be patient. Work very hard with nothing up until buying something is your only option.
Until then, find alternative ways to learn what you need to learn.
Myth #3: Not everyone can be an entrepreneur.
Read this one carefully.
The reason this is a myth is because the real message behind it has been distorted.
This line tends to be slung around by entrepreneurs as a way of boosting their own ego. I’ve said it before, and I felt special when I said it. I basically claimed that I was capable of special things that others aren’t.
But that’s not true.
The truth is that there are plenty of people who can do what I do with a little practice.
I’m not special. I’ve known that since I was a kid. I mess up on silly things pretty often. I have average smartness. To prove it, I just used the word “smartness” in a sentence, and I’m not smart enough to know if I just made it up or not. Gosh, I could go on and on about how average a human I am.
I’ll spare you though.
The truth is that the phrase isn’t worded correctly.
Instead of saying that not everyone can be an entrepreneur, it should really be phrased this way: Not everyone should be an entrepreneur.
We’re living in an age in which we idolize entrepreneurs. It’s trendy to become one. But don’t be fooled about this entrepreneur stuff. Not everyone should do it.
Most of the time, it’s best to not be the number one in a company. Being number two is awesome. Or three, or five, or fifteen, or fifty. Heck, being employee number 500 in a great startup company could be heaven for the right person.
You could be a founder, but you don’t have to be.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
There are more myths and bad pieces of advice in the world of entrepreneurship.
And that might include my advice.
I’m not afraid of the idea that my advice is the perfectly wrong advice for you. That’s completely possible. With that said, I believe in my advice. I know it’s right for some people.
You get to decide if it’s right for you.
If you’re starting your own business, then choosing advice is the first of a thousand choices that you get to make each and every day.
Welcome to the life of an entrepreneur.
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