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STARTUP

3 Things I Wish I Knew Back When
 

A 28-year-old CEO looks offers some advice to his brash-but-clueless younger self.

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When you're staring a venture as difficult as building a business, in some ways ignorance is bliss. Being unburdened by any real appreciation of the difficulties you’re getting yourself into can be a great boost to confidence, optimism and energy. But this principle obviously has its limits.

Young entrepreneurs may thrive on self-belief and brashness, but a bit of wisdom and a few lessons from the school of hard knocks are necessary to help transform enthusiasm into a credible venture. Which is why advice from those who have recently been in your place is so valuable. They aren't so far along in their careers that they've forgotten what it feels like to be a young person with start-up dream, so their advice is relevant and palatable. By learning from their mistakes you don’t have to make the same ones.

Luckily, thanks to the Internet, finding such an entrepreneur to generously offer their advice is far easier than it once was. For instance, on Under30CEO recently, 28-year old entrepreneur Brent Beshore, CEO of AdVentures, gifted those just starting out on the road he's recently traveled with eight truths he wishes he knew when he was 22. Among them:

  • Being busy destroys your value. I used to pride myself on the amount of "stuff" I'd do. I was constantly meeting with someone and working on something. I felt extremely productive. How could I not be successful when I did so much? Unfortunately when I looked back on what I’d accomplished, it amounted to very little. Although I continue to fall back into cycles of busyness, I know a key ingredient in the recipe for success: "make haste slowly."
  • Nothing complicated ever works out. I've crafted a lifetime of reseller agreements, highly complex employment incentives, partnerships, and intricate business plans. None of them have been successful. Success has come from simple plans, defined roles and clear expectations. For every added layer of complication, you've exponentially increased your chances of failure.
  • "Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts to do one or the other." Seth Godin says it perfectly. Life is not about gutting out every situation. It's about identifying opportunity and a lack thereof. If your pride is all that is standing in the way of quitting, quit. The right people won't care and the wrong people don't matter. If you know you're on the right path, persevere though the pain. It will be worth it.

If you find these tips fascinating,  the remaining five lessons are also well worth a read. And Beshore isn’t the only person to have the impulse to help the next wave of career starters avoid his mistakes. There are whole books on the topic, as well as a plethora of blog posts. Or, better yet, tap into the pooled wisdom of your community by asking them what they wish they knew when they were your age.

What one piece of advice do you wish you could give your younger self?

Last updated: Jan 12, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.
@EntryLevelRebel




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