We’re not as independent as we think we are.
As entrepreneurs, we like to take pride in this idea that we don’t listen to the outside world.
We love the idea of pursuing our idea regardless of what other people tell us. So many of us–especially the newer generation of entrepreneurs–tend to think that entrepreneurs are enlightened, while the rest of the world is left in the dark because they’ve got jobs.
I hate to break it to you, but we’re not as enlightened and individualistic as we want to believe.
There’s a lot of group think in entrepreneur circles. It’s easy for us to take each other’s (bad) advice as gospel, simply because we’re talking with entrepreneurs. At the exact same time, it’s very easy to discredit anyone else’s advice because they’re not entrepreneurs.
Do one google search for “how to be a successful entrepreneur” and you’ll immediately find tons of fluffy, feel-good, recycled “advice” for entrepreneurs. We take this information, pass it off as the truth, and feel like crap when we don’t perfectly follow the (bad) “advice.”
We need to start thinking for ourselves, just like we’ve always claimed we’ve done.
Here are seven places to start.
1. They say, “Get up early.”
There is absolutely no clear cut, definitive, scientific, longitudinal, peer-reviewed, studies with randomized controls that proves that you have to get up early in order to be successful. None.
And we need to stop treating this piece of advice as if that proof exists.
Don’t get me wrong, here. There are plenty of interesting studies about “larks” and “owls” out there from a variety of fields of science. Geneticists, sociologists, economists, and many other types of researchers have approached the subject.
They’re all smarter than me, too.
The general consensus is that we all have a natural inclination to sleep at certain times and for certain amounts of time. On top of that, we all have times when we’re more alert and energetic. Although there are categories that we can fall into–they’re called chronotypes–our natural inclinations can be unique to all of us and can evolve over time.
While certain chronotypes might suggest that certain people are more inclined to be more successful in certain domains, there’s too much uncertainty to claim that you must wake up early to be successful. That’s just fluff.
It doesn’t matter what time you wake up, as long as you wake up.
What matters much more is what you do while you’re awake.
2. They say, “Have a morning routine.”
If you thought I was finished flogging the fluffy advice about mornings, you thought wrong!
Entrepreneurial advice-givers are infatuated with the idea of success deriving from how we handle our mornings, and there are two reasons for that.
First, we like the idea of conquering our time. That’s certainly true for me. I’m very strict with what I do with my time, including what I do with my mornings. I’m not bashing on this reason at all. I’m applauding it.
The next reason people talk so much about the morning is what I want to push against.
The second reason people talk so much about the morning is because it’s easy to sell. It’s easy to get head nods when you talk about the early bird getting the worm. People feel a certain way when they imagine themselves being incredibly disciplined in the morning while others are still sleeping. It’s a sexy concept, and sex sells.
But just because something sells doesn’t make it right. (Remember pet rocks?)
Success doesn’t require you to do the same thing every morning. It just doesn’t. Success doesn’t work like that. What it does require is consistently executing on certain things, but it doesn’t care if it happens in the morning or evening or that extra day in February on a leap year.
Most of the things we believe about the morning are manufactured. The manufacturing schedule created during the Industrial Period in the US (pun intended) was set by humans, as well as the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (it isn’t).
Morning routines could absolutely help a lot of people. If you want one and need one, then get one. It’s up to you if you need one.
But don’t fool yourself: if you don’t have a morning routine, that doesn’t disqualify you from success.
3. They say, “Meditate.”
I’m a big fan of meditation. I love it, I support it, but I don’t do it.
That’s right, I don’t meditate. I worked hard to meditate correctly and consistently for about a month, then I quit. I have different ways of reaping the same benefits of meditation, but without meditation.
I don’t hate on people who swear by meditation. Actually, I believe mindfulness and meditation are going to be major health trends over the next decade.
However, for someone to claim that you need to meditate to be successful is silly.
I’m not buying it.
4. They say, “Follow your passion and do what you enjoy.”
We don’t have a right to be passionate about our work.
Instead, being passionate about our work is a privilege everyone should have. Like ice cream. Everyone should have the privilege of enjoying a scoop of ice cream. Unfortunately, the reality is different. You will have to do things you do not enjoy, and shirking those responsibilities would make you a poor entrepreneur.
(I wrote about all of that here, so I’ll stop there.)
At the end of the day passion definitely helps you get through long nights, early mornings (if you’re into that), and tough situations. But passion is not required.
5. They say, “Forget the business plan.”
A very popular mindset within entrepreneurship is the Lean Methodology. One of the core ideas of that method is that you eliminate actions that don’t directly help you prove that your concept works. It’s genius, and the leadership teams in all of my ventures embrace the methodology more than any other.
But like most pieces of great advice, we tend to misunderstand and screw it up.
For the sake of speed, people started poo-pooing the idea of creating business plans before launching a company. By “business plan,” I’m referring to the classic business school concept of a business plan that tries to predict unpredictable things before launch, like market size and financials.
I 99% agree that creating that type of business plan pre-launch is a royal waste of time, but here’s where entrepreneur gurus have gone wrong: the idea that you never need a business plan.
I’m here to tell you that you will eventually need a business plan.
That plan may not look like the classic business school business plan, but I promise you that you will need one. Your potential investors will need to see one, the banks will need to see one, your full investors will need to see one, and–most importantly–your company will need to see one.
Completely trashing business plans won’t put you in the best position to win.
6. They say, “Buy my proven system…”
I’ll keep this one short, so follow along.
Entrepreneurship has no “proven system.”
7. They say, “Read (a lot).”
One of the ugliest, biggest, most prevalent lies in entrepreneurship is that you have to read (a lot) of books in order to be successful.
Take it from an avid reader: this isn’t true.
Success doesn’t require that you read books. Success doesn’t care if your literate or illiterate remotely as much as it cares about other traits like focus, persistence, grit, and courage.
It’s interesting to me that I get a lot of pushback on this subject.
This is especially true in the solopreneur community, specifically people who are playing the content creation game. It’s not surprising that a lot of content creators fight me on this concept. After all, they survive by people reading their work.
I’m just not sold, although I used to be.
If you search hard enough, I bet you could find some of my old work in which I touted the big benefits of reading bunches of books. I know for sure that I used to preach it aloud off line. That’s because I was gullible and too lazy–and too timid–to generate my own thoughts.
Take note: I’m only talking about full on entrepreneurs.
If you’re a doctor or a scientist or anyone in a field like that, then I beg you to read a bunch of books. Your world is built on others’ work. So please learn how to do those things.
But entrepreneurs, we don’t need to read a ton of books to be successful.
Now, this next point is very important. Although we don’t have to read tons and tons of books to be successful, we do have to learn tons and tons. We can learn however we want: through mentors, podcasts, webinars, blogs, and YES even books.
But our primary source must be experience, because that means we’ve actually taken action.
With all that said…
I could be just as full of it as I’m claiming so many others are.
And that’s ok if you disagree with me. I don’t care if you do. What I care most about is that you’re thinking for yourself.
That’s what entrepreneurship is all about, right?
Photo: Flickr/Piers Cañadas