5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Business

As I’m gearing up to teach Quantum Leap for High School in a couple of weeks, I can’t help but reflect back on my own high school experience. The first part of high school for me was rough. I was 100 pounds overweight, failing classes, and partaking in some light drug usage (a model student, I know). But high school was also one of the most transformational times of my life. It was then that I took a stand on my future. I knew that I was made for more and refused to live in mediocrity any longer. It wasn’t easy, but I stopped with the drugs, I lost the weight, and I ended turning my grades around enough to get into UVM’s guaranteed admissions program.

College was great and I really discovered my entrepreneurial spirit there – selling out house parties and flipping cars. After making a decent amount of money doing that, I decided to invest into my first piece of real estate with my brother – a pre-construction condo that just a few years later sold for a $65,000 profit. I graduated from college and took my first step on the corporate ladder as a financial controller. But within, a year, I had maxed out. I always showed up and worked hard, yet my bosses would tell me to slow down because I was making them look bad. I cannot NOT be growing. It was at that point, I knew I needed to step off the ladder and do my own thing. That was when I got into real estate.

But here’s the thing. My decision to get into real estate wasn’t because I had a deep love for buying and selling homes; it was to build a company that I owned, where no one could put a limit on my thinking or my growth.

Fast forward, 10 years later, and I not only own one business, but five thriving organizations. Have I arrived? Have I accomplished all I want to? Hell no. I’m just getting started. But I will share with you a few pieces of wisdom (that I wish I knew before starting a business) that I’ve acquired over the past ten years of grinding through the joy and pain of building a business.

  1. INVEST INTO TALENT SOONER. Do you want to be self-employed or own a business? The difference is people. That’s the only way you’re going to build a business. People, the right people, will always be your best investment. No one succeeds alone. And even if you hire people thinking they will fulfill your current need or are too afraid to pay a certain amount of money, then you will be left with sub-par results, and even worse, you may be cleaning up a mess after they leave. Take the time to learn how to recruit and hire the right people, how to train them, and how to keep them.
  2. READ. READ. READ. Most people read about 1 book a year after graduating from their last formal education. CEOs read about 60 books a year. If you want a 51 to 1 advantage over the next guy, read one book a week. Reading (okay, or listening to books on Audible) opens your mind to new ideas, new perspectives, and new ways of thinking that, when implemented, can change the trajectory of your life. Whether you are reading to escape to the halls of Hogwarts, reading to go deep into your spiritual subconscious, or reading to learn the communication skills needed to take your leadership to the next level, just read. The more you pour into yourself , the more you have to give to your team and family.
  3. THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORS AND ROLE MODELS. You (your income, your knowledge, your attitude, your success) are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. What does your inner circle look like? If you are the smartest or most successful person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room. Is it time to find some new friends, new people to surround yourself with? If you’re looking for a mentor in your life, all you have to do is open Instagram, pick up a great autobiography from your local bookstore, or attend a conference. It’s about finding the people (who you may know personally or not) that are truly living the life that you want in those six important categories (financial, business, career, personal, physical, spiritual). It’s about following what they do and then implementing it. It’s easy to intellectually understand what successful people do, but very few people (except for the successful ones) actually execute on that knowledge. And that’s the key.
  4. SUCCESS IS A STATE OF MIND. We must clearly define what success looks and feels like to us or we will never find it. Once we’ve defined it. Live it. The most common mistake we make in life is looking outside of ourselves for something we should (and can) find inside. Success is no exception. Just as the source of true happiness lies within each of us, success also comes from within. Success is the result of a very specific attitude. We must choose and define what success looks like and feels like to us. Is it knowing that we gave it our all, regardless of the outcome? Is success hitting a certain financial goal? Is success having a family and not working outside the home? Do you know what success looks like to you? If we can’t define what success looks like in our mind, no matter what we have we will never be satisfied. And if we can’t define what success looks and feels like then we can feel like we’re working our asses off and never getting any closer to “success”. That’s because we keep moving the target or don’t even know what target we’re trying to hit! Success is a state of mind. Get clear and then get moving.
  5. THE KEY TO HAPPINESS IS NOT MORE MONEY. A lot of people believe that money is the key to happiness. People strive their entire life for more and when they get it, they might feel a certain way, but only momentarily. Money or what money can buy doesn’t really give them the feeling they were after. Money itself is just a piece of paper or a series of digits in your bank account. Happiness is happiness. Money is money. Happiness, like success, is a mindset. You can choose to be happy, regardless of how much money you have. And I know you know those people who have all the money they could ever want and are still miserable. However you choose to live your life, money just exacerbates that feeling or attitude. If you are an incredibly caring and generous person, then with money, you will give even more. If you are an asshole, then with money, you will be an even bigger asshole. Money won’t change you. It will expose you. Find joy and happiness within and any external rewards are just icing on the cake.

I have learned a tremendous amount over the past ten years and I’m learning more every day of just what it takes to succeed in business. There are millions of people with big dreams, then they get distracted by the next big dream, the next shiny object. It’s the people who make a decision, a commitment, to mastering the boredom (and say no to every damn shiny object that comes their way) who will succeed. Enthusiasm is everywhere, endurance is rare.

Are you thinking about starting a business? What’s holding you back?

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