What I’ve Learned in Two Years of Entrepreneurship

entreprenueurship

This article marks the second full year of my being a business owner. Before that, I worked in the corporate world for my entire adult life.

I always considered myself a business savvy person. I read the Wall Street Journal and dreamed of working on Wall Street from the time I was in 5th grade (strange, I know!). I ended up, luckily, not on Wall St., but instead working in the world of High Tech. My roles had businessy titles like Financial Analyst, Business Development Analyst, Product Manager, Principal Product Planner, Director of Business Planning and the like. I worked on acquisitions, product planning, innovation and strategy projects. I used to think that I knew how businesses worked and how to build products customers would enjoy.

I figured that when it came time to do my own thing, I'd have a pretty easy time of it. After all, with no one else to slow me down, I should be able to run wild with my ideas and make them happen! Right? I always imaged that running my business would easier than working for a big company. It could be simple, and I would get to call all the shots. I couldn't have been more wrong!

Running a business, even as a solo-preneur or freelancer, is hard. It doesn't matter if you were a rainmaker at a large company there is nothing that compares with the challenges of doing your own thing.

In spite of all these problems, millions of people in the USA alone venture to run their businesses. What is it that draws people to something that is so difficult? The benefits - the lure of freedom and autonomy - as well as the chance to create something that is only in your mind's eye, is very tempting.

Two years ago I took my leap from corporate worker to entrepreneur. Actually, before that, I took the leap to being a world traveler....then leaped to start my business. I expected small challenges along the way, but nothing major. What actually happened was completely different than my expectations.

Now, looking back, I'm glad I didn't know how much effort it would take to get where I am today (which is still not sunshine and unicorns). Yet, I'm glad I did it. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I've become a stronger and more capable human being along the way. I'm also far more empathetic to the struggles of people who are trying create something from scratch.

Here are the essential lessons I've learned in the past two years.

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How to Accomplish Your Biggest Life Goals In A Year

goals

Do you think it’s possible to accomplish your biggest life goals this year or less? Peter Thiel thinks so. In his book, Zero to One, Peter shares this bit of wisdom:

Q: What do you wish you know about business 20 years back?

A: There’s no need to wait. I went to law school and Stanford, but it wasn’t till I started PayPal that I realized that you don’t have to wait to start something. If you have a 10-year plan and know how to get there, you have to ask why can’t you do this in 6 months? Sometimes it’s necessary to go through the 10-year tenure, but you should always ask the question to know whether it is a story you are telling yourself or is that your reality.

I agree with his sentiment. If you want something bad enough, ask yourself if it really needs to take a long time.

This doesn’t mean that the process will be easy, it just means that you may be capable of achieving more than you thought possible.

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9 Things I Regret Not Doing In My 20’s

regret not doing

Who says regret has to be negative? What if regret was all about understanding and learning from our past, for the sake of living a better life today? What if being clear about the things you regret not doing can help you gain certainty over your personal path to happiness?

I now embrace regret. I often think about things I’ve done (or haven’t done) that make me say “I should have done things differently!”

I don’t have many, but there are handfuls that I’ve reflected on as the years’ pass.

I’m now working my way, slowly but surely, towards the age of 40. A lot has happened in the past few years. New career. Marriage. Changing cities. New home. New interests. New friends. My daily routine is almost unrecognizable compared to how I lived even five years ago.

Now, as I reflect back, I notice that there are a few regrets I hold, particularly about things I did not do enough of in my 20’s. As I mention these things, it’s not that I ignored them as I was growing up. I did many of them throughout my teens and twenties. I just didn’t focus on them with a full level of commitment.

As Mark Twain said:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Here are the things that I regret not doing in my twenties. I’m listing them in priority order. The first item is what I regret the most. The last is the one I regret less!

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Decoding Executive Presence: 3 Way To Improve Yours Today

executive presence

Executive Presence. What the heck is it?

It’s one of the vaguest terms used about excellence at work. Some people seem to have it. Others don’t. For those don’t, the phrase “you lack executive presence” on a formal review can be a death knell for a corporate career. It stalls many middle managers who are looking to break into the executive ranks.

On the flip side, those who have executive presence, seem to have a mysterious quality that propels them forward. Sure, they might do great work as well, but there is capacity they seem to possess that motivates others to follow their leadership (the definition of a leader being one who has followers!) and enables their steady rise up the ranks.

In this blog post, I’ll decode executive presence. It isn’t a magical quality. It is, however, a vague term that if left unexplained will have you avoiding the inner and outer work that is necessary to continue making progress in your career. We can break down executive presence into its fundamental parts, examine them, and use these insights as a tool to zero in the particular behaviors that are present or lacking in your current day to day work.

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Don’t Let Your Dreams Crush Your Goals

dreams crush goals

Don’t let your big, bold and audacious dream for your life suffocate your goals.

Your dream is the type of stuff you would put on your vision board. It represents wants, not needs. Your dream is a no-holds-barred picture of the kind of life you want to live. Dreams aren’t predicated on reality. You don’t need plans in place to back up a dream. Dreams are fun. Dream are also necessary.

Without a dream, motivation can wane. The purpose of near-term tasks and goals fizzle out without something big looming out on the horizon to pull us into the future.

As I’m writing this blog post, in early January 2017, we are also faced with a shocking fact. The vast majority of you, and I mean YOU, will fail in achieving your New Years Resolutions. Take heart, as you will have plenty of company. 90.8% of people fail to realize their resolutions.

That’s insane! Only 9.2% of people achieve the goals they put into place for the new year.

Does this mean the resolutions were meaningless? Does this mean that most people lack the resources and willpower to achieve their goals?

No, it does not!

What it means is that the resolutions are missing something...

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Minimalism and Living Well with Less

minimalism living well with less

I watched The Minimalists recently. It sparked something in me that I hadn’t been thinking much about lately. After the documentary was over, I glanced around my spartan rental home and started to notice all kinds of old and useless (to me) stuff that was taking up space. Books I hadn’t touched in years. Clothes I hadn’t worn in ages. Food that we would never eat.

So began another round of purging.

I lugged three big ’ole trash bags of books I don’t need and clothes that don’t fit over to Goodwill last week. I posted a few things of value on eBay. It’s true, someone out there wants your junk! Case in point, the person who just paid $35 (+ shipping) for my 3-year old laptop messenger bag. Food-wise, we skipped going to Costco this week, opting to eat down our growing horde of staples (still working on that 20-pound bag of brown rice and pack of 20 apples).

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7 Ways to Know It’s Time For A New Job

time for new job

Gut-wrenching.

That is the best way to describe a voluntary decision to leave a perfectly good job to pursue something new. I’ve had to go through the painful process of changing jobs many times. It’s not easy, but getting to the point of conviction that it is the right thing to do isn’t impossible either. It helps to know the telltale signs showing you that it’s time to move on to new horizons.

In this post, I’ll share 7 of the ways to know it’s time for a new job. You might face just one of these, or perhaps all 7. Either way, if you are nodding your head in agreement as you read this article, you know the jig is up, and it’s time to plan your exit.

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The Value of Reading Fiction

reading fiction

Reading fiction is messing with my brain, and I like it.

I had finished reading the book I was carrying with me over the winter holidays. We were at my in-laws home, and I was scouring the house for another book to read. There were a few to choose from, scattered throughout various bookshelves. Most were being used as decorative accessories to prop up picture frames or tchotchke. I grabbed a paperback that didn’t seem to have much of a purpose. “Water for Elephants” it was called. I put it back down in search of a non-fiction book. None were to be found. I almost resorted to reading the local newspaper. Gasp!

Then, I went back to the book and picked it up. I paged through it trying to sort out what it was about. It had nothing but quotes of praise written on the jacket. From the cover image, I knew it was about a circus in the early 1900’s. My mom and wife had both read it and said it was great, though they couldn’t remember specifics. I decided to give it a shot. When was the last time I’ve read fiction? It’s hard to remember. Perhaps my second or third reading of "The Alchemist.” It’s been years.

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2016 Year in Review

year in review

As 2016 comes to a close, it’s the season to reflect. Now is the perfect time for a “year in review” blog post.

It’s nearly the second full year that Alison and I have been in one place, after leaving Seattle (home for 14 years) and wrapping up over a year of travel. If I had to pick a word that best represents 2016, it would be stability. We finally have reached a point where we have a stable home (albeit a rental), stable income (sorta, more on this later) and a stable and growing group of friends. All of this made us feel like Colorado was home.

I pushed my boundaries in a few areas, specifically when it comes to health and business, and hit a wall or two along the way. I frame this Year in Review against the backdrop of my wheel of life. I love the wheel of life model for setting goals since it necessitates a holistic view of one’s life. I’ve discovered that whenever progress occurs in one area, other areas are beneficially impacted. In this post are comments on what happened in each area of my personal wheel of life in 2016, and what I learned along the way.

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How to Get a Job You Aren’t Qualified For

get a job you aren't qualified for

Barack Obama. Elon Musk. Bill Gates.

None of them were qualified to do their jobs.

Barack was a young and so-called inexperienced politician when he became the President. Elon is toppling three established and heavy-duty industries after cutting his teeth as a software entrepreneur building…of all things….payment systems. Bill Gates started Microsoft as a college-dropout creating an operating system for the far more experienced and “qualified" executives at IBM.

Me? Well…I’ll share a few stories about my own background to make it clear that I’ve never been overly qualified for the jobs I’ve done.

In fact, the notion that anyone is qualified for the job they do is laughable. By definition, anyone starting out in a career is unqualified. Also, those further along in a career who are continuing to progress and see promotions, are continually feeling challenged.

I vividly recall Mike, one of the Executives I used to work for, giving me a golden piece of advice shortly after my promotion to being a manager (I was in my mid–20’s). When I asked him for advice about leading a new team and feeling out of my league, Mike said, “Ravi, no-one really knows what they are doing! Don’t let them fool you!”

I’ll never forget that advice.

I believe that not only is it POSSIBLE to get a job you aren’t qualified for, I think those are exactly the type of jobs you SHOULD go for. These are the jobs that will stretch you and challenge you. If you are a shoe-in candidate for a job, unless the job responsibilities can grow over time, you will quickly be bored.

This is a counter-intuitive, but comforting notion for those struggling to break into a new field, come back to the workforce after a break or otherwise “punch above their weight” when it comes to getting offers for jobs that are exciting but seem out of their league.

It’s my goal to inspire you in this blog post to aim high when looking for your next job. Not only that, I want to give you practical tips and will help you make it happen.

But first, a personal story…

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