Note: Upon her indictment on federal money laundering charges and her arrest February 8, 2022, Inc. dismissed Heather Morgan as a contributing columnist. As is our practice, we do not unpublish editorial content, and rather have added this note for full transparency.
I turned 30 last month. At 23, I quit my job and I started my own company, and quickly scaled it into a profitable million-dollar business a few years later. Before founding my startup, I lived in seven different countries, and was a successful international economist.
Since then, I've had countless adventures around the world, become an investor in B2B tech companies, started rapping, and founded another company that does identity verification with artificial intelligence.
Whether you're a software entrepreneur like myself, an ambitious working professional, or even temporarily unemployed because of Covid-19, these insights on perfectionism, time management, and self-expression can be useful to anyone:
Perfection is a dangerous mirage.
The problem with perfect is that it's in the eyes of the beholder. What's terrible to you might be wonderful to someone else. Also, oftentimes perfectionism has what we economists refer to as "diminishing marginal returns," meaning that at a certain point you can spend a lot of effort doing something that only makes you marginally better off. So instead of striving for perfect, try to define what's "good enough." You'll be much more productive and happy that way.
Say no to things that aren't exciting or valuable to you.
Eventually, you'll reach a point in your career where you'll need to say no more than yes. Especially if you're attempting something demanding, like starting your own company.
In business, people constantly ask for advice, and invite you to attend or speak at events. However, it's often a waste of time. If I said yes to every speaking opportunity and meeting request, I'd never get anything done; both of my companies would have failed. Know your top priorities; say no to anything that doesn't further your goals.
Prioritize your health or it will bite you later.
My biggest mistake when starting my first company was putting my health at the bottom of my priorities. I developed severe chronic pain, and eventually burned out. This harmed my productivity and well-being.
I have a tendency to get obsessed with work and forget to take breaks. My solution is setting regular timers with my Apple Watch, and using a productivity app ("Productive" on the App Store) to remind me to maintain healthy habits such as stretching, working out, and using my elliptical machine.
Think about opportunity costs over sunk costs.
Understanding these economic terms can prevent you from making bad decisions. It's easy to cling to sunk costs, such as the time, effort, or funds you spend on something. However, opportunity costs are much more expensive. They're the invisible costs of what you could be doing if you weren't doing whatever you're doing now.
For example, if you decide to start a business, your sunk costs might be the funds spent on getting started, such as inventory or material costs, as well as time spent creating business models or getting funding. However, your opportunity costs would be giving up time with friends or family, or exploring other business ideas or career paths.
Life is too short to cling to sunk costs. Don't keep doing something if you're not excited, happy, or learning--just because you don't want to lose sunk costs. Instead, weigh the opportunity costs of what you're missing by continuing the same way.
Be your authentic self, no matter what anyone thinks.
People have lots of expectations about how a female tech CEO should look or behave, or how entrepreneurs should dress. Instead of worrying about others' opinions, just be yourself and pursue your happiness. As long as you focus on accomplishing your goals and dreams, none of that matters.
I'm a serial software entrepreneur and an investor in tech startups, and I also rap and design streetwear fashion. I never thought I'd be rapping and making ridiculous songs and music videos about women's self-defense, female health issues, and what it's like to have synesthesia. At first, I was really nervous to reveal this side of myself to the world; a few people told me that I was making a big mistake. But now I can say I've never been happier or felt more like my true self than I do now.
And you might just be surprised to find many people will often respect or envy you for this bold shameless confidence.