Ideally, as you go through your career, you'll learn and adapt. It's precisely this gained experience and change that makes seasoned professionals so precious. What do you do until you've got the years under your belt, though? You heed the wisdom of people who already have lived and learned. I reached out to four successful entrepreneurs to see what they would tell their younger selves if they had the chance. These were their responses.
"If I could give my younger self a piece of business advice, it would be to expect your biggest challenges to follow your most momentous successes. At the startup stage, it was easy to view the next deal or fundraise as the promised land, where everything would be easier. The good news is, that perspective really helps land the deal, however, some of our most trying moments arose directly after big wins. A major product launch, customer win or fundraise completely changes the game for your business and you should be prepared for the learning curve that follows to adapt to the new status quo."
--Barry Canton, co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks, an organism company that uses the power of biology to build sustainable products in food, pharma, manufacturing, and more
"One thing I wish I could tell my younger self is--lean on others to help turn your ideas into successes. As the Founder and CEO of Betterment, most of my career has been spent at this company and its where I've learned some of my most valuable lessons as an entrepreneur. In the beginning, I thought I could handle all of the work myself. I was going to do all the coding, handle all of the legal, and build a fully-automated solution. And that worked, but only for so long. The work just kept growing, and I quickly realized that I needed the help of others. I brought in co-founders and employees, growing the company to over 240 people and with $15 billion in assets under management. The reality is: You don't have to go it alone. When you're building a company, you're going to need a great team of really smart people to help you take a concept and turn it into a business success."
--Jon Stein, CEO and founder of Betterment, an online financial advising platform with more than 150 employees, 300,000 customers, and $13 billion in assets under management
"Founding iGEM was part of our plan to start an entirely new industry - synthetic biology, an industry fraught with doubt, skepticism and a high chance of failure in the early days. Looking back, I'd remind myself to have more patience with myself, the technology, the public, my peers, and even the naysayers. At the dawn of the internet in the 1970s, many people doubted its ability to truly change the world and now, we depend on it in our daily lives. If you truly believe in something, be thoughtful and relentless, but patient with everyone - great changes take a long time but are always worth the wait."
- Randy Rettberg, president and co-founder of iGEM, a non-profit foundation advancing synthetic biology innovation within its global network of 35,000 people through education, competition and industry collaboration
"What I know now is that it's ok to be yourself. When I began my career in the early 90s, I did so with the belief that success would only result from a specific pedigree that followed a defined, linear path -- and climbing the corporate ladder on Wall Street was my only route to get there. I tried to fit in and pay my dues, but soon realized that standing out, speaking my mind, and finding a way to be myself would be what actually led to my success. I never thought I would end up starting my own business, let alone two very different businesses. Since then I've learned that you don't need to tie yourself down to one path, or even one path at a time. What's most important is to identify the parts of yourself that you need to express and find a way to start, however small. My exposure to different disciplines, perspectives, and life experiences has played a significant role in my professional success."
--Amy Nauiokas, founder and president of Anthemis, a venture investment organization focused on financial services, and founder and chair of Archer Gray, a media production and investment company
You're going to make mistakes sometimes. But barring the invention of the time machine, be intelligent enough to reach out to others who already know the way. Their advice can keep you out of the muck and get you where you want to be much faster.