Learning from the mistakes and successes of the greats--not to mention venture capitalists--can make the difference between your business failing or succeeding.
Here are the best pieces of advice from O'Leary that you can start applying to your venture today:
"I have met many entrepreneurs who have the passion and even the work ethic to succeed--but who are so obsessed with an idea that they don't see its obvious flaws. Think about that. If you can't even acknowledge your failures, how can you cut the rope and move on?" Thinking of your idea as "your baby" is dangerous for writers, and even more so for entrepreneurs. There's a difference between dedication and stubbornness.
"So much of life is a negotiation, so even if you're not in business you have opportunities to practice all around you." As an entrepreneur, knowing how to negotiate well is one of the best skills you can have. It works with investors, partners, employees, vendors, and even family. If you can't negotiate, you'll never be able to put yourself in the best position.
It's a trend these days to put hiring the right person who will "fit in" above all else. It would be great if you got along swimmingly with everyone you did business with, but that's not reality and it's not what's best. "I don't mind rude people," says O'Leary. "I want people who I can make money with, so if their executional abilities are good, and they're arrogant or rude, I don't care." Remember what matters: the money, not if you can easily bond with your investor over a shared love of Bikram.
"Nobody forces you to work at a Wal-Mart! Start your own business! Sell something to Wal-Mart!" No matter what you (or O'Leary) think about Wal-Mart, there was a time when even this retail giant was a startup, so there's even more to learn here. There will never be an end to potential excuses and finger-pointing. However, it's not getting you anywhere, so ditch the complaints. What are you going to do about it?
"When you're traveling, your day is jam-packed. I just don't have time to whip out a PC all the time. But I can whip out a Blackberry and tweet. I keep a constant diary of where I'm at and why I'm here." If you ever find yourself at a conference, meeting, or even wasting time at your home office, re-assess and make a change. You are accountable for your actions and time.
All entrepreneurs start as total beginners prone to mistakes. It takes practice to learn the ropes--but what if you could tap the practice of others, like O'Leary? Don't reinvent the wheel if you don't have to.