This mouthful of a title perfectly describes the way my entrepreneurial career developed. I’m not afraid to say that I had a lot of insecurities in my life, as I imagine most entrepreneurs do. I come from a strong entrepreneurial background – my great grandfather was one of the biggest entrepreneurs in Israel, running one of the first globally successful Israeli-made companies. My father is a professor, my older brother is now one of those successful corporate types, and both were great at entrepreneurship their entire life, and still are.
Being a teenager, I could never compete with them in that area for a number of reasons which are not important right now. At such a young age, you’re impressionable and it can slowly start to weigh you down. I certainly felt things were moving in that direction for me too, but something happened.
Circumstances don’t matter – your business prowess does
I achieved success at an early age. I was 16 at the time, operating a business in the entertainment industry. Even though afterward I had a couple of failures along the way, I also had another success, which made me feel pretty confident about my capabilities.
Still, I couldn’t shake off this lingering doubt in the back of my mind. I remember reading once that Keanu Reeves said his biggest fear at one point was that his tombstone would say “He played Ted” from the ‘Bill and Ted’ movies. Obviously, that was before Matrix but I had a very similar sentiment in the way that I felt like a one-trick pony. I was scared that I had reached the upper limit of my business acumen.
As luck would have it, I got an opportunity to pivot to a different industry and subsequently, had success there as well. That venture helped me regain a little bit of confidence but I was still wondering if my triumph was the result of circumstances such as timing and whatnot. Soon, I had another exit, this time in a high-tech company which was totally unlike anything I had done at that point.
Now, I was brimming with confidence because I understood that there is a game in business, regardless of what the circumstances are.
I say that as someone who doesn’t have a certain profession. Sure, I have my X factors, my superpowers like learning fast in any given situation but I’m not strictly one thing or the other. One big and often untended problem in the business world today is that virtually everybody is teaching people how to be employees, not entrepreneurs.
Take economics, for example. You learn why the economy works or not and how to work for a company but if you want to be an entrepreneur, you don’t know how to capitalize on an opportunity. You don’t know how money makes money because that’s not something they teach you.
Skills of an entrepreneur have no expiration date
There’s a game to every industry, and where there’s a game, there’s a cheat, a hack to leverage. If you know how to play the game, you understand it’s just a different ball.
It’s a game because any industry implies building around it. In a way, it’s exactly like sports: there are certain rules you need to know and penalties to pay if you break them. Then, you have to figure out what your differentiation is (because that’s how a market works) and push on it in order to get big enough and start leading.
Most young people who come out of the traditional educational system are at a disadvantage if they aspire to be an entrepreneur. Their skillset is focused on how to make it as an employee but the truth is, if you know how to capitalize on money, it’s the same thing in every business.
Taxes, accounting, how money makes money, cash flow, etc. – those work almost everywhere. If you learn marketing, you’re probably learning how to market a product, not a business or different businesses in a particular way. If you have that marketing capability, it’s good for any business circumstance. Managing people – also a skill you can leverage in any business if you know how to lead, build a strategy, get to the endgame, do business development, and so on.
I can fire up a barrage of examples but I’m sure you get the point. Because of the Internet and the amazing array of technology available to everyone today, you can quickly learn (especially if you have a knack for it) most of the things you need to succeed as an entrepreneur. There’s a course for everything and any piece of information is only a few clicks or taps away. Once you do it right, you already have an advantage next time you do a project.
The power of retrospect
Now that I’ve put these words to screen (sounds weird without ‘paper’, right?), I confess I’m a bit angry and envious. I wasn’t told that was the deal, figuratively speaking, when I started to walk the entrepreneurial path.
Now that I think about it, it’s funny how I didn’t realize it. When I was working as a strategy director in an agency, I remember having two different clients. One was a car company and the other was an electrical company. Each time I built a strategy for them, it was good. What’s funny is that I had little to no understanding of the energy industry and I’m so-so with cars at best but I did understand the business side, and that’s what mattered.
I like the game metaphor a lot and find it very inspirational to share with others because it reminds me of my humble beginnings. The skillset you have as an entrepreneur is your superpower. We all have weaknesses, a common one being we typically make for shitty employees. It’s hard for us to work in a traditional sense because our mindset is different. It also means our skillset provides us with the upper hand over other people business-wise because that skillset is required in every business. When you understand how things work, how to make money, start, leverage, and lead – a whole world of opportunities opens its doors. Then, it’s yours for the taking.