These bad habits are more than distracting. They’re harmful to your start-up. I’m preaching to the choir and I’m the choir! Hey, I’ve not only done these in the past. I’ll also probably do them in the future. Calling me out is the first step to kicking the bad habits going forward. This is advice to me. I hope my advice to myself is useful to you, too.
Talking about how much you work.
This includes taking pictures of your coffee cup with your laptop just off to the side. So basic! Hey, we get it. You’re apparently working a lot, but who cares? We don’t gain much—if anything at all—for talking about how much we work.
When you’re in a start-up, you’re expected to work hard. Still, entrepreneurship doesn’t always reward hard work. You can work harder than anyone on a bad idea, which doesn’t get you anywhere. But hard work is a requirement for any sort of start-up success at all.
When we talk about how much we work, there aren’t many reasons we do so other than to feed our ego. Big egos burst. Work hard, work quietly, and build something others shout about.
Looking up to false prophets, especially in the information space
There is absolutely no shortage of people creating content about entrepreneurship. I happen to be one of them. Hopefully you find that I’m cutting through the noise rather than creating it. But I digress.
One of the most interesting trends within entrepreneurship over the past 20 years is how people are introduced to entrepreneurship.
Before the Internet, smartphones, and other technologies gave anyone access to consume and create information at a huge scale, people became familiar with entrepreneurship through more hands-on approaches.
You’d work for your dad at your family’s business or you’d dive deep into a the new computer at your school (like Bill Gates). While there were plenty of books and stump speakers back in the day preaching about entrepreneur-esque approaches, budding entrepreneurs developed over years of hard-core, tangible work. And sometimes they didn’t even realize they were becoming “entrepreneurs.”
Now some hack named Jay Austin can hop onto a laptop, punch out a few thoughts, and reach you through your phone. I have average intelligence, average savviness, and average marketing skills. Yet, I could still influence you.
If I could do it, then think about others who are better at those things than I am? But what if they have bad info? Or what if they’re talking about things they’ve never done or don’t practice?
Be careful of false prophets, especially the ones touting false profits.
Just because it’s written in a book, that doesn’t mean it’s true.
Just because it’s typed into a blog, that doesn’t make it trustworthy.
Just because you hear it on a podcast, that doesn’t make the information legitimate.
And just because someone preached it from a stage, that doesn’t make their words worth believing.
Look, I’m all about reading and listening and learning. But we’re screwed if we allow others’ ideas to replace our own ability to think.
Regurgitating advice, passing it off as your own, then not backing it up
I absolutely love Gary Vaynerchuk – If you haven’t heard of this guy, check him out. He’s one of the loudest, clearest, and most influential voices in entrepreneurship right now.
I listen to him almost every day, and it seems that he’s everywhere I turn. He’s in my Facebook newsfeed, my Instagram scroll, my podcast feed, and in my inbox. I’ve taken a bunch of his advice to heart, and I’ve made most of it work.
But here’s the thing: I’ve had to take his advice to mind for it to really work.
Here’s what I mean. When he says something, I choose to think about it. I turn it over in my mind, toss it back and forth with others, and then decide if it’s advice that I want to follow. Ironically, that approach is actually one that he preaches. He talks a lot about how he wouldn’t listen to his own show because he’d be working.
But that advice often falls on deaf ears. Instead, people regurgitate his info and vomit it out to the world. This usually starts from a genuinely sincere place. You’re exposed to new info, and you want to share it.
Unfortunately, that practice can turn into something more selfish. I’ve seen rookie entrepreneurs take what he says as gospel, pass it off as their own, then use it to better position themselves against others. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with getting advice.
But there’s everything wrong with not truly thinking about the advice before you pass it to others. Really, that’s irresponsible. Don’t be irresponsible.
Acting as if you’ve got this entrepreneurship thing figured out
“I don’t really know what I’m talking about.” I said that at the end of a meeting today, a meeting that I absolutely crushed. The people in the meeting were in the palm of my hand throughout the entire thing. They were captivated. They had “A-ha” moment after “A-ha” moment.
They laughed at me when I told them that I don’t really know what I’m talking about.
Little did they know that I was only partly joking. I didn’t talk about anything I didn’t truly know about, but I honestly don’t know how things will ultimately turn out if we follow the path I laid out before them.
We’ve got to move away from this idea that we’re weak if we admit what we don’t know.
If your first few years of entrepreneurship are anything like mine were, you’re going to learn a tremendous amount about business. It might even blow your mind. Don’t let it get to your head. If you do, then you’ll never be right again.
Hating on non-entrepreneurs.
This is huge. Absolutely huge! Brand new entrepreneurs—especially the ones who get into entrepreneurship via info products—tend to be drawn to this idea that “they’re in charge of their life” because they’re not working for the man.
That leads to them hating on people who aren’t entrepreneurs, fully convinced that the only way to be in control of your own life is to start your own business. That’s absurd. Here are reasons why;
To start, some people choose to be employees. In fact, the vast majority of workers are employees. Many of them are perfectly happy with that arrangement.
Speaking of employees, what happens when you need to hire employees? Looking down on them because they’re not entrepreneurs isn’t the best management style.
Some new entrepreneurs see the world in terms of sheep and wolves: others are sheep, while wolves are sheep. But what if new entrepreneurs are just sheep of a different colour? What if you’re the one falling in line with the latest entrepreneur guru?
Finally, new entrepreneurs tend to think that entrepreneurship is their ticket to freedom. They’re right about that potential, but they’re wrong about the timeline. It doesn’t happen immediately, if ever. When you’re building your business, you sleep with your phone next to your bed. You might eat or starve based on a single client. When you get investors, they now own your decisions.
So think, who’s actually in control of your fate now? Stop the non-entrepreneur hate.
Searching for answers when it’s up to you to find the solutions.
Entrepreneurs create solutions. As a brand new entrepreneur, you might want to find answers rather than create solutions. Here’s the difference.
We’re looking for an answer when we google “How to be an entrepreneur.” We’re creating solutions when we figure out “how to decrease energy usage in large cities,” “how to raise our yearly yield of corn,” or “how to predict mass shootings before they happen.”
Searching for answers about technical questions makes complete sense, like how to create a website or how to repurpose glass bottles. But we have to commit ourselves to finding our own solutions.
Refusing to perform free work
Free work gets you in the door. I had a very established business person call me today. From my perspective, he’s one of the top videographers in his niche in our city. He offered to do some video work for me in exchange for access to certain people I know.
If we do this correctly, this arrangement might lead to thousands and thousands of dollars in future work. He’s smart. Yes, you’ll want to charge for your work. And I want you to make money. Just understand that free work isn’t always charity. More times than not, it’s an investment.
Talking about it
Stop talking about it. Start doing it. Keep doing it.
Behind the scenes: Jay Austin is the editor of Good Men Project and a serial entrepreneur
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