When people discuss entrepreneurship, most tend to forget that it is as much a journey of personal growth as it is "success." What often fails to get mentioned is that in order to actually obtain some level of success, there must be a focus on self development for people to become capable of creating that kind of success in the first place.
Seasoned entrepreneurs knows that the journey isn't easy. It is filled with big hopes and even bigger obstacles, and for every story of success are one hundred stories of failure. Entrepreneurship truly is far more of a game of endurance than anything else.
But it's the layer of personal growth that comes with this journey of "success" that is really at the heart of entrepreneurship. How does someone go from a company of one (usually starting in a dorm room, basement, or garage), to running a company of five hundred--or even five thousand? And I don't mean what that looks like on paper--I mean what it looks like deep down, as a human being.
To get some insight on this topic, I chatted with two well-known entrepreneurs whose journey started back when they were kids. Brothers Adam and Matthew Toren, more recently known for founding the publication Young Entrepreneur (which later sold to Entrepreneur Magazine) and a small business forum, got their start in elementary school selling little trick airplanes at local festivals. From importing wholesale car stereo systems in high school to selling magic kits from Hong Kong in mall kiosks, the Toren brothers truly have been hitting the pavement since their earliest days.
Since their newest venture, Kidpreneurs, is designed to empower young entrepreneurs, I asked them what lessons young and aspiring entrepreneurs need to learn on a personal level in order to become capable of noteworthy success.
1. In the beginning, there's no such thing as work-life balance.
"When you're first starting out, work-life balance is a myth," the brothers write. "You need to pour your heart and soul into your new business. Especially if you're looking for investors, if 'work-life balance' is on your list of goals, they won't be very impressed. It's doable once you've laid the groundwork and your business is generating strong revenue, but it's unrealistic in the beginning stages of a business. And if you and those close to you aren't prepared for that, you're going to struggle."
The last part of their advice is arguably the most important. Entrepreneurship can greatly affect the relationships in your life, and if you aren't prepared for that level of strain (and if those around you aren't prepared either), then challenges will begin to manifest very quickly.
The human costs of entrepreneurship is a topic that doesn't get discussed very often, but is exceedingly important and needs to be addressed on a daily basis. The goal should be for you to master your schedule and your business, not for it to master you.
2. Be honest with yourself about what you're good at and not good at.
"There is a tendency in the 'self-help' movement to focus on improving your weaknesses. My brother and I believe that's a mistake. Yes, you want to be progressing and getting better in all aspects of your life, but whenever possible, it makes far more sense to delegate what you're not good at and play to your strengths," said Adam.
For young people, especially those highly ambitious, relinquishing control can often feel debilitating. They want to do as much themselves as possible. However, that tends to come from pride than anything else.
Instead, it's far better to team up with people who can help you do what you do best. And the sooner you can learn this lesson, the faster you can grow.
3. Overcome the fear of getting started.
"We recommend every kid from about 8 years old and up to start some sort of business. And what we've found is they almost all want to do this sort of thing anyway. What's important is that you, as an aspiring entrepreneur, learn how to overcome the fear of getting started," said Matthew.
This goes back to the mantra that "you can't steer a stationary ship." You have to get moving in order to learn, pivot, and move forward. And while it can be daunting, as mentioned above, entrepreneurship is much more about endurance and perseverance than anything else.
The skill of overcoming the fear of getting started--whether it's your first venture or your hundredth venture--needs to be practiced and honed over time.