My key piece of advice to folks seeking to make their way as entrepreneurs is to focus much less on their IQ, and much more on their EQ, or emotional quotient.
It's clear that the way we talk about so-called soft skills is in sore need of a reboot. We often give emotional intelligence, empathy, creativity, and other capabilities short shrift, instead playing up our certifications or training in the latest tools and technologies. But tech will always evolve and there will always be new tools to gain mastery of.
What is far more enduring and far more impactful in today's world is the ability to embrace your common humanity. How do you handle being thrown into an ambiguous situation in which some stakeholders will inevitably end up pissed off, no matter what you do? How do you choose between a row of seemingly identical investors in terms of qualifications, and size up who the best person to be in the trenches of business would be? How do you tap into the frustrations and pain points of your target customer and arrive at a solution that will delight them?
None of these scenarios comes with a prescribed rule book; they all depend on intuition, inspiration, communication skills, and humility-- topped off with a bit of insanity, which is exactly what most of your friends and family will probably call you if you run off to pursue your entrepreneurial dream. It's a tough concoction of sometimes counterintuitive traits, but you'll need all of them in your toolbox in order to mentally prepare for facing the unknown that is the daily norm in the world of launching a new start-up or app. And that's exactly the dose that you will need to tap into your full potential as a business mind and leader.
When I was starting out, I certainly didn't have a role model to emulate or follow in my own circles, so it was a matter of trial and error to learn about how to cultivate the EQ I needed to thrive. A few take-aways from my personal experience:
Accept that you may need to be your own mentor.
I've seen too many people fall into the rut of waiting around for the word on high from a mentor or a permission slip from someone older. Screw that. I say you may need to be your own mentor, especially in the dark early days in which nobody can see your vision but you. The best use of your time isn't necessarily having endless coffee meetings, it's getting out there and grinding. You can learn all the sage wisdom you need from books on tape and podcasts while you're getting from Point A to Point B; otherwise, stick to building.
Love the process, not the goal.
We get so caught up in the end destination that we make ourselves miserable through every step of the journey. I've got news for you-- even if you achieve your wildest dreams of financial independence, there's going to be a cap on what you'll get out of external validation.
At the end of the day, few are going to be impressed by your accomplishments outside of the people who love you-- who should love you unconditionally even if you fail. So make sure you're building a business not because you want to land on a magazine cover to impress someone who might not even read the damn thing. Build a business because you love the daily journey of grinding, building, thinking, and doing. Or don't do it at all.
Remember your why.
COVID-19 put a big pause on plans for most of us and allowed us to reconsider what we want to do with our limited, finite, precious time. Make sure you are using your days on what you love. I was fortunate to gain insight into what drives me to keep chasing new goals-- I simply love the feeling of helping people. It's not an altruistic thing, to be honest; I just love the dopamine hit of passing on knowledge and skills to others, just as I have benefited from the insights of so many others.
Developing your EQ begins with asking yourself the tough questions and getting sure with what you really want. So ask yourself-- what is it you really want? What is all of this work for?