Advice for entrepreneurs
How do you prepare yourself mentally to be an entrepreneur?
- So how do you prepare yourself mentally to be an entrepreneur? So what I will say is, maybe borrowing a little bit from Buddhism or philosophical Hinduism, but it's really this notion to try to not get attached to the outcome. Obviously you're going into entrepreneurship because you're imagining that one, you could be your own boss, you'll be able to apply your creative ideas, you'll be able to do a service for the world. But it's good to go into it with a bit of a Zen philosophy where you're gonna do what's right, you're gonna do what's in service of the customer or the user or whomever you are serving. But you're not going to define yourself based on how successful you are or you're not. Because what typically happens in entrepreneurship is that you start with this optimism and that's where I started too, and it's almost delusional or it sometimes can be, and you might quit your job and then you go into it and you quickly realize that the world doesn't immediately come to recognize the brilliance of what you might be working on. And so there will likely be a period where you'll really question yourself, you'll be looking at your finances, you'll be depleting your finances, and it's all that much worse if your ego is heavily invested in that as well. And if you say, "What will people think of me? "What is going to happen to my career? "I'm not going to be able to afford "the lifestyle that I'm used to." But if you suppress your ego a little bit and say, "I'm doing this for the good of the world," whether it's for-profit, nonprofit, whatever it is, "I'm doing it in service to others, "and I'm doing what's right," and hopefully you will have a good outcome but you're not super attached to it, then it's going to lower the anxiety level. I heard a quote recently that, "Anxiety is misplaced imagination." And I think most entrepreneurs, or aspiring entrepreneurs, the one thing they have a surplus of is imagination and that's a great thing, but sometimes your imagination can get into cycles of all of the bad things that'll happen or how people will think of you et cetera, et cetera. So I would try not to go there. And if you do that I think you'll just be more resilient because a lot of entrepreneurial ideas it's not a matter of whether it's a good idea or not, it's not a matter of even whether you're executing well or not, you do need to execute well, but sometimes it's a matter of timing, and the more resilient you can make yourself, also the more resilient you can make your business. So making yourself resilient and we're talking about mental resilience, you can make yourself financially resilient, by living below your means, having a lot of savings, and you can make your business financially resilient so that it can hit the timing at the right time or have more time to be able to, for the market to recognize its value, if you do it in a very lean way and if you're always taking new data points and processing it. And that's another place where it's good to suppress your ego 'cause sometimes early on you get so enamored with an idea, that even if some data points, even if some research, even if some customers are telling you that aah, it's not exactly what they want, you're confirmation bias is almost like, "Well I'm talking to the wrong people, "or that data might not be right," and maybe that's the case, but I think the less that you have your ego super invested in your idea, that it's your idea, the more that you'll be willing to pivot, and the more that you're willing to change. Famously in the early days of Khan Academy when I was working on all of the software I showed it to a friend and he suggested that I make videos to supplement the software and I immediately thought it was a horrible idea, but it took a little bit of my ego suppression to realize that just because I didn't think of it doesn't mean it's a bad idea, and just because other people had done it doesn't mean it was a bad idea, so I said, "Let me try it out," and there was a unique take on how I was doing it to complement the software that that very nascent Khan Academy was doing that really helped us get off the ground. So what I would say is become resilient, a look that is being aware of your ego, you don't have to destroy your ego, but know it's there, and you have to put it in it's place every now and then. Always be open to new data, make yourself financially and mentally resilient and do the same for your organization or your nascent organization that you're starting.
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