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Entrepreneurship and Personal Growth: Hard-Earned Lessons from 12+ Years of Trial and Error

Updated on April 5, 2019
itknol profile image

Generalist. One of the older millennials. Life-long IT practitioner, freelancer and entrepreneur.

This article is not written with the intention of showing you how to pay your taxes or how to manage your budget.

This article is dedicated to all the people out there who never got to start anything. Some of who have become passive spectators of their lives due to procrastination or paralyzed by fear of lack and failure. Some of who, like me, keep trying, moving inch by inch, year after year and every time the only bottleneck in their plan appears to be themselves. Might sound overly dramatic, but growing up in a blue-collar family, with lack of good education, positive influences and role model, it's crazy how much I had to figure out on my own.

Hopefully, these lessons will save you anger and frustration, but most importantly - time.

Disclaimer

With all that said, I have to mention that entrepreneurship encompasses a ton of topics and I am sharing my own experience, drawn out through my own point of view, while walking my own path in life. So, please think for yourselves.

Okay. Let's get down to it.

Lesson 1: Learn Humility

Most people never start a business because they are paralyzed by their ego. Our ego is telling us, subconsciously, that we are so great, that we are not allowed to fail.

Be a baby, learning to walk. Fail in order to succeed.

Don't think too high of yourself. Whatever you do has already been done, so express gratitude for success instead of complimenting yourself.

Every failure is precious data and know-how. Put it to your benefit.

Every failure is one failure less to success.

Lesson 2: Keep a Beginner's Mindset

Entrepreneurs are life-long learners, be one.

The mastery to any skill is based on extraordinary knowledge of its foundations. Never assume you know your trade too well, especially when someone wants to share information with you. You might learn just a thing or two from the entire conversation, but its always worth it.

Lesson 3: Lack of Confidence Is Lack of Knowledge

Every time you hesitate, its either:

  1. You need more thorough knowledge of what you are doing or
  2. you don't trust yourself to do it, because you don't know yourself well enough.

In either case, do your research.

Also, there is no such thing as epic performance, only epic preparation. Make sure you practice your skills deliberately.

An excellent read on the topic is The Process of Mastering a Skill by Azeria (@Fox0x01).

Lesson 4: "Increase Success by Lowering Expectations"

Coming from IT, I'd like to add:

Never forget that it's more important to finish something rather than having it perfect as you can always come back later to improve it. And, in fact, sometimes creation is a continuous effort, instead of an all-nighter.

Lesson 5: "This is business, not a personal expression of your art."

Sometimes what you can do is much greater than what the situation requires of you. Don't get carried away. You need results, pronto. Fix that thing and move on to the next.

Lesson 6: Multiple Income Streams

Something I've learned from Patrick Bet-David (@patrickbetdavid) is that every customer/project is a seed and you need to plant a garden in order to succeed.

Once you're done contacting a potential customer or have uploaded something that will generate a passive income, swiftly move on to the next one. Don't loose momentum!

A Book That Has Taught Me a Lot

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!
Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!
What you will learn from Robert Kiyosaki will forever change the way you look at your finances.
 

Lesson 7: Invest Your Energy in Strict Verticals

A horizontal, although not really used, is considered to be a specific market. For example, juice. A vertical in that market would be vegetable juice. And, what I call, a strict vertical would be carrot juice.

Every service you offer, or project you start, must focus on a strict vertical. We live in a world of abundance and quantity is no longer something special.

A Note on Strict Verticals

In New York you could be an after hours party organizer.

However, if your market is a country located on the Balkans, the strictest vertical you would get is office party organizer. Which is very broad, compared to NY. In that case, in order to succeed, you will need to take on birthday parties, for example.

So, choose your market wisely and take into consideration its level of development.

Lesson 8: Don't Be Just Another

When it comes to uniqueness, many people fail, because they are not confident enough to express themselves. Right? When you think of it, being unique in your niche is practically a freebie!

Yes, shadowing is good and following best practices is great. Use them together, but add your own drop of weird into the mix.

One way to beat competition instantly? Be yourself. No one is better at being you than yourself.

Lesson 9: Work For Yourself Before Working For Anyone Else

Bored to death with your day job?
Get up early and work on your dream before going to work. This will lift your mood and give you drive throughout the day.

Feeling tired and life's a drag?
Sometimes we feel tired because we haven't done something we are passionate about in a long, long time. Change that, right away.

Lesson 10: Persistence Is Key

It's hard and demotivating to wait for the weekend in order to get on with your project. Not to mention you are already worn out by the week.

Work everyday, even it's 15 minutes of sketching or writing down ideas while you're on the toilet.

This will create momentum and keep your thoughts working which will generate new ideas and move you closer to taking action.

Your new, super-exciting and successful project sank down like a stone? Failure does feel sometimes like hitting a brick wall. That is because we over-invest ourselves in what we are doing. Life's a game, a dance. So, when trip, take a week off from entrepreneurship to recharge and reflect on what you've learned.

Then start working on a new one. This time it will be better. Trust me.

Lesson 11: Become an Expert at Failure

The only thing, allowing you to spot failure before it happens, is experience.

Earn it.

Lesson 12: Be a Hacker at Your Thing

Hackers are masters of knowledge and information. Become a hacker by learning your craft so well, that its flaws become apparent to you even in its most sophisticated and important building blocks.

Hackers also freely share what they've learned after putting countless hours in. Open up to others on the same path as yourself. This can also award you with valuable feedback. In a sense, this is what is meant with the old saying: "Give before you receive."

Lesson 13: Exit "The Week"

If you agree to chill on the weekend, then you agree to work Monday to Friday, 5 days a week, for the rest of your life. And if you downsize your life to a week, then the math is definitely not looking good for you.

Exiting the construct of the week takes persistence and patience. It's a habit and you need to break it.

This will also help you to deal with procrastination. In The Week, you will always have another Thursday. No worries, no rush. In Reality, however, you will never have another 14th of March, 2019.

Time is the only real currency in this world. Spend it wisely.

Lesson 14: Be a Creator, Not a Consumer

Binge-watching, partying, holiday feasts and lounging - these are things we all associate with comfort. Part of what is known as "consumerist culture". The main reason consumerism breeds happy shoppers is because it teaches people to submit to momentary pleasures (at the cost of long-term happiness). And that, as a side effect, can render one's life void of meaning and purpose. Avoid spending time too much time on activities that don't have a positive impact in your life.

Consumerism is about expending, not accumulating. No coincidence there is a stereotype for people living in abundance, yet being chronically depressed about their lives. Don't let it distract you from asking yourself the right questions and achieving your dreams.

One thing that helped me a lot: frugality.

Lesson 15: Know Your Facts - Break Away from the Concept of Authority

Brace yourselves, this one is tricky, so I'll try to ease you in.

Since an early age we are taught to blindly trust authority. The doctor, the teacher, the priest, the politician, the boss and even our parents.

Authority is what makes us think of someone as if they are an all-knowing, all-mighty wizzard.

"Break away from the Concept of Authority" simply means to start questioning what you already know and what you have been told by someone. Regardless of their title.

This goes for your doc, lawyer, mentor, trainer, parent. They could've had a bad day or a rough night. No mistake happens on purpose and no one does it knowingly. It is your own responsibility to know what you know and make sure its a fact.

Take it from me - I have 12 years of experience as an entrepreneur, have consulted businesses, cured incurable bacteria and repaired hundreds of PC's in as early as my teenage years. But I still am some random person on the internet.

So, how do you make the Concept of Authority crumble in your head? Just start double-checking what you've been told! Gather your own data.

Nothing helps you grow more than experience and if you haven't figured it out yet, experience is gained through experimenting. That's why babies constantly break and throw things. They are studying the world empirically. And since at least one of you will think it - yes, of course, sometimes they are just goofing-off.

Breaking away from the Concept of Authority will allow you to see everyone as a normal person again. Just as you are. Because no one is special. We are constantly being bombarded with images of successful people, but no one is telling us what success has costed them.

And if you will be questioning what you know, start with your first 7 years in life. That's where most of our insecurities come from.

To some extend, we were all raised to "behave" and follow the norm, while ignoring ourselves, our own dreams and desires, discarding them as childish or unrealistic. Start questioning all you've been taught and spare some time for self-exploration.

Lesson 16: Spend Time with and by Yourself

Conversation can be a valuable exchange of information, but can also be unnecessary noise in your head.

Remember: allocate time to turn it off and be by yourself.

After all, if you're working for yourself, you've got to know who you're working for. Know yourself, good and bad as you are your biggest enemy and your biggest ally.

Learn how to forgive yourself because if you don't, the frustration of past mistakes will always hold you back in life.

Lesson 17: Crash Course on Forgiveness

Forgiveness, really is, acknowledging what weakness a negative experience came from.

Dude on the morning cab to work was unnecessarily mean to you?
Well, maybe his wife just unloaded on him because he's super-late on the mortgage. Maybe his dad was mean to him when he was a kid. Maybe he was bullied in school. So, many reasons for someone to be an ass, unintentionally or not.

A friend of yours betrayed your trust?
Maybe they suck at managing their own lives or maybe they weren't even your friend to begin with. Ask yourself - what could cause this behaviour.

"Actions have reactions, don't be quick to judge
You may not know the hardships people don't speak of
It's best to step back, and observe with couth
For we all must meet our moment of truth"
Moment of Truth by Gang Starr

Now what about yourself? Didn't get around to chat up that very special someone or missed out on a client in the dumbest way possible?
Own up to your actions - instead of getting pissed (that's Australian for 'drunk') and waking up a blank slate, take a moment to reflect on where that mistake came from. Accept your weakness and take note what was the right approach. Now, instead of beating yourself up, memorize the lesson. At this point you've learned something new. You've grown. Now forgive your former self and move on. Your biggest adventure in life awaits.

Lesson 18: Work Smart, Not Hard

Set goals for yourself - research if necessary.
Break them down into sub-goals and the required steps. What's the shortest way to connecting the dots? Be efficient. The only real currency in life is time.

Lesson 19: Solve Issues ASAP

That is "As Soon As Possible". Never procrastinate on existing issues. Don't give yourself "Oh, I'll fix that later." Don't hope things will improve on their own.

Issues have the ability to snowball and when you procrastinate, you forget and couple of years later they might come back to haunt you. Don't let that happen.

Lesson 20: Keep Your Mind and Your Body Sharp

There isn't a single supplement that can trully compensate for inactivity, bad food or bad thoughts. The body is a complex balance of physical and ethereal. There are still many things that aren't understood about the processes in our bodies. Therefore, maintain your body properly and don't try to rely on outside stimulus. Everything you need is inside you - you are born with it.

Body

Train in the morning, so that you have more energy to take on the day.

Giving about 70% of your max daily is much more activity on a yearly basis, rather than overexerting yourself every other day. Your main goal here is increasing productivity. The rest will come anyway.

Also look into intermittent fasting.

Mind

A lot of what we think and crave is habitual. Any sort of negative thoughts; pessimism is a habit. Break that habit - every time you think something bad will happen, use your creativity to imagine a beneficial outcome instead.

As we grow up, our brain is infected with mental psychic viruses:

  • "You're not good enough."
  • "Sorry, buddy, life sucks!"
  • "If your idea was so good, how come no one has came up with it before?"

Train your brain to overcome these and produce the opposites.

A Book That Has Taught Me a Lot

Why You're Dumb, Sick and Broke...And How to Get Smart, Healthy and Rich!
Why You're Dumb, Sick and Broke...And How to Get Smart, Healthy and Rich!
After reading this book I finally realized how much control I have over my life and now, everything is changing for the better.
 

Be aggressively patient.

— Patrick Bet-David

Lesson 21: "Be Aggressively Patient"

Thanks, Patrick!

So, what is that quote about? Work hard but don't get anxious about seeing those results yet. In your mind, wait patiently and look forward to the results, not 1 day from now, but 2 months, 6 months, 1 year from now.

More on his YouTube channel - Valuetainment

Lesson 22: Know Your Passion

Since the word "work" has been plagued by the image of 9 to 6, soul-destroying labour, I won't use it here. Instead of "working on your passion" it might be "following your passion", "creating", "playing", etc.

Here are some symptoms of your passion:

  1. Dealing with your passion no longer feels like "work".
  2. Doing what you love is like dealing with a close family member - sometimes they might be the best, sometimes they might piss you off, but no matter what, you never feel like giving up on them. Even if you get extremely upset, you come back to them eventually.
    There are two things we don't choose in this world: 1) the family we are born into and 2) our passions.
  3. Ever had to deal with something that made you forget about food and time, until it was done or it was the morning hours of the night? That hype, that "trigger" you are feeling is the energy you feel when following your passion.

This topic deserves an article of its own, but for now, I'll leave it like this.

Lesson 23: Remember That Creation Is a Continuous Process

Started working on a project, only to realize it will take forever to complete?

Generally speaking: products, services and businesses are developed in iterations.

Don't get me wrong, it's great to have a vision of what your dream is when 100% done. However, it's crucial to figure out what is the bare minimum you can put together in order to get the ball rolling. You can call that you MVP. Your Minimum Viable Product. Look it up on Google. Great stuff.

And that is what will save you from failing before even starting. Many projects don't see the light of day because they never had the opportunity to be 100% complete, but never received an MVP, either.

Lesson 24: Good Ideas Loose Validity as Time Passes

Keep a sense of urgency in order to put your MVP out. Do it, before something has gotten in the way. Sickness, accidents, breakups, etc. No guarantee one isn't around the corner.

If you just had a business idea then someone, somewhere also had the same idea. It's weird but its true. I've given up on projects, only to see them completed by someone else, years later.

Bottom line: Be bold.

Lesson 25: See Things Through

Much of our life within society is defined by the things we have done.

A painter has painted paintings, a musician has written songs.

"And what have I done?" – I asked myself one day. "Nothing." was the only plausible answer.

There were countless projects behind my back, all them - unfinished.

"So, if a painter has paintings and I have nothing then.. I am... nothing."

A bleak self-realization, indeed. But enlightening, nonetheless. On the bright side, being "nothing" means one can be anything. So I took this to the heart. This article wouldn't be here if it wasn't for this lesson.

So, if you want to be content with your life, always see things through.

Lesson 26: Nutrition is Bigger Than Your Business

If there is one thing I want you to remember when you are done reading the article, it would be:

Nutrition is what makes your 14-hour work day sustainable.

Does it really mater how many figures you make per month if your vision is declining year after year?

Would those 10 years of 14-hour workdays count if by the end you get a stroke and become paralyzed?

Our lifestyles are not sustainable and pharmaceutical sciences are clearly not solving this. We are constantly being sold the notion that our lifespan is longer than ever before, yet we spend most of it being sick.

No one is telling us that our body uses food to rebuild itself.

Why do you give water to your plants, meat to your cat, but Snickers and Coca Cola to you and your kids?

Misconceptions About Food

Just like any omnivorous mammal, we require a variety of real foods. Furthermore, since we humans, are the most sophisticated mammal on Earth, it would only make sense to need an even bigger variety of quality foods.

What do we do instead? Wake up, grab a coffee, rush down to work, have a hamburger for lunch, snacks in the afternoon and pizza for dinner. This is not sustainable.

Don't fall for the common misconception that food is intended for the sole purpose of pleasuring your senses.

What you consider visually appealing or "tasty" is mostly habitual. And since bad habits are passed from one generation to the next, you'll never find enjoyment in healthy food, until you recognize this issue.

Relationship Between Mood, Wakefulness and Nutrition

In a similar fashion, a lot of your emotions and thoughts are affected by what you digest. Sugars, that are broken down from food, enter your bloodstream in the form of glucose. It's proven that glucose levels directly affect the activity of Orexin-producing neurons in the brain. Orexin neurons stimulate "wakefulness, alertness, eating, reward-seeking".

Ever felt groggy, unmotivated and somewhat cold from the inside out? That's not depression, but low Orexin activity.

Mood swings, irritability, depression, ADHD? One huge contributor - high glucose, causing insulin spikes, causing your hormones to go crazy.

What causes high blood glucose levels? Sugary foods and simple carbs. Foods containing simple carbs are usually made with white flour and are soft to the touch. Think of white bread and muffins. White flour lacks fiber (the "brown" in "brown flour"). Due to its lack, sugars shoot directly into the bloodstream causing an insulin spike.

Office culture is driven by coffee and muffins, which is essentially sugar + caffeine: high insulin and high Orexin activity. Sounds like a jolly recipe for depression and burn-out.

Crash Course on Having a Healthy Meal

The whole topic about nutrition deserves an article series of its own (and might get one), but for now, here is a crash course on how to have a meal, without causing insulin spikes:

  1. Always start with raw vegetables. They are rich in fiber and fiber is required to slow down digestion in a healthy way. You will feel full for longer and will not experience an insulin spike. Avoiding an insulin spike means you won't experience everything we discussed in the past few paragraphs.
  2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of quality vinegar to your vegetables. Vinegar has been scientifically proven to increase glucose absorption, which will further prevent an insulin spike. It will also keep you from getting belly fat. I bet a lot of people have wondered about that. It's because insulin-controlled glucose will be absorbed by the cells instead of stored away as body fat.
  3. Once you're done with the salad, your main meal should be visibly split into two equal parts: 50% carbs, 50% fats.

    For example, your plate should be: 1 part rice, 1 part steak; 1 part potatoes, 1 part eggs, etc.
  4. Depending on how dry your meal is, drink max of 150-200ml water with the meal, that's not from the tap. If you drink more, you'll feel bloated because the water has diluted your stomach acid and this ruins digestion.
  5. Chew so that food is turned into a mush, which your stomach can digest. Don't eat like a chicken.

Which Food Is a Good Food?

Always strive for eating simple, unprocessed foods:

  1. Raw vegetables, lots of greens; in the afternoons, munch on nuts and seeds, instead of a Snickers.
  2. Eat clean meat from a recognizable part of the animal. Not something that has been mashed together with a ton of crap to produce a guacamole-tasting salami or meatballs that give you Alzheimer's.
  3. Vegetarians/vegans, you're horrible at getting enough saturated fats and protein. I'm speaking from experience here. Don't just go for raw nuts. Try peanuts and don't forget to soak them.

    From 1 cup (~146g) of peanuts you get:
    - 10 grams of cholesterol and hormone-free saturated fat, that's 50% your DRI
    - 37 grams of lean, plant protein; that's 75% your DRI
    (FDA-provided nutrition data for peanuts)

Choosing Your Food

  1. Food supplements cannot be trusted - to this day, metabolism and nutrients are not fully understood by science. So, be smart and play safe - stick to the original idea of feeding yourself from the environment and not by popping pills for whatever.
  2. Nature is amazing because it packs everything together for you. At the very minimum, search for foods rich in the following:

    Disclaimer: Not a medical advice. Please think responsibly, check your facts and monitor your health. Consult with a nutrition specialist if needed.

    - magnesium
    - calcium
    - potassium
    - vitamin A
    - vitamin E
    - niacin (vitamin B3)

    Omnivores, spending less than 6 hours per day in outdoors
    - vitamin D ~50* IU per kg body mass per day

    Vitamin D note: Check this study for full detail, which is great in my opinion, but doesn't account for calcium intake in the western world; that's why I'm keeping this value lower than suggested.

    Also, there are a lot of fish oil extracts that are suggested as vitamin D supplements. Avoid these as the content of vitamin A you'll get is bad high. Look for vitamin D supplements with cholecalciferol (D3), usually extracted from sheep wool.

    vegetarians and vegans, spending less than 6 hours per day in outdoors
    - vitamin D ~40 IU per kg body mass per day
    - vitamin B12 (eggs, nutritional yeast; supplements, for vegans)
  3. Search databases such as whfoods.com or nutritiondata.self.com and pick out foods that are native to your environment - preferably the one where you have been raised in.
  4. Info on nutrition can be overwhelming, so study "a food a day", or something like that.
  5. And don't think only food will cut it. You need some (at least) light exercise, daily. Stretching is a good place to start.

Preparation

Now you must be thinking: "But I don't have time for all this! Where am I going to get a salad on my lunch break?" Well, with responsibility comes preparation. Make yourself a salad jar before work or the day before that and make it a habit. You can play around optimizing the process of preparation - making two salad containers in a row and so on.

Preparing your own food pays out in many ways.

Picking Out Your Food - Beware!

Ingredients: The way food is presented in supermarkets is also a cause for concern. In my country, crab rolls used to be popular. The front of the packaging advertises a happy-looking crab. The back of the packaging, the food label Ingredients, says: "white flour, dye, fish flavoring, water, salt."

Always prove the statement from the food packaging by reading the label on the back.

Once you get to know most of the food you used to eat, you won't believe what we are being fed.

Sugar: Read the Nutrition Facts label. Try to cut down refined sugar as much as possible. A table spoon of sugar is about 12 grams. Memorize that number. Sugar content in 100 grams of your typical cookies? 30 grams. That's 2.5 table spoons of sugar. And if that doesn't paint the picture well enough, imagine going for two and a half table spoons of sugar.

The Takeaway

Follow these tips and 18 months from now, things like flu symptoms, depression and mood swings will be a thing of the past. Not to mention you will start looking somewhat younger and the benefits will only increase in the following few years.

These are my two cents on the topic of personal development and entrepreneurship. Agreed? Disagreed? Or have you just found some of these relatable? Let me know in the comments. Thanks.

© 2019 ItKnol

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