What did you do in your 20s that made you successful later? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Ron Rule, CEO at As Seen on TV, on Quora:

  1. I talked less and listened more. Take advice from people who are 10-20 years older than you, not your peers. You don't have the world figured out yet, despite what you think.
  2. I stopped hanging out with friends from high school and started hanging out with successful people. You'll pick up more of their habits.
  3. I looked for small opportunities that were scalable instead of big ideas.The largest and most successful companies don't win by waiting for a world-changing idea to come to them. They win by making small margins on ordinary things over and over again.
  4. I got out of debt. In my early 20s I was spending too much, but was fortunate enough to turn it around by my late 20s. Every dollar that goes out the door toward monthly payments is a dollar that isn't saved, invested, or available to support yourself while trying something new. You don't need a credit card or a car payment. Live within your means, and this mindset will carry over into your business. If you do nothing else on this list, do this one.
  5. I focused on long term profitability, not dreams of an acquisition. All of these so-called "startup experts" who tout their successful exits but never ran a profitable business aren't impressive - their businesses weren't sustainable and would have failed if a large successful company hadn't bought them out. That isn't a dependable strategy, and business advice from someone who never turned a profit has no value. Take what they say you should do with a grain of salt, but listen closely when they're telling you what not to do.
  6. I worked regular jobs in industries I wanted to learn about. There's nothing better than a hands-on education under the wing of a successful company. You'll come across horrible inefficiencies and policies that don't seem to make any sense. Don't try to change them, just learn why they're there - usually it's for a reason. Learn about the other departments; Go pack orders in the warehouse so you can understand the product flow. Read marketing reports so you can get a feel for media expense ratios and volume. Ask your bosses if you can sit in on meetings so you can learn more about the business and their decision making process - usually they'll be flattered and impressed by your interest.
  7. I always put myself in the position of the customer. Try to see where they are coming from. If you were the customer, would you be satisfied with the product or process? This was one thing that always bugged me about my industry, and the transition away from those old practices is something I'm proud to have been a part of.
  8. I separated my personal and work life. In my first company I hired all of my friends. It's incredibly difficult to lead people who see you as an equal and not as their boss. Companies need a clear org chart / chain of command. Hire people who are qualified and will report to you, not your friends and family.
  9. I stopped working 24/7. While surrounded by successful people, I noticed they all had one thing in common: they left work at the office. You need a work-life balance. If you're working 24/7 you're doing it wrong.
  10. I hired people who were smarter than me. In my early 20s, I wanted to be the smartest guy in the room, where I made all of the important decisions and everyone else just executed. That's a good way to get burned out, and limits your growth to things you already know. Which isn't much. Instead, you should surround yourself with people who make you feel dumb. A good leader wants a team that knows nuances he doesn't, and can think for themselves without needing direction on every task.
  11. I learned how to spot "fake success". Displaying. Whatever you want to call it. That guy you know who's driving a Ferrari to the office every day and constantly talks about how much money he makes isn't successful, he's an idiot. He's spending half of his paycheck on a car payment so other people will think he's successful. People who are actually successful are laughing at that guy. Don't listen to him.

I did most of these things wrong for most of my 20s and didn't really figure it out until I was almost 30. Now that I'm almost 40, I can look back and see that if I had figured these things out a little sooner I would probably be retired already.

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Published on: Apr 23, 2018