By Kirill Bensonoff, founder/CEO at ComputerSupport.com and Unigma.
During my last 10 years as an entrepreneur, I have relied heavily on skills I have learned in order to overcome unexpected challenges that have arisen in my life. Looking back, I have seen that adversities I have faced early in life have pre-wired me for an entrepreneurial lifestyle and mindset. At age 11, I immigrated from the USSR to the U.S. during the tail end of the Cold War. When my parents came to the U.S., they had $200 in their pockets. These experiences have helped me to optimize my willingness to take on risk while having a Plan B to fall back on.
When things go wrong, as they often will, it's important to adapt quickly. Sometimes those crash-and-burn failures can teach valuable lessons. I learned early on about entrepreneurship. I dreamed of becoming a DJ and hustled to secure my own gigs. Later, I went on to form my current company with my business partner, Alex, with a back-of-a-napkin business plan and $20,000. The company has grown to have over 50 employees with customers across the U.S.
Elon Musk is a favorite entrepreneur of mine who also overcame great odds. Musk was born in South Africa. He moved to Canada when he was 17 to escape having to serve in the South African military, and faced additional hardships that helped him grow to become the brilliant visionary he is today.
According to Ashlee Vance in Elon Musk: Tesla, Space X, and the Quest for Fantastic Future, he was bullied throughout his childhood and at one point was actually hospitalized after some boys threw him down a flight of stairs and left him unconscious. Musk went on to found X.com, PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla and more. While not every entrepreneur has faced adversity early in life nor is it a pre-requisite for success, those challenges can help wire your mind to be solutions-focused and resilient over the long term.
Here are some key lessons I've found can be relevant to any entrepreneur as they face tough choices and learn to sustain in order to gain:
Learn As You Go and Maintain Self Control
When you face adversities from a young age or in your journey to becoming a professional, it forces you to mature faster. This can help you accomplish more earlier in life. While other kids were still trying to grow up, I was learning how to become an entrepreneur, and being a DJ seemed like a great way to spend my free time going to clubs and festivals.
However, I ultimately found inspiration from my Uncle Leon, who was one of the earliest web hosts and domain entrepreneurs. Growing up quickly forces you to make sacrifices so that you can focus on what's important. Often, there was no time for family, fun or friends. You must be willing to commit your life to your passions with no excuses.
Stick to It Until You Find Success
Successful entrepreneurs must be persistent. Odds are good you're going to face some challenges along the way. Perseverance will get you through.
I had my first real business while I was in college. I spent nights creating the website, writing code and working on the marketing material. My persistence paid off and I was able to sell the company after about a year for five figures. I then used that money to start a higher-end premium web hosting service. I discovered that entrepreneurship becomes a 24/7 way of life. I did whatever it took to succeed, whether that was gaining a customer's trust or making sure they were happy.
An immigrant friend of mine who came to the U.S. at about the same age I did passed on a summer abroad in Latin America because he just started working on his company. This is a great example of self-control: The easy way out may have been to take the summer off and go back to his startup in the fall.
Odds are good that most entrepreneurs are going to have a few bumps in the road along the way. Our happiness and success depend on our ability to not only cope with the adversity but to allow that adversity to power our growth.
Kirill Bensonoff is a "parallel entrepreneur," currently holding leadership positions at ComputerSupport.com and Unigma.